2013-02-26

One of the reasons that I am writing this blog is so that people who don’t know much about IVF can find out what it is like. Well one of the things that it is like is emotionally *hard*. And people don’t know what to say. It would be lovely if people were a bit tactful about fertility issues – didn’t go on about it, didn’t make silly jokes, asked fairly bland open questions about how I am and how things are going and let me take the lead on what I felt up to sharing. Let me know they were there if I wanted to talk. That isn’t how it goes though. People can be mean. They don’t intend to be, but this stuff hurts. Daily.

My husband therefore suggested that it might be a good idea if I outlined some of the things that people say that can be upsetting so that you, dear reader, can avoid saying them to others in the future.

THING PEOPLE SAY: Are you pregnant yet?
No. If I was I’d tell you. Please don’t go on about it, it has been years now and every time you mention it I am reminded of how I have failed to get pregnant.

THING PEOPLE SAY: You just need to relax and stop thinking about it and it will happen. 
In three and a half years I’ve had ups and downs as anyone has. I’ve had birthdays and holidays and days out, I’ve had rows with my husband, my work has been good and it’s been a pain in the ass. But it has been normal – like anyone’s life. And other people manage to conceive. As I mentioned in an earlier post “I must have tried 40 times to conceive a baby. Would you take your A-Levels or your driving test 40 times? It is soul destroying. But please don’t be one of those that tells me that it is my lack of hope stopping me conceiving or that if I relax it will happen naturally. I wasn’t always like this! It was fine for the first six months, and it is only as you get into years of failure that you start to believe it will never happen.” Strangely I’m more chilled doing the IVF than I have been in the last six months which just seemed like a constant stream of failure to conceive.

THING PEOPLE SAY: If you stop trying you would get pregnant
Well you do have to do *something*! And we weren’t “trying” for about half of the time we were trying (i.e. peeing on sticks, scheduled liaisons etc.) and that didn’t work for us.

THING PEOPLE SAY: You should just adopt
As I mentioned in an earlier post, easier said than done. “Firstly this isn’t America so you can’t just buy a baby from someone local or an orphanage in China. Secondly, these days it is easier to get an abortion and there is less stigma associated with being a young parent or a single parent. So that means fewer ‘unwanted’ children and consequently the only kids that need to be adopted are the ones that have suffered severe trauma – those who have been taken away from their parents because social services think the child is at risk. So it’s not many – for example in 2009 only 455 children in Scotland were adopted. And they don’t give these kids to just anyone because quite rightly they need special care. Being willing to take one is not enough!”

THING PEOPLE SAY: At least you get to have lots of fun trying!
Firstly, my sex life is none of your business. Secondly, it isn’t the horniest thing to be doing these things on scheduled days when you suspect you are undertaking a futile exercise. Thirdly, you don’t have to have sex to do IVF it will all happen in a test tube surrounded for weeks on either side by a hugely invasive process that I have to go through which is pretty much fun-free.

THING PEOPLE SAY: Enjoy your freedom while you can
I can assure you that it has not been enjoyable to have the freedom we have had in our early 30s whilst we have been in limbo waiting to see if we would have a baby. Holding off applying for jobs or promotions, holding off booking holidays, saving money for something that we don’t know if we will need. Watching all of our friends doing something that we can’t do and desperately want to.

THING PEOPLE SAY: You will just have to accept that this is the way things were meant to be
Yes, I know, it is entirely possible that we will have to come to terms with the fact that we can’t raise a family. But it is something we’ve always wanted to do, something we’ve put a huge amount of time into trying to do, and IVF is our last realistic chance. If it doesn’t work we will be losing our hopes and dreams. Please be kind to us as we grieve for that.

THING PEOPLE SAY: I knew this couple who signed up for IVF and got pregnant naturally / We had so much trouble it took us six months to have our baby / I got pregnant the first month we tried 
Well that didn’t happen for us, unfortunately, please be gentle with us when you tell us about what turned out to be happy success stories. I know they are supposed to be inspiring and give us hope, but unfortunately there is no causal link between what happened to someone else and what will happen to us. That being the case, the success of others just rubs our failure in our faces.

THING PEOPLE SAY: What are you waiting for? / It’ll be your turn next
Obviously from those who don’t know what we’re struggling with, but this one always hurts because it implies society is judging us for being childless and that we should be getting on with it. When in fact we are – and failing – so that just reinforces the sadness. Plus, by the way, we have been married eight years and live in a four bedroom house… don’t you think this might be a touchy subject? Photographing me with your baby and tagging it on Facebook so that people comment these things doesn’t help either.

THING PEOPLE SAY: You can be an auntie to your friends’ kids.
Not the same.

THING PEOPLE SAY: You’re lucky you don’t have kids / you can borrow my kids 
Ha ha. Not funny. Please be gentle with us, that is just tactless and cruel.

THING PEOPLE SAY: Have you tried acupuncture?
Oh shut up.

And remember, you probably have no idea which of your friends or family members or work colleagues or people you meet in the pub have fertility problems. My husband and I have not told our families, I think we have told four people that we are doing IVF and they don’t know the full details.

Don’t get me wrong – please do keep us up to date with your life, and tell us how your kids are or how your pregnancy is going. We do want to stay in the loop and we are genuinely pleased for you.

But when you are talking endlessly about your children or the potency of your sperm (yes really) or the fact that you can’t know love until you are a parent – please be mindful that someone might be crying inside as they listen.

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