By Jo Bright
Sometimes I think those at the end of the fertility journey are forgotten, whether they were successful or not. We are left, full of raw emotion and no clue how to handle it…
For me, my journey felt a bit like stepping onto a conveyor belt, then, as it came to a close it was a case of those who are pregnant to the left, all those who failed to the right and off you go. You have arrived at the final destination, now go live your life.
It took me five long years to finally turn left, but I was left with a shocking feeling of ‘now what?’ What am I meant to with these raw emotions that I’ve lived with for all those years?
We are meant to live our ‘happily ever after’, but for me it’s not as simple as that
I’m so grateful every second of every day that I finally have my baby girl, but I still have so much emotional pain, out of control, rolling around inside of me. I ask myself why. Surely those feelings should disappear the moment you hold your child? The moment you see those blue lines for goodness sake. How dare I! How dare I feel the pain when there are so many men and women still on their own journey, still on the conveyor belt, still waiting to see their blue lines, still waiting for their child and still grasping on to hope.
But it’s there, the insecurities and the tears. I put my mind and my body through so much pain for such a long time, that settling in to a place of happiness isn’t as easy as I thought.
I don’t know quite how to handle these feelings. I don’t write this looking for sympathy I write to try and understand.
I actually started writing this back in March as I was sat at the Manchester Complex Centre attending the Fertility Show. I joined the ivf Babble girls in the Babble Lounge, to offer my support. I wanted to listen, to learn and be with other like-minded people. I wanted to share stories, offer my support to others whilst gathering my own strength along the way.
And it’s only there that for the first time in two years a revelation happened. I was listening to a woman talk about her fertility journey that resulted in twins. As she spoke, she cried, she was asked why she was crying, after all, she had become a mother. She surely had no reason to be sad? But her words hit me like a lightning bolt. She explained that she bears the emotional scar of infertility – an emotional scar that will always be there. A scar that she is proud of, yet a scar that still causes her pain, as a result of the pain she endured, the fear, the anger, the desperation.
I was taken aback. I bear that scar too.
I thought it was just me. I thought I was the only one feeling this mix of emotions, this mixed feeling of sadness, happiness and guilt.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy, very happy but you see no talks to you about what can happen to you emotionally after your treatment works. Why would they?
No one tells you that you may still be traumatised, that you may experience elements of post traumatic stress. No one tells you how to deal with the fact that you will be so fearful that something might go wrong again. No one tells you how to deal with or manage the pain you have experienced. Your treatment worked for goodness sake, so forget the trauma and go away and be happy! But it just doesn’t work like that.
I feel so guilty talking of this pain, but having heard from Sandra Bateman from the National Fertility Society I now realise that I have experienced elements of PTSD.
Sandra said: “The trauma of going through fertility treatment can cause PTSD if successful or unsuccessful. Like all traumatic experiences the man or woman is suffering from shock. In the case of infertility, this is the shock at the loss of either the ability to have a family naturally, or continuous heartache through treatment. Even if they are successful eventually, they still have all the emotions to deal with after the baby is born. PTSD is best treated with CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) EFT( Emotional Freedom Technique) or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) modalities of counselling.”
When someone mentioned counselling was an option at the start of our journey, I thought how odd. Why would we need counselling? I mean, I’m trying to conceive so why on earth would I need counselling? But knowing now what I know, bring on the counselling. Maybe if we were just a bit more prepared and open at the beginning then perhaps I would have been able to look after myself better emotionally throughout my five year struggle. I would have been able to deal with my failed cycles and the heart wrenching trauma that goes hand in hand with infertility. I would have armed myself with the tools to cope and perhaps come out the other side in a better state of mind.
If you are on your journey now, or are at the end, successful or not, please do look after yourself. Read through these recognised the signs of PTSD that the The National Fertility Society have told us to be aware of:
- Nightmares or bad dreams
- Flashbacks when awake
- Intrusive thoughts
- Extreme Stress
- Panic attack symptoms – heart palpitations, sweats, feeling sick or shaking
If you feel you are struggling, seek professional help. Your mental well-being is as important as your physical well being. Help is there for you, so don’t suffer alone.
I write this understanding that we feel lonely at times but we are not alone. It’s ok to not be ok on a journey whether it’s at the beginning, middle or end.
I know going through any kind of fertility treatment – no matter where you are on your journey – beginning, middle or end – can be scary, lonely and emotional. Take advice from the experts, and comfort from others who are on the same journey as you.
I am starting to host ‘get togethers’ every month, at different locations; a space for men and women who are on, or have been on a fertility journey, to chat and support each other. DM me if you would like to come along or need more information. I am here to share, encourage and uplift.
Do you feel as though you may be experiencing signs of PTSD following successful or unsuccessful fertility treatment? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find Jo on Instagram @jo_bright_ or follow her Facebook page The Fertility Space.
To find out more about the National Fertility Society, click here