Hungerford Town Football Club wear our pineapple pin on their kit to show support for the campaign #ivfstrongertogether

To be honest, although surrounded by so many who love football with such a passion for their teams, I have never really been into football myself. Probably because my dad never was, so I’ve never had a team I’ve wanted to support (apart from England at the World Cup of course!) However, everything changed a few months ago when I got an email from what has to be one of the loveliest men I have ever spoken to, asking if he could help support our campaign #iivfstrongertogether.

The lovely man is Ian Herring, the player and manager of Hungerford Town Football Club. The email included a picture of himself in a post match interview, in his football kit, wearing our pineapple pin! I couldn’t believe it!! Of course I emailed Ian straight back with a bit fat YES!!

As you will discover below, Ian and his beautiful wife Natalie have been riding the rocky rollercoaster of fertility treatment and are waiting to start treatment again later in the year

In the meantime, with the incredible support of Hungerford Town FC they are doing everything they can to help break the silence of infertility, by talking openly about their experience and guiding people towards the help and support so needed when TTC.

Infertility can be a dark and lonely place, yet so many of us have or are experiencing it alone

By helping promote the campaign through the football club and telling people that there is support out there for them, Ian, Natalie and Hungerford Town FC will be offering comfort to so many.

We are so excited to be working alongside Ian and his football team and will  keep you updated about events we will be holding with them, but in the meantime, regardless of what team you support, can you all give a big cheer to our new favourite team!!! Go Hungerford!!

We spoke to Ian and asked him to tell us about the ways he is helping to raise awareness for our #ivfstrongertogethercampaign with the support of his football club.

Ian, firstly, can you tell us a bit about your football club?

Hungerford Town FC is a football club based in Hungerford, Berkshire. HTFC are currently playing their 3rd season in the Vanarama National South, the 6th tier of English Football. Their home ground is Bulpit Lane.

After two separate spells as a player, this my second, I’m in my 1st full season as 1st team manager after taking sole charge at the back end of the 2017/18 season. We’re in a bit of a transition period at the club with our former chairman stepping aside last season.
We currently have 7 players signed on and I’m working around the clock to bring more players to the club. 3 of the 7 have graduated from our academy which for a little club like ours is something of an achievement. We have two senior players, James Rusby & Richie Whittingham, who have put a lot of trust in myself and the club to stay with us when it would be so very easy for them to find another club.

How did you hear about IVF Babble?

Basically through social media. Someone posted a picture of their pineapple pin badge which arrived after being out of stock. I saw the slogan and showed it to Natalie who then through the power of google came across IVF Babble.

Can you tell us about your own fertility journey?

Natalie and I have been together 7 years and got married in June 2015. Shortly after this we decided that we wanted to try for a family.  It was never something that we thought would be a given, but we hoped that we would be able to have a child of our own. Unfortunately after a year of trying and no pregnancy Natalie visited her GP for blood tests etc and I had to give a sperm sample to the hospital to try and find out what was going on.  From this we were told that Natalie did not appear to ovulate regularly, but no real explanation as to why.

We were therefore referred to Oxford Fertility shortly after for more tests and Natalie started taking Clomid.  We were told that this works for many couples and that due to our age (Natalie was then 28 and I was 32) we had a good chance of conceiving, but 8 months later and still no pregnancy, Clomid did not bring us the success we hoped for.  Following this we were told that IVF was going to be our best option and currently Swindon CCG offer one fresh cycle and two frozen cycles. We decided that we just wanted to get on with it as soon as possible and we started our first fresh cycle in January 2018. Even the snow didn’t stop us getting to our egg collection appointment in Oxford!

We luckily had one embryo transferred in March and two embryos good enough to freeze, however unfortunately our first cycle ended with a negative test.  I don’t think any words can express how going through that first cycle felt for us, it feels so surreal now. They say that time is a healer, but having to go through what we did and then not getting the outcome that we both cautiously hoped for has not been healed by time at all.  We are both still coming to terms with what happened and it has certainly felt like we are grieving. We do hope to try a frozen cycle later in the year and who knows what might happen, but right now we are just trying to focus on the here and now and being there to support each other.

Did you know anyone else that had been through IVF before you that you could confide in?

Before our journey we hadn’t known of anybody that had been through, successfully or not, or was on an IVF journey

Did you talk to friends/your football team about your IVF?

Since being on our journey I’ve realised the more I talk to people from many different walks of life the more I’ve found that it is so much more common than I could ever have imagined.

Going back to this time last year I told my previous manager, Bobby Wilkinson, who to his credit supported me in whatever way he could, with time off, a bit of space etc. It was only then when I found out, through talking, our goalkeeper coach had unsuccessful IVF and our fitness coach was going through his own IVF journey.

Fast forward 12 months, I’ve told anyone and everyone of my friends (at appropriate times) and at our end of season presentation evening I announced our upcoming partnership in putting the pineapples on our shirts for next season, the meaning of it and our journey.

Even now though, unless you “know”, you don’t know.

Men often get excluded when it comes to emotional support, perhaps because physically the woman has to go through so much.

Men often don’t talk openly about their fertility struggles, choosing instead to focus on the wellbeing of their wives or girlfriends. By supporting IVF Babble and helping to raise awareness, you really are offering the most incredible support for the guys, as well as the girls. You are saying ‘it’s ok to talk. You’re not alone.’ You are helping to break the silence whilst guiding people towards the support they need.

Can you tell us how you as a football club are hoping to raise this awareness alongside us?

Me personally with the aid of HTFC are hoping to raise awareness of IVF not only through our social media channels, but by having the pineapple pin logo printed onto our match shirts. Our kit supplier, Macron, has the logo and we’re just awaiting confirmation of our main shirt sponsor so our shirts can get printed. It will 100% happen. Replica shirts will also be available.

I’m awaiting confirmation from the League to have the IVF Babble logo on all our warm up tops, this would also be on the manager/coach’s attire which would create a lot of exposure.

We’ll have links to IVF Babble on our website and put two advertising hoardings up pitch side.

When our fixture list is released (in two weeks) we’ll arrange for a specific home game to host a #TTC lunch/breakfast at the club before the game (if possible). The idea for a specified game being I think we could reach a wider audience that possibly haven’t had the ability to attend a #TTClunch i.e Torquay or Truro. Then after the game perhaps have an evening ball.

Have you got any games/events coming up that you would like everyone to know about?

We have our main pre-season fixture which is against Oxford United at our home ground on Wednesday 18th July.

We also have a golf day in which we’re trying to raise funds for the Club on Thursday 19th July. If anyone is interested they need to contact me.

Will you be watching every England match? (Where will you be watching? Who will you be watching with? What snacks/drinks do you always insist on having as you watch the game?!)

I’ll be missing the big game today as it’s our first training session of the new season and as much as I’d love to watch, and the lads would as well, our own preparations will be getting underway. We’ll hopefully catch the end in the bar at the football club. Then, unknown territory, the football club is open for all England games and who knows, hopefully we’ll be watching the final there!

Ian Herring, Hungerford Town FC . . . we love you for your determination and incredible support of #ivfstrongertogether and for having such indomitable spirit . . . Hungerford Town FC, a wonderful team so accurately named ‘The Crusaders’ for so many reasons.

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