During my first IVF cycle, I was unguarded and open. I was hopeful, positive and perhaps a tad naïve. I believed that honesty was the best policy.
When close family and friends posed the predictable and perennial question ‘so when are you having a baby?’ I updated them candidly with the intimate details of my IVF journey. I took an open-book approach. I neglected social media announcements, but those whom I met face-to-face got the unadulterated truth.
On some level, I believed that speaking honestly with friends and family would help those relationships grow stronger and richer
Talking about IVF to those untouched by infertility was not the easiest option, in fact, it occasionally seemed to be something of a taboo subject. But, it was my truth. And I felt I wanted to peel back the veneer and reveal the reality of an otherwise glossy-looking life. When other friends went through difficult times, I shared my own struggle with fertility in this belief that telling the truth attracted others who were also authentic.
Now there are a couple of reasons why this approach backfired
Retrospectively, the first is fairly obvious. If everyone knows you are going through IVF, everyone will ask for updates. And if it fails (which statistically it is likely to do) then you have to relay this news to everyone at least once. That means the words “it didn’t work” will pass your lips over and over again, forcing the grim feelings to resurface each time – not ideal.
The second reason – particular to my journey – was the unexpected wolf in sheep’s clothing
A policy of openness can make it apparent that others too are on the same voyage. One girl in particular – my husband’s mate’s wife who we will call Lola – was particularly excited. She had already been through one failed round of IVF. Lola became very interested in my status and regularly contacted me to get updates. We discussed the process, the highs and lows, and shared our respective experiences. Or at least I did. Whilst we chatted and messaged each other, I kept asking where she was up to with her second round. She replied several times that though she had completed the simulation stage, she wasn’t doing the transfer just yet as she wasn’t ready.
Fast forward a month and our first attempt at IVF had failed. All the embryos were gone and we were not pregnant, not even close. When Lola asked, I shared this update. And soon after this, my husband had a call from Lola’s husband (his best mate) to learn the thrilling news that they were over four months pregnant.
A hot flush of recognition washed over me. My husband repeated the news to me, brimming with happiness for his good friend, totally unaware of the hurt and betrayal I felt. She had lied to me the whole time. Now, I appreciate that it is entirely at a person’s discretion whether they choose to share or not. But Lola had dug deep for all the details of my experience and she had chosen not to reciprocate what she sought from me. Why would someone keep messaging another to gauge all their feelings and experiences, without doing the same in return!?
How would Beyonce act?
Eventually I received an email to apologise, with the explanation that she was “protecting herself as they didn’t want to jinx” the process. However, during an already stressful experience, who needs the added feelings of betrayal by a “girlfriend” acting entirely against the Girl Code. Rather than empower each other (in true Beyoncé or Amal Clooney fashion), she had dumped on me from a great height while secretly enjoying the thrill of her own pregnancy. Beyoncé would definitely not put up with that.
In times of trouble people reveal their true colours. I now keep her at arm’s length and no matter what the outcome of my fertility journey I can’t see us ever being close again.
Tough times often cause people to instinctively withdraw, become self-centric and to be selfish. We are all guilty of it, though it can manifest in many different ways. Lola thinks she did nothing wrong. She did what she had to do to get through it.
I remember being sat at a new patient introduction in an auditorium full of couples, almost 300 people. As the presentation played out in front of me, I glanced around wondering which of the couples here would fail and which would succeed. Hoping that I would be one of the few to succeed. Wishing it. Willing it. Focusing only on myself.
It’s a lonely road
The truth is that this is a lonely journey, with an unknown – and sometimes brutal – outcome. Try as they might, most of those who have never experienced infertility inevitably fail to understand or fully empathise with those who are enduring the struggle. The only ones that can are those that have been through it.
So if you get the chance, make the effort. When you’re next at an open day surrounded by other anxious, fearful, hopeful patients-to-be, try to share a smile, or start a conversation. it may make someone feel just a little bit better, calmer, or reassured that they’re not entirely alone and that can only be a good thing.
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