Have you ever visited the waiting room of an American fertility clinic? How about one in Italy? Spain, perhaps? I haven’t, but I’ve been to a fair few UK fertility clinics in my time – and I’m now wondering if all waiting rooms are the same around the world, or if ours are uniquely British
In the typical UK fertility waiting room, there’ll be a few women on their own who look completely relaxed and have clearly been doing this a while. They’ll wear easy-to-remove shoes and clothing, munch on quiet snacks from a ziplock, flick through Facebook and Instagram, and sometimes smile at a nurse or doctor walking past. They seem smug, but that’s almost definitely me projecting.
Then you’ll find one or two couples who are new to IVF. She’ll diligently work her way through numerous application forms while he plays Angry Birds Evolution on his phone, occasionally signing his name when a piece of paper is thrust in his face. She’s always tense; he always seems like he’s not sure why he’s been dragged there.
And finally, there are the women who seem angry. Maybe they’ve been waiting forever because their doctor is running late. Perhaps they’ve just been told they can’t start treatment until they lose weight. Either way, they’re quietly seething.
All these people have something big in common: the desire to have a baby combined with the inability to do so naturally. Only around 60,000 people a year have fertility treatment in the UK – which is tiny in the scheme of things. The IVF waiting room is the perfect place for a great big bond-athon – the chance to share stories, appreciate each others’ pain, and finally feel like other people understand what you’re going through.
Instead, there’s silence – occasionally interspersed with the rage-inducing clicks of someone who still owns a frigging Blackberry.
Now I’ve had the chance to think about it, I’ve realised how ridiculous this situation is. I used to see the same women in the waiting room, over and over again. We weren’t even on nodding terms, yet we were going through the same lonely, desperate, potentially soul-destroying experience together. Why didn’t we talk to each other, swap numbers, offer each other reassurance and advice?
I know we have message boards, Facebook groups and forums these days, but surely being in the same room as someone still has its benefits? Online, you can’t get a big comforting hug from someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. Online, you can’t see the eyes that imply, “I get you. I’ve been there.”
Fertility waiting rooms are a missed opportunity. We don’t all have to become best buds, but it’d be nice if we could make more of their potential than swipe swipe swipe, munch munch munch, sigh sigh sigh.
Mish Slade writes The Duff, which helps you make sense of IVF and feel more in control of your treatment. It contains a range of in-depth, easy-to-understand articles on everything from egg quality and hormone levels to medication and the start-to-finish process itself.