Do you ever have one of those days when you have such a bad run of luck that you become convinced something good is about to happen?
I have had one of those days. A series of unfortunate first-world problems have adorned my day. Now I am absolutely certain something good is about to happen.
I slept through my boisterous blaring alarm clock, in a bleary-eyed daze I touched the “Off” part of my phone screen rather than “Snooze”, and innocently drifted off to the land of nod, only to wake up nearly an hour late. The client that we worked so hard on for the last three months who we had lots of progressive encouraging positive conversations and meetings with, has had a change of direction and has gone in a completely different route. And, our trusted rent-a-wreck car has finally chugged its last petrol fumed breath. I am due some luck, I have to be. Heck, I’m going to buy the lottery ticket as today is the day I become a winner! I can feel it in my bones.
Sometimes I apply the same illogical hopefulness to the notion that I might conceive naturally.
You always hear about it don’t you, those that tried and tried for years and years. They tried IVF and the plethora of fertility delights on offer, only to stop treatment and accept that it wasn’t meant to be. Then a few months later they suddenly became pregnant! Gasp. If it happened to them it could happen to us, right? My fertility rich family and friends delight in these stories, “they just relaxed and it happened”. Groan. If one more person says, “just relax” to me I might have to buff them on the nose. It demonstrates a lack of understanding and it’s a comment that comes at us from everywhere.
A few months ago, I turned on the telly to find a much-loved national daytime TV Doctor speaking to three women, each one at a different point on their fertility journey.
He was providing advice and answering questions. The third lady was about to start her 4th round of IVF and asked what could she do to increase her chances. And in all his educated, experienced, oracle-like manner the answer was to “relax”! He could have said anything, like “we honestly don’t know why it works in some and not in others” but instead he said that phrase that sends shivers down my spine. How can anyone relax? It is impossible to be calm and tranquil when all we were taught about reproduction is wrong in our very own bodies. Continually failing to pregnant is a struggle, and remaining calm and relaxed throughout is a complete illogicality. Toppled with a fertility treatment process that is an emotional roller-coaster, riddled with contradictions and angst. Maintaining a calm and relaxed demeanour throughout is an irrational ask and something we can all do without.
Whilst 1 in 7 people have difficulty conceiving (in the UK alone), the rest of population, 6 in 7 people are self-certified experts on the subject and they lavish us with their advice. No matter how kind and well-meaning their motives, they offer uneducated, inexperienced and unhelpful instructions. They fuel the fire of worry that surrounds this unexplained problem. It is akin to someone who is perfectly able to breathe providing an Asthmatic with advice whilst their having an asthma attack. Just because one can breathe it doesn’t make one an expert on breathing problems. So, unless guidance comes from those who have struggled with fertility issues please don’t give any, as Shakespeare would say “they know not of what they speak”.
The advice available from the real-life experts, beyond the Consultants – such as the nutritionists and fertility coaches, is over-whelming. There is a lot, for example, some suggestions I had during my first round of IVF were: “Just relax but, change your eating habits and diet. Forget that much-needed cup of coffee in the morning, have a herbal tea. That glass of wine after work a couple of nights a week, ditch it completely. And the rare treat of some good quality chocolate, scrap it. Eat low fructose fruit instead along with slow release carbohydrates to minimise the highs and lows in your hormone levels. Don’t drink tap water or any water out of plastic bottles, stick to mineral and glass bottled water only…. Unpack all the fruit and vegetables upon arrival and store them in BPA free Tupperware containers…… Oh, and that exercise you love, the running three times a week, you probably shouldn’t do it anymore more.” Along with, “have acupuncture from a specialist fertility lady on the other side of London (spend an hour battling the commuters to get to and from a 30-minute treatment)…. Listen to some hypnotherapy tapes…. think positive thoughts…. and throughout it all, don’t be expectant but be positively hopeful.” – Don’t be expectant but be positively hopeful!?.. Really? How can anyone be expected to walk that precarious delicate fragile tightrope of emotions whilst injecting themselves with masses of hormones on a daily basis?
The collective bulk of all these minor lifestyle changes is like a small hurricane moving through normality, never to be the same again.
During my first round of IVF I tried to “relax” be laid back and minimise the impact it had on my life but everything I did became about improving my chances of getting pregnant. My life changed completely, the little daily pleasures stopped, and it was impossible to be indifferent to it.
I followed all the experts’ advice and rules, and it didn’t work. So, for my second attempt at IVF I will take (most of) the advice with a pinch of salt. The only one I’m sticking to is removing alcohol from my diet completely (during the stimulation stages). And when I get angry, emotional and teary at the slightest thing, I will let it be, and allow it to flow through me. The rest of the world (my husband, friends and family) may just see an “emotional” woman, but I’m a woman on a mission to have a baby, don’t stop the feelings from flowing!
Given all the advice, tests, injections and inexplicable outcomes the sanest side-effect of having fertility treatment is to go a little bit insane and emotional. And allowing rather than denying yourself these feelings may even help the treatment success rate*. (*Based on absolutely no scientific research or study but on my own personal experience and optimism).
Good luck my fellow fertility struggling friends, Thora Negg x
IVF is a gamble and everyone’s fertility journey is unique.
I am not a medical professional, fertility coach or psychologist.
I have no idea what my story will be, but I will share it openly and frankly.
Hopefully it will provide you with hope and reassurance.
And don’t forget, underneath all the totally justified, mixed-up emotions, there is still a strong woman at the core – follow your instincts and forgive yourself, this isn’t your fault X