Even though it’s been a while since #relaxgate, the dust still hasn’t settled following Dr Hilary Jones’ suggestion that Catherine Strawbridge (Instagram @tryingyears) should ‘just relax and it will happen’ when asked what his advice was regarding multiple failed IVF attempt, on ITV’s Lorraine while hosting a phone-in about IVF.
Oh Dr Hilary. I bet you wish you’d made a bit more effort with that response.
Hell hath no fury like an ‘online trying to conceive community’ told to relax.
The more I think about it, the more enraged I feel but also the more invigorated and passionate I am about the work I am doing. It is needed more than ever.
The lack of awareness and understanding surrounding infertility is probably down to a long tradition of people who are going through it doing so on the DL. The Down Low. Not telling people, not sharing what’s happening. That’s totally legit and cool because not everyone WANTS to talk about it. You have to deal with your journey the way you want to deal with it.
But I think what’s happened here is that because there’s this weird, ancient taboo that’s still prevalent, a large chunk of the population just don’t geddit. So the producer who thought, ooo we better do something about IVF cos Chris Evans just said he’d had it recently, didn’t quite put two and two together when they failed to have a fertility specialist answering questions about IVF on National TV.
If you’re reading this and wondering what to say to your mate who is trying and failing to get pregnant: DON’T. SAY. RELAX.
Don’t do it. Just…if you feel yourself starting to think, ah but they’re probably really stressed but my friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law couldn’t get up the duff for a while, then they went on holiday to Bermuda and came back preggers so I should tell her that and to chill out and it will happen…well let me just stop you right there my friend!
Relaxing and doing everything you can to stay in a positive mindset while you’re trying to make a very small human IS important. Mainly because you need to feel calm and centred and able to make important decisions (medically, financially, emotionally) in order to navigate your way through the epic minefield of information and options available.
If you’re hysterically crying at your appointments or trying to cope with another miscarriage or bawling your eyes out because you haven’t actually had a period for 3 months so you can’t even TRY…yes doing something to relax you might be beneficial for your mental and physical health.
Relaxing is also important for general well-being when you’re on a cocktail of hormones that you’re injecting into your bum/tummy every night for weeks – and then again if your treatment cycle fails – because hormones, as we know, like to F up your equilibrium. So, yeah, relaxing is really important because you need to counteract all of that as much as you can too.
Stress can make you feel really anxious and panicky and rubbish, so yep, relaxing is useful there as well.
So, Dr H is not wrong when he says we should try to relax. Yes.
But to tell someone to relax so it results in pregnancy…because they’ve relaxed…enormously devalues the myriad complexities a fertility journey presents. It shifts the blame onto the people trying to get pregnant.
It is a shitty piece of cop out non-advice that has sparked total outrage in the TTC community online and it has stoked up the already flickering flames in my heart too.
And to say it on such a huge platform, from a Doctor, will perpetrate the idea that people failing to get pregnant even when going through IVF are somehow not doing enough. Let me tell you Doc, that the majority of people going through IVF are doing pretty much everything they can to help it work. If someone told you to eat 33 herrings a day and do a dance in the garden every night at 6.36pm on the dot followed by a transcendental meditation: they would bloody do it.
So. A little more respect please for the absolute blimmin’ warriors who are going through one of the biggest challenges most people will ever have to experience.
We will use this hoo-hah for good. We will not stop talking about this until people stop handing out useless advice and we will keep raising awareness that infertility deserves far more understanding, far more respect and a big hunk of love for anyone experiencing it.
And don’t you tell me to relax. I’m fired up!!
Huge thanks to Alice. You can read more from Alice here.