You are not alone

It’s National Fertility Awareness Week in the US this week and the Secondary Infertility Facebook pages are full of girls wanting to raise the profile of both Infertility and Secondary Infertility.  It was pleasing (in some ways) to se that the national organisation was using the strapline ‘You are not alone’ as their campaign message.  This was the exact same message I wanted to get across when I realised my situation had a name and knew that there must be others who like me had felt so alone, so isolated in my ill-placed feelings of guilt and greed at wanting a second child, that I began writing my book.

Indeed, after a recent Facebook post a friend of a friend wrote that they gave up reading after realising I already had a child as his ‘wife and I can’t have kids so I have little sympathy’.  It was a feeling and response I completely understood but one that precisely sums up the unfortunate predicament of anyone suffering infertility trying for a second child – there is little understanding from those who have children and never struggled and little sympathy from those who are still trying or unable to conceive a first.

I was never really looking for sympathy, perhaps a little empathy, but mostly a feeling that it was OK to say how shit and sad I felt without criticism or snide remarks.  This gentleman did in fact read on and come back to say he eventually did understand and that we all had pain just in different places.

A lovely response from Infertility Network UK today said that contact with patients showed that the pain of secondary infertility has a huge impact on their lives and that whilst statistics are hard to gather they believe approx 5% of the UK population are affected by Secondary Infertility.

The fact is, Infertility is Infertility.  I had the same desire, needs, cravings, longings, pain, effort in trying, relationship crisis, sadness and despair as anyone wanting a first child.  However, because I had my son I had no escape from that misery.  I couldn’t go off for a weekend with adult couple friends, I couldn’t escape baby groups, I couldn’t get away from childrens’ TV programmes, I had an empty nursery to torment me, I put away baby clothes not knowing whether to keep hold of my favourites and I had a little boy grilling me to answer countless questions about why he didn’t have a brother or sister.

I will be the very first in line to say I am lucky.  I was blessed with my son.  But I will look anyone in the whites of the eyes who dare defy the pain that Secondary Infertility causes and question whether anyone should be vocal about those feelings.  For those who understand no explanation is needed.  For those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible.

The shame of SI is that whilst a study in the Lancet a few years ago suggests that approx 10% of the worldwide population suffers from SI at one time or another, there are just tens of girls on the SI groups in the US and I can’t find any for the UK!  Tens of girls!!?  Girls with SI feel alone, feel shame and feel they cannot talk about it.  In fact I’m pretty sure countless don’t even know the expression such is the stigma of the condition.

They are not alone. You are not alone. So pick up the mantra of the US Fertility Week and if you know a friend or family member that is trying for a second child, lead her towards a friendly group, allow her to talk and help convince her she is not alone, she should not feel guilty and she should never give up hope.  #walktogether

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

Wisdom in one so young

So this morning I sadly received a text from a friend whose second IVF cycle failed.  BFN as they say (well they say Big Fat Negative though admittedly the ‘F’ always meant something else in this house!)  I was so terribly sorry for her and angry at her misfortune and it took me right back to those dark days when I would just want to scream and shout at the lack of control I had over the result.

As I walked into the kitchen shortly afterwards, our 18 month old twins were tormenting Zac, soon to be 7 in just 15 days time and he was looking rather harrassed.  He was trying to complete a game of Fifa on his iPad and the babies were trying to grab it and were screaming in frustration at him.  I laughed at the chaos around me, and poor Zac’s plight, and said: “Zac, when you are all grown up, do you think you would like to have babies?”  I was totally surprised at his answer.

“Well I guess so, if I’m lucky.”  When I asked what he meant he simply said: “Well some people can’t have babies can they?  I might not be lucky enough to have babies.”

So grown up, so wise, so accurate.  I felt an instant pang of guilt.  Had I created a world around my young boy that had taught him one of life’s cruel lessons as such a tender age?  I know we had brought Zac along on our journey to extend the family and I was always careful when explaining to him why he didn’t have a brother or sister at the time, but it had clearly left a mark on him and made a lasting impression that I was ashamed I had not continued to nurture.

As I stewed in my own thoughts and Zac rescued his iPad from his now tantruming little brother he said: “I guess if I say my prayers and am a good boy I might have babies, but don’t worry Mummy, our babies haven’t put me off, they are only annoying sometimes!”

Jason and I laughed at his wisdom and his conclusion that the twins were only temporarily annoying.  Yet today, I’ll say my prayers for my friend, remembering how lucky we were to have ours answered and how extra lucky our babies are to have such a wonderful big brother in Zac.

In their shoes – and I don’t like it!

Each time my treatment failed or my period came, I became hardened to that pain and became deaf to my loved ones soothing words.

Their sympathetic repetitive phrases used to drive me mad and the helpless look on their faces as they struggled to find anything to say to help me was almost as painful as the despair itself.

I did feel sorry for them.  I did long for them not to feel any pain and often, once the realisation that we had been unsuccessful yet again had sunk in, I’d start to dread telling friends and family, knowing that they too would be hurt once more.

Recently, I was supporting someone I have known for years through her fertility treatment. This time, her fourth cycle, she seemed to be passing every hurdle brilliantly and she got further than she had ever got before.  And then she shared her tragic news.  It was not to be.

Whilst I have supported a number of girls through negative tests, miscarriages and failed cycles, this one hit me harder than any before.  I was convinced it was their time.  I had no words.  I literally did not know what to say to her and for the very first time I wanted to get on the phone to my Mum, brother, sister in law, big sister, friends and wider family and say how utterly sorry I was for everything I put them through.  For all the times I growled as they tried to find something to say.  For all the grunts when they said they were sorry for us.  For all the times I left the silence between us as they struggled to make me feel a little bit better.

It was horrid.  I felt useless.  I realised just how hard it had been for those around us.

In the end, after expressing my sorrow of course, I used the words with her that I found to be the only words that helped me. “It’s shit”

I found in saying these words to friends and family, it let them off the hook in trying to find clever words to fix the situation.  There are no words, there is no fix, the situation is just shit.  I knew it, they knew it and actually, bluntly acknowledging the fact always made me and them feel better.

They say swearing demonstrates a poor vocabulary, but when all else fails – who gives a shit?!

Forgive yourself this week

There’s literally no escaping it.  The news is everywhere.  There are follow up stories, features, in-depth analysis, write ups, opinions, photographs…….we have a Princess!  Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana arrived this week and the news was greeted with great joy around the world.  Well almost.

As a royalist all my life, I was excited to find out whether it was a boy or a girl and delighted to see William tenderly kiss the head of the baby Prince George, now newly promoted to the role of big brother.  He’s been hidden from cameras but has clearly grown up, walking now, pointing and becoming a proper little boy yet still Daddy’s baby boy.  No time has seemingly passed for Kate or Will to start to notice how quickly he is growing, how the age gap is widening or wondering what sort of big brother he would be.

This fact won’t have escaped the thousands of families out there who are doing just that with their own children.  Wondering if they will ever be able to give them a sibling, counting the passing months with the arrival of each period as the gap between any would be brother or sister gets bigger and bigger.  Facebook groups for Secondary Infertility were literally littered with women hurting from this news.

It’s not that they wish Kate ill for having a baby so quickly after George (or for looking so amazing just 10 hours after having a baby lol!) and it’s definitely not that they wish Kate had had to struggle in the way they are.

It’s just wish they were in her shoes (nude Jimmy Choos btw) and were finally celebrating a sibling.

It’s a gut wrenching anxiety that they cannot control that makes them feel so exasperated that they have no control over the outcome of their situation.  They simply can’t give a sibling to their child at the moment.  When others seem to pop them out all around them, the truth that they are seemingly unable to do what is so natural is torture.

It’s the fact that news of a royal sibling will undoubtedly prompt friends and relatives to start asking when they will be knocking out another.

It’s the way that whichever way they turn they simply cannot escape the news that there is a brother or sister for George.  Nappy ads on TV, bubble bath ads on social media, newspapers, magazines everyone talking about it…even the flippin Royal Navy did their own photo on Facebook to celebrate.  There’s simply no escape.

It’s the fact that thoughts and feelings are regularly entering their heads and hearts and they hate themselves for it.  Dark thoughts, feelings of jealousy, anger, deep envy and frustration.  They aren’t nasty people, don’t normally have such dark thoughts but such is the pain they can’t stop them and they hate that fact.

It’s the tears that have come, uncontrollably, without warning and with no specific trigger. They just fall, silent warm tears, mourning a child that doesn’t exist yet, prompted by a child someone else has been able to bring into the world.  It’s the release valve that they have, letting out some of the frustration, in big, wet tears that spill out when they least expect.

And above all, when they are trying their best to get their head down, get on with life, act normal and be positive, this is just another huge reminder of the battle they face.  The fight they feel like they are losing and how they feel they are letting their child down.  The feelings never leave them but sometimes life is bearable and they can get on with it, momentarily forget the pain and move on.  This week, they haven’t been able to.

So if you are currently feeling lost in a world that is moving on with new babies, whilst you struggle with Secondary Infertility take heart knowing that someone understands how you  feel, cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself for feeling the way you do this week and more than anything, realise that you are not alone.  #bestrong

Kim Kardashian – the perfect case study? Discuss.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2904061/I-want-baby-bad-s-not-happening-Kim-Kardshian-struggle-conceive-second-child-husband-Kanye-West.html

Could it possibly be that as well as being an icon for all things voluptuous for women, Kim Kardashian West is also in fact a celebrity who perfectly represents Secondary Infertility?  Just like the majority of other women desperate for a second child, I have no doubt at all that Kim has never actually searched the term ‘Secondary Infertility’ on Google, but having come across this recent article I’m pretty sure she is familiar with the pain, frustration and confusion associated with her desire, and apparent failure, to produce a sibling for North.

She personifies all that plays with the mind of any mother who wants another child and feels guilty for doing so, knowing she is already so lucky.  A good friend of mine, who has undergone three unsuccessful IVF attempts in trying for her second child, recently spoke to me about how she was reminding herself constantly how lucky she was to have her son and was focussing on all that was great about her life.  She already had so much, a child, loving husband, comfortable lifestyle, nice holidays and treats and so her list went on as she tried to put her desire into perspective.  She is “lucky”. And yet, deep down, she doesn’t feel lucky at all as she battles daily with the reminder that her longing for another child is unfulfilled.

Currently I have two friends battling the life limiting illness MND, I have a friend with four year old twins struggling through chemotherapy fighting breast cancer and I have a very dear friend whose beloved 21 month old baby girl is battling a brain condition that gives hourly cause for concern and worry.  When I think about any of these terrible situations, it’s easy to look at what you have and feel lucky for all that you are blessed with.  Each provides a good dose of perspective that gets you through any challenge.

And yet, I know only too well that when you are in the midst of the world of confusion and anger that is Secondary Infertility, amidst all the emotions that comes with it, perspective is one that is all too often lacking.  You just can’t find perspective in your situation.  Try as you might, knowing you should, you still find it very difficult to look at all you have and flick off that switch of desire for something else.

You find it almost impossible to find satisfaction in people around you, material goods, life experiences because the big, ugly, painful truth is you want and need something more. It is always there staring you in the face in any situation you find yourself in.  That pain isn’t so much that you don’t have a baby, it’s more that your body isn’t functioning as it should, or as everyone else’s is, to produce that child.  It’s the knowledge that often others are questioning why your body isn’t producing a child and the shame that comes with that.

What’s more, it is the burden of guilt that you carry knowing you have so much, you are so blessed in so many ways and you should be completely happy, but that your heart won’t allow it.

So for the woman who is adored and envied the world over, how big must her daily dose of guilt burger be right now?  A popstar husband, huge wealth and fame, loving family and of course her beautiful daughter, North, she appears to have it all.

How easy is it for anyone reading this article to dismiss her anguish with a “What more could she possibly want, she should be grateful for everything she’s got, greedy cow!”  How much is enough?  How little do you need to have for both you and others to think it’s OK to want more, to want another child?  The truth is, you could have nothing and still there will always be someone, probably yourself, who will say that you are lucky to be alive and should count your blessings for every breath.  The real truth is, no matter what life has thrown at you or blessed you with, you should never, ever feel guilty for wanting another child and there are thousands of women like you the world over.  You should not be ashamed.  You are not alone.   Good luck Kim.  x

Big love to all my friends and their families through all their battles and good luck to you all x

At what cost a child?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2926471/Woman-appeals-donations-strangers-afford-IVF-refused-treatment-NHS.html

This story is in the paper today about a woman whose only hope of a child is through IVF as her partner had testicular cancer, but because he has also had a child in another relationship before the cancer, the NHS refuses to fund their fertility treatment.

Her mother describes Eva: ‘Eva is a shadow of her former self. As Eva’s parent I have watched how the desire for a child has affected every part of who she is.

‘Eva has lost her confidence and self-esteem… she is depressed, angry, and always emotionally fragile.’

Funding debates are complicated and views are subjective and having had to pay for four rounds myself i am obviously fairly one sided in my views. What frustrates me mostly in the ‘should fertility treatment be funded?’ debate is that the fertility organs aren’t viewed the same as any other organs that aren’t functioning properly. It takes two to tango, two people and two sets of fertility organs to create a new life – if one of those isn’t working properly why are these not eligible for funded treatment? Unjust? I think so. Needs addressing? Definitely. I consider myself lucky to have afforded 4 rounds but there would have shortly come a time where I could not have afforded another round, if that time had come after three rounds I would not have my babies today. Unbearable thought.
That Eva has had to resort to the Gofundme site is testament to the pain longing for a child creates and her sheer determination to be a mummy. I hope she is successful. But then her real battle starts and I wish her success with her treatment too.
I can’t ever remember seeing a morbidly obese person launching a Gofundme site for a stomach stapling!! #unjust

Zephyr’s playmates are finally on the way!

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/Julia-Bradbury-im-44-pregnant-4984899

Julia Bradbury was so desperate to “provide a playmate” for her son Zephyr she underwent 5 rounds of IVF and at age 44 is now expecting two playmates, twins!  “It’s a lovely thing to be able to give that gift of a sibling, Zeph’s very excited about becoming a big brother.”

Enjoying, loving and watching your child grow can be such a huge motivator to have another baby.  Your desire to provide a full and happy life for that first child leads you to want to provide a larger, loving family, a buddy, a sibling.  It’s a different desire to wanting a first but it’s an instinctive drive all the same.

That feeling is no less painful, but it’s a lot less understood.  Let’s hope little Zephyr is thrilled with his new playmates and Julia’s desire is finally fulfilled.

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!

Let’s Remember to Talk x

From Remembrance Day and National Duvet Day to Stoptober and Movember, there’s always a day or week set aside to remember, celebrate or raise awareness of one thing or another.  It is really pleasing to see so many poppies popping up at the moment, in fact Zac was really proud to buy his and pin it on his jumper in the playground this morning.  I’m a great supporter of the Poppy Appeal and all it represents.  Yet there has been another significant event for me last week, Fertility Awareness Week.  More than 3.5 million people in the UK alone experience fertility problems when trying for children – that’s one in six couples.  When you stop to think, that’s not all couples, that’s one in six of those trying for children, so that’s a heck of a lot.  More than I thought in fact.

Launching my book’s website the weekend of the start of Fertility Awareness Week, to be honest, wasn’t a complete coincidence.  Whilst it wasn’t something I felt ready to ride on the back of, as I am still a little way off publishing, in my own private way it was important for me to help with one of the main aims, and that was to get more people talking about fertility issues.

This last week it has been terrific to see so many interviews and features about options available for people, details about the impact infertility can have on people’s lives and honest interviews with well known faces who are brave enough to talk about their journey, to millions of readers or viewers.

“I struggled to conceive my first child and I needed fertility drugs.  I had a much harder struggle to conceive a second child and had four rounds of IVF.  I was very fortunate and we now have three gorgeous, healthy children as our fourth round of IVF produced twins.  I couldn’t do it alone.  I needed help.  I had IVF.”

There, I’ve said it.  I can say it now.  I find myself saying it often these as I know it brings comfort to many people who are in the situation we were in and I know the comfort I found from speaking to others at that time.  Yet there was a time where I felt shame, guilt, failure and a deep, dark feeling of bereavement at times for something I felt I’d lost, my capability as a woman.  In those days I could never have said those words.

Like a crutch for a broken leg, an anti-inflammatory for a bruised muscle or anti-biotic for an dental abscess – sometimes other parts of the body need some help too and there should simply be no shame in talking about it.  On a par with depression, infertility should not be a taboo and we should encourage a society that embraces those that sometimes need our support as their crutch through a difficult time. That crutch can sometimes be just talking without judgement.

So well done to all those who encouraged people to talk about their fertility situations last week and long may it continue beyond 2014’s Fertility Awareness week!  Let’s talk.