Talking about SI is a balancing act

helen davies, more love to give, secondary infertility matters

Helen Davies, More Love To Give launch at The Fertility Show.

So the last few months have been a blur juggling the family, running my business and doing the one thing that has taken over everything, launching ‘More Love To Give’.

Whilst the actual launch itself was a little nerve wracking initially, it was very quickly hugely rewarding and wonderful.  To have people, especially those you know well, suddenly read your inner most thoughts and feelings in a manuscript you’ve been working on for the last four years, is actually quite terrifying!  Once I knew someone had bought it, I was giddy yet skittish wondering where they were up to, what had they read, what did they think.  My husband quickly calmed me by reminding me that it doesn’t matter what people think, I have one goal to comfort SI sufferers and the rest is just my own opinion and experience.  I’m not going for a creative writing prize so I shouldn’t worry what people think as long as the books get into the hands of those that need that reassurance that they are not alone “and they’ll get that simply by holding it without turning a page!” he said.

I needn’t have worried anyway as the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  I have literally been bowled over by the response and in particular that so many who have bought it “couldn’t put it down!”.  In particular, one reader who is a member of the closed Facebook group, bought a copy on the launch day Tuesday, received it on Thursday and wrote the most gorgeous email on the Saturday night thanking me.  I was out for a Mother’s Day meal with my Mum, Auntie and cousin and had been at the Fertility Show all day, so it was a lovely time to receive such lovely feedback.

Here is a little bit of her message: “I just felt the need to send a message to say thank you. So much of the book rang true to me and the way you explained your feelings was exactly how I have been feeling. Whilst reading the book I have laughed (a little, and will never be able to buy a glitter bath bomb!!) and cried (a lot!!) but most of all I have finally felt like there is someone out there who understands exactly how I feel and who has put it into words in a way that I am struggling to do.”

When I forwarded the email to Jason he replied: “OMG I have tears in my eyes, wow this alone is why you wrote the book, if you never sell another copy that’s fine with me 😘  and that should be fine with you, you have helped another with our story, big love to you Helen Davies xxxx”

At that moment, it had all been worth it. She was just one, but she was all I ever hoped to make a difference to.  I didn’t know her, never met her but her response and the impact reading my story had had, made it all worthwhile.

Yet with every positive response, as well as giving a ‘job done’ feeling, it only spurs me on more.  How many more are there out there that need that reassurance, understanding and support.  I’ve reached one, let’s find another……and so I’m sure it will go on.

However, it’s not all been plain sailing.  I’ve had emails and comments online criticising me for speaking out on an subject that might upset some who are suffering with Primary Infertility.  They have said I should now shut up because I have three children – what do I know about struggling for a child?  They have said I’m disrespectful to anyone who still wants their first child.

I’ve drafted a blog reply but I’ll never post it.  What it all basically says is that you haven’t said anything online or in email that hasn’t been said at some time to my face.  You have completely misunderstood and clearly not read anything I have written.  In fact I do understand, more than most so much so, all I have ever written has purposefully been considerate of anyone struggling to conceive a first baby.  So the nasty notes haven’t upset me at all, in fact they have only served to demonstrate what SI sufferers have to put up with and why they are reluctant to speak up about their pain for fear of upsetting anyone still trying for their first.

However, I was knocked a little off course by a close friend who broke down when I showed her my book.  In short, life’s path hasn’t resulted in her having a family of her own.  In all the months I have been excitedly promoting the forthcoming book launch, I had no idea that my talking about Secondary Infertility was grinding her down, bringing to the surface all her hidden emotions about not ever having her own baby.

I know that the subject of Secondary Infertility can be very upsetting for someone who has yet to have a child, and that it is very difficult for them to understand the concept that fertility is fertility.  We are all on our own unique journeys and the circumstance may be different but the pain can be just as intense.

Yet in the cold light of day, holding my darling friend in my arms and she let out tears of grief, frustration and anger that had been pent up for way too long, I regretted ever speaking out, when indeed, I am blessed with three amazing children.  Never, ever, have I wanted to upset anyone.  I wouldn’t risk upsetting one person I loved, even to help the hundreds that I have, that I don’t know.  I felt dreadful.

She has reassured me that she is proud of me but that she can’t bear to read my story of Secondary Infertility when she feels so upset about her never having her one baby.  I get that.  I understand that completely.

So, whilst we both come to terms with our lives, journeys and difficulties this past week since we spoke, it has certainly made me think about the fine balance of the feel good factor in doing good and the harm doing good can do to those you feel so much for.

It is such a bloody shame that in talking about the pain Secondary Infertility causes, you risk inflicting pain on another group with another struggle.  In fact it’s shitty, it really is shitty.  It feels horrid, really horrid.

And yet, my conclusion after a week of soul searching is that, sometimes, if you choose your words and timing carefully, good should prevail and perhaps talking about and lifting the lid on Primary Infertility grief in the process can be just a cathartic.  Infertility sucks and only if our society talks about it , will we ever all feel understood, more supported and a lot less on our own.  Shying away from difficult subjects won’t help anyone.

Continuing to encouraging talking will never ever take away the pain of not having a baby you want, no matter what your situation is, but it might help relieve the tension and frustration which can only be a healthy thing for us all. I just hope I can find that right balance in the future.

#secondaryinfertilitymatters

 

Almost here……

So nearly four years on and my book is finally here.  Not launched yet, but we are now just a few days away.  Just a few tweaks to the distribution and then we’re off!

Today I went to the publishers to collect some copies ready for The Fertility Show and as Zac was off school poorly today, I had to take him along with me for the drive.  Somehow, it was meant to be that he should have a high temperature and be off school today.  Afterall, if he hadn’t been such a wonderful, beautiful boy, that meant the world to us, we would never have been on this crazy journey in the first place.  It felt like a nice full circle closing, (though of course grumpy pants didn’t think so and is actually all rather bored of ‘mummy’s flippin book’ at the moment!)

I’ve seen a draft version in print before and that was a thrilling moment and it was exciting to tear open a box with Jason and give him the first official copy – note to self, he’s not paid me yet!.  But perhaps the real ‘WOW’ moment for me today was seeing a stack of the books in the warehouse and the first palette all boxed up.  This was more than ‘my book’ it was a bloody great big pile of books all ready to be dispatched to anyone who wants to read it, all over the world.  My stomach lurched and it really was a moment to remember!  “Bloody Hell!”

Getting a book published had been on my Bucket List for a long long time.  It’s almost unbelievable and too much to take in to realise it can now be crossed off!  But this last couple of years has turned into much, much more than just trying to tick off an entry on my Bucket List.  It’s become less about my story and more about the story of Secondary Infertility.  Two words that I had never even heard off when I first added ‘book published’ on my Bucket List.  Two words I’d never heard off when I started, and ended, my fertility treatment.  Two little but significant words that changed my life forever.

Of course I’m excited about getting the book finally published, holding it, seeing what it actually looks like after all these years in the planning.  With regards people reading it however, I’m really quite nervous about looking into the whites of people’s eyes that I know, after they have read it, knowing they will have seen into the depths of my heart and soul  – it’s quite a frightening thought in someways.  The obvious excitement is also tinged with a little anxiety!

Yet truly, the most thrilling prospect today is sitting back at my desk and seeing all the feedback on Twitter and Facebook from couples (mostly girls) who want to read the story and who I know will feel comfort and understanding.  They are the ones it was written for.  They are the ones I imagined each night as I tapped away.  I wrote 102,000 words detailing our story but really I just wanted to say “you are not alone, you should not feel guilty, it’s OK to want another baby” over and over and over again – perhaps 102,000 times!  Yet that book wouldn’t have sold for sure, and writing about our most intimate moments and thoughts, seemed to be potentially a more interesting read.  We’ll certainly find out over the next few months!…….

So my excitement tonight is a little premature.  This is a personal achievement for me for sure but it’s not really crossing the finish line until the book is in the hands of someone who it was written for, who needs it, who will benefit from it.  When they put it down and sigh saying “I finally feel understood” and toast that freedom with a large G&T then I will really be able to WHOOP WHOOP!

To remind myself of the very last paragraph in the book:

And finally thank you to the publisher who turned me down and said “There isn’t a market for this book.” You lit a touch paper in me I never knew existed and prompted me to prove you wrong. There is unfortunately a huge market of couples across the world that will sadly appreciate, buy and benefit from this book and it is my intention to reach them. They may not know it yet, they may be unaware of the name of their condition, but without your rejection it would never have been my mission to tell them.

What I really wanted to finish that paragraph with was FUCK YOU!!  #fingersalute

 

 

Secondary Infertility Matters

“Can I please share your fertility story?”

Secondary Infertility MattersSo much has happened in the last week, I honestly feel exhausted.  After working till the early hours for weeks on end, last Thursday my new website finally went live.  It was supposed to launch today, just a day before National Fertility Week UK, but after Fertility Network UK launched my films on their YouTube channel and Hull IVF Unit released their press release about their new campaign #DareToShare that featured a quote from myself, I had to rush the launch through in case the web address featured.

At the same time as amending PayPal coding and proof reading my pages I was racing too and from the IVF Unit juggling interviews with Viking FM, KCFM and ITV Calendar News!  After weeks of preparation it was all over and done in a flash and I was talking about the new site staring down the camera of the regional news!

But it was all good.  It was all hugely positive and just one of many steps towards raising the profile of Secondary Infertility.  So far, I’ve not personally promoted the website just yet, I’ll be putting it on my Facebook page later tonight, but already, just from promoting the YouTube film the feedback has been fantastic.   As I write, the video has been shared 17 times by my friends and family, how terrific is that?!

One asked: “Is it OK to share?” which was lovely as I’m a stickler for Facebook etiquette and respecting privacy but I was like “hell yeh! share away as much as you can, that’s why I’m doing it!”

The response in their comments has also been fabulous and very rewarding, though it has actually got me thinking ‘why on earth have I taken all this on after the life we’ve put ourselves through the last 5 years?’  I’m still wondering now TBH.  But, what I do know, when I’m not trying to analyse myself, is that it’s the most natural instinct in me right now, behind my family.

I don’t think you ever forget an experience that took you to the brink.  That was Primary then Secondary Infertility for me.

I don’t ever think you forget a comment that stung you.  That was the reply from a publisher who said there wasn’t market for SI books because people didn’t search for them on Amazon for me.

I don’t think you can forget other people who are trapped in horrid position you have been fortunate to have escaped.  They are those still trying for a second child feeling guilty and alone.

Two words people have used a lot over recent days have been brave and inspiring.  They make me very proud but I’ve never felt brave, I certainly don’t mind sharing my story because I know the huge value it has compared to any embarrassment I may have.  Inspiring is an interesting word as it generally means you encourage others to do the same – I hope I do.

If more people who have suffered Secondary Infertility, or even Primary Infertility shared their stories highlighting the pain, the background to the treatment, their coping mechanisms, their successes or how they handle failure, the more people will feel comfortable if they are suffering. We who have been through it must share our experience to ‘normalise’ and ‘de-stigmatise’ fertility treatment.

I hope this feedback continues to grow as promotion of the website, Youtube channel and Facebook page start to grow over forthcoming months.

There was one comment however that could have stopped me in my tracks and say “job done”.

It was from a girl in Pennsylvania who messaged me to say “Thank you for sharing your video. As I sit in my car crying, it was so comforting to know that I’m not alone. Thank you”  I know how much it meant to her because there was many I time I too had been sat alone crying.  I remember the very first time I identified with Secondary Infertility – it was so so utterly refreshing to recognised the situation I was in and know it had a name, I was part of a group of people, and realise it wasn’t just me!

Whilst I wish there was no more ‘girls in Pennsylvania’, I know there are hundreds we need to reach, so again, I say in answer to your question: “Hell Yeh!  You share the ass off my story and let’s do this together!”

 

Most couples will try anything!

So today, 22 January, is officially the day most New Years Resolutions are given up.  I’ve long since given up giving up things for the New Year as without a goal I’m not very good at maintaining them, so I guess I’d be one of the ones falling by the wayside today, had I tried in 2015.

It’s amazing how a goal can focus the mind and body and spur you on to change your habits and your attitude towards something you once loved.  When I knew we wanted another child it was the easiest thing in the world for me to adapt my diet, give up alcohol and keep myself fit and healthy. It was actually empowering as it was one of the few things I had control of.  It wasn’t an option to give up, to quit or to even ignore the advice to try to get my body in the best possible condition to nurture an embryo.

For some though, it’s still not so easy.  Even with the quest for another child so important to them, giving up alcohol, smoking or losing weight still proves really tricky.  Of course none of these will get you pregnant but to my mind, if anything could help improve the condition of my body to help get me pregnant and retain that pregnancy, then I wanted to be able to look into the whites of both mine and Jason’s eyes and say “I did all that I could do.”  When that still wasn’t enough, it hurt like hell, made me angry and for a moment I believed all the effort and sacrifice had been futile.  But of course, they weren’t.  They weren’t the be all and end all, but a healthy body is certainly a positive contributor to enabling it to function in the way it was designed for sure.

And so, to anyone teetering today, tempted by a glass of wine, extra sugar in their tea or a tasty cream bun, remember your end goal.  You can do it and you will feel good knowing you have done all that you could do, whatever your outcome, be it fertility or otherwise.  Take control, be strong in mind and body and don’t fall foul of the 22 January curse.  Good luck! xx

Between a rock and a hard place is a very hard place to be.

Having just been rejected by a publisher, following two rejections from agents last month, I am, as you can imagine, feeling a little flat.  Yet not because my book has been rejected, believe it or not (I mean JK Rowling apparently had her Harry Potter manuscript rejected 20 times), but because of the reasons being given.

They feel “‘More Love To Give’ is for a very niche audience”; no shit Sherlock!  This subject will of course only appeal to a very small audience, though on the positive side, thankfully there are fewer people who will want to read about struggling for a second baby than there are interested in wizards!  I can live with a ‘niche, specialist market’ reason.  Yet the next two leave me furious and frustrated: “There are very few searches on Amazon for Secondary Infertility” and “another memoir book about Secondary Infertility has only sold 29 copies in 10 years” 

I could have told them there will be very few searches for Secondary Infertility on Amazon given I went through four rounds of IVF and wrote a bloody book about it before I realised my situation had a title!  I Googled and searched for ‘IVF’, ‘infertility’ and ‘trying for a second baby’.  I never searched for Secondary Infertility because it is an area that is so over-looked and has such a stigma attached to it that nobody spoke to me about it, so I never knew where to find specific help – THAT’S WHY I’VE WRITTEN A BOOK TO HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WILDERNESS!

And as for having my future mapped out based on somebody else’s dismal attempt at writing and selling their poor excuse for a book, well that is just infuriating!  29 copies? Somebody wasn’t doing their job right were they to only sell 29 for goodness sake!  Or could it be, that just too little promotion was done to reach those people who would have loved to read the book but didn’t know where to look or how to search for it on Amazon??!!  Believe me, I know the market is a helluva lot bigger than 29!

Mr Chicken meet Mr Egg.  Mr Head meet Mr Brickwall.  

To date, I have 34 copies of my book reserved and I even took a reservation from the checkout girl at Tesco last week, who was cooing over my twins and talking about how she has been desperate for another child for years but her husband is happy with their son and refuses to have another. “Oh really?…”, said I.  Another copy reserved. Bish bosh.  And I haven’t even started yet!

I fully expected to get lots of rejections and I’m slightly sad but cool that I’m going through the process.  I was so close with this publisher this time.  One step on from an agent and they were really tempted, but it was just the stats and facts about the potential market and previous book’s performance that held us back.

It may be a small minority of people, let’s face it we won’t be knocking good ‘ol Lynda Bellingham off the bestsellers’ list, but perhaps that makes me more determined to get this topic talked about.  Those few people with so much more love to give have too few places to find support.  They deserve to have someone take a punt on them, and my book, and for the profile of ‘Secondary Infertility’ to be raised.

You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where to look for a signpost.

29 copies?!  Hmph!

So near and yet so far

In the six hours since the MLTG page went live on the world wide web, it already has 50 likes, 14 shares and I have 4 orders for my book!  How cool is that?  And yet it is the 3 comments made on the page that mean the most.  Sitting for hundreds of hours pouring my heart out into the laptop, often felt like the loneliest place on the planet.  I will never forget the moment I read a paragraph in Zita West’s Guide to IVF (bible) that mentioned existing parents often had a feeling of guilt.  At last somebody understood.  That was me!  I was shocked as I read the words but I was also immensely comforted.  I’ll also remember the shock at learning that our situation actually had a name ‘Secondary Infertility’. At last I felt ‘defined’, part of a group and suddenly not so alone.  To receive feedback today from 3 people who are currently in a similar situation and have thanked me for sharing my story is one of the strangest feelings I have ever felt.  In the words of one: “I honestly can’t relate to that enough.  You have captured how I’m sure a million women feel.  At a daunting yet exciting time this had given me so much positivity for the future.”  I have always dreamed of getting this book published but tonight, this means more to me than any Amazon listing.  I know how she feels, she now feels understood.  She doesn’t feel so alone and I hope she can start to shake off a little of the guilt she has been carrying round.  Yet I feel sad that despite launching on the world wide web, this friend lives just 10 minutes away.  We live so near, yet when you are struggling alone, we live so far away.  Let’s talk more.  Let’s share more.  Let’s drop the shame. x

Bravely does it…

So here I am finally getting ready to make my site go live and this feels like the scariest thing I have done in my life!

This book has taken three years to write and it is strange to think that I started to write before I even knew the term ‘secondary infertility’ existed. In fact, I started whilst going through our first cycle so that was even before I had any reason to think I would need a term to describe our situation!

I am pretty sure that had I known about our journey and the four attempts before I started the IVF treatment, I’m not sure I would have ever taken the first step. It was a daunting experience but one I embarked on fully expecting to get pregnant first time. I hadn’t anticipated the darker side of failed attempts. Looking back, whilst this was naive, it was also my saviour, for it made me get on with the treatment and have a go. It was a long, painful journey that would not have been so easy to start had I known all that I was in for over the next 14 months.

And yet, sat here now, about to launch my blog and launch my Facebook page, this feels like the scariest journey I have ever made in my life.

Sharing my thoughts, our most intimate moments, not to mention my possible grammatical errors, all seems pretty daunting.

And then I remember that couple on the sofa that have been in my thoughts whilst writing every chapter. Somebody, somewhere, feels guilty for wanting another child and ashamed that they feel so desperate for a child when they know they are blessed to already have one, or more.

They are my saviour right now. For if sharing our story can convince just one couple that it’s alright to feel the want for more children, that you’re not greedy and you should not feel guilty, then that is all the motivation I need to press ‘go live’. It doesn’t feel so scary afterall.