Tuesday 17 March 2015

Mothering Sunday and Infertility

I try to ignore Mother's Day. I don't have that great a relationship with my own mother and it's the fourth one that's passed since we started trying to start our own family.  Both on Mother's Day and Father's Day, the best course of action is to avoid Faceache all day long. If you do log on, all you get is a constant stream of photos and status updates reminding you how defective you are. I know people don't mean it and all they're doing is celebrating their own happiness, it's just that when you're living with infertility, that's kind of how it seems.  
Pregnancy and parenting books and empty shoes

A lot of publicity seems to focus on the physical characteristics, the fact that you're not a "real mother" unless you've given carried a baby for 9 months and given birth. I don't believe it's that at all though, it's far more to do with the love, support and care you give to your children all their life.
Families come in all shapes and sizes and the word "mother" can mean a thousand different things: step mothers, mothers of adopted children, mothers who've used surrogates and hundreds of different types in-between. And that's without even mentioning the amount of mothers who've the heart-breaking agony of losing a child, a baby or a pregnancy. They may not have a hand to hold but they are still mothers.
And then there's us. The infertiles. The ones who'd dearly love to become a mother but haven't yet managed it. In 3 years and 3 months I've never seen that magical second line on a pregnancy test yet (with the help of some very talented embryologists) me and Andrew have managed to create 14 little embryos. One is still frozen (affectionately called "Findus"), eleven of them didn't survive past 5 days after conception and the other two have been transferred inside me only to stop growing and die sometime during that dreaded two week wait. Does the fact that we created life make me a mother? You certainly feel like one from the moment the clinic calls you to say how many fertilised right through to the result two weeks later. As far as the generic view from society is though, I haven't given birth therefore I couldn't possibly be a mother.  
We've looked into adoption and it might be something we do in the future. However it's not the same as having your own and it's definitely not a quick and easy process. The Catch 22 is the amount of criteria you have to meet before you'll even be accepted as potential adoptees. I know of one couple who spent a significant amount of money trying IVF, then after they'd come to terms with not having their own, started researching adoption only to be told they wouldn't be eligible - they didn't have enough savings as they'd spent them on fertility treatment.  The sticking point for me and Andrew is that adoption agencies usually insist on you having experience with children, which of course is quite hard to get if you don't have your own or have any relatives with children. Oh the irony of that. Because of course, each and every first time parent has already had the training course on "how to look after children" and naturally, all of them have a bulging bank account.
Another big issue in the UK is the fertility fairness funding can of worms. The NICE clinical guidelines recommend three cycles of treatment for women under 40. The reality is that only a handful of local authorities in England offer that, and even then there's usually a long list of criteria you have to meet. The problem comes when each local area decides on their own policy. We get one cycle free in our area. If I lived 5 miles to the west, we'd be offered two cycles free (plus any subsequent frozen cycles). If I lived 20 miles to the east, I'd be offered three. In order to get the NHS funded cycle in our local area some of the things you have to meet include being: over 23; under 40; under 30 on your BMI; never had any previous treatment; a non-smoker and trying for at least 2 years (or 1 if there's a known cause of infertility). I don't necessarily think the NHS should pay for lots of free cycles (I agree, there's often far more important things to spend the money on) but whatever the ruling is - it should be the same in every area. If we all get three - excellent. If we all get two or one - excellent. And if we all get nothing - well, that'd be pretty crappy but at least it would be fair. Interestingly the World Health Organisation class infertility as a disease yet it's probably the only "disease" which provokes such strong reactions in people with regard to NHS funding.  
I suppose as well, there's always going to be an argument for saying that it's some form of natural selection and if that's what nature intended then so be it. But if it really is a case of survival of the fittest, then there's an awful lot of people who've "survived" who should be a lot more appreciative of their success. I'm not saying everyone takes it for granted, there's a lot of people out there who are incredibly grateful and to them, fair play. Maybe it's just my Facebook news feed but unfortunately it seems there's a large amount who do take it for granted. Fertility is a privilege and one that a lot of us forget we have.

I don't want to sound bitter (although I'm aware I probably do) and this probably isn't really going anywhere so trying to put a bit more of a positive spin on it, here's a few of the most supportive and helpful resources I've found for infertility over the last few years:
  • Nuts in May's 'Letter in Green Biro' - one infertile lady's response to Mariella Frostrup's "helpful" agony aunt advice to a reader who couldn't have children. This will make you both cry and punch the air in support.  
  • The Fertility Friends forum - heaps of advice and tips for all stages of your journey. 
  • Womb 4 Improvement blog - she's a very funny lady and has lots of advice about everything to do with infertility and treatment.  
  • The Barren Blog - no longer updated (as she had a lovely happy ending back in 2010) but still worth a read.  
  • TheOneHandMan - infertility and adoption from a man's perspective.  
  • Infertility Network UK - worth following them on Twitter and Facebook and their site has lots of factsheets but their forum's usually a bit dead.  
  • The Fertility Podcast - exactly what it says on the tin, advice and interviews from women who've been there and got the t-shirt.  
  • Chelenic’s YouTube channel - you'll have to scroll back a bit in time (she's now mum to twins) but she filmed everything, all the drugs, injections and emotions throughout the whole journey.  
  • Pinterest is great for morale - I have an IVF board on there with pictures and jokes.
And the best advice I can give you...
Any IVF or infertility story on the internet - don't read the comments. Just don't. Especially if it's the Daily Mail. There's a lot of "outraged and ill-informed of Tunbridge Wells" type people out there.
And they are not worth your time.


  1. Louisa you are a darling and I cross my fingers for you daily xx

  2. You there, sending you all the love. Facebum should be avoided at all costs, it's one big game of one upmanship and no one needs that.
    It's a testament to your awesomeness that you turned this into a positive helpful post.
    M x

  3. You don't sound bitter; you sound tired. I wish there was something more useful I could say. x

  4. Louisa you really don't sound bitter, the system is just crap and unfair. I really, truly hope and believe you will be a great mother one day, no matter in what sense of the word <3

  5. Sending you all of my best wishes and positive thoughts Xx

  6. I agree with Sarah and Saskia, you don't sound bitter at all (although you have every right to be). A number of my close friends have battled with infertility and IVF, to varying degrees of success, and it massively sucks that the system is so unfair. I know that for them it added a whole extra layer of stress that they really didn't need.

  7. You don't sound bitter, you just sound like you really care about this. I hope and pray you get to be the wonderful mother you deserve to be. I had a work colleague who had various rounds of IVF which didn't work. The process of adoption took a good 3-4 years and it was horrid for her, they were so probing. She ended up with 2 sisters and subsequently ended up with their little brother a year later which I know was a big shock to the system. It seems unfair when people can pop them out like anything and those who really care have difficulties. xx

  8. I completely agree that it should be fair - how bizarre that only a few miles makes a massive difference. You don't sound bitter at all; you actually presented it very fairly.

    Lizzie Dripping

  9. Love you Louisa <3

    Theres so much more I could say towards this, but I'll leave it at a Happy Belated Mothers day to you.


  10. Oh Facebleurgh can do one. Thinking of you lovely one xx

  11. You don't sound bitter at all, Louisa.

    Sending you all the positive thoughts and best wishes!
    Life’s Open Pages

  12. Jenny J sent this through to me saying it would resonate. It did.
    I'm not infertile, I successfully carried my son to 37 weeks when he suddenly, for no reason and with no warning, died, last year.
    I cannot imagine what it is like to be infertile and I am aware of how extraordinarily lucky I am to have got to full term with my son, and I am so grateful of the time I had with him. When I hear of other parents who didn't get that, my heart breaks for you. I don't believe in a pain heirarchy - I don't think my pain is worse than yours. Not having your own child, for whatever reason, is horrible, and heartbreaking and deeply deeply unfair.
    Survival of the fittest and natural selection my arse. Not when people don't do the right things in pregnancy and then neglect their children. (I am bitter, very very bitter).
    Thank you for writing that bereaved parents are parents too, so many people don't seem to get that.
    I hope you get your baby. And yes, Mother's Day can do one. Father's Day I have yet to encounter as we weren't in the right headzone last year to notice it. I suspect I'll hate everyone on that day too.

    1. I am now concerned this was an inappropriate response to your post, and that perhaps I've made it all about me. If so, apologies, feel free to delete it. I have yet to work out how to talk about this in a context appropriate way.

  13. I want to send you some support and love, I want to send you something to know there are people out there that support you, care for you and feel for you. I can't speak from experience so I'm trying to speak from empathy. I hope you two managed to have a nice day despite everything. I hope you continue trying and looking at your options and one day get everything you want!

    Adoption criteria has always surprised me... surely someone who wants to love a child and is generally an ok person is enough. That's more than a lot of children have already!

    Definitely stay away from Facebook... god I hate that place.

    Also, definitely be bitter, be anything you want, your feelings are as valid whether they are bitter or not!

    Sending you love!!

  14. Julie from Cornwall20 March 2015 at 14:05

    Can't really say anything that would help your situation and it is so annoying that there are some people who have children who really should not be parents at all. Infertility is not something I have any experience of but I can empathise with you and appreciate how difficult it must be for you and your husband in particularly as you do not have a good relationship with your mother. I do hope that if you are still pinning your hopes on IVF it works for you very soon or adoption if that is the path you decide to go down. I am assuming you work but if not you could try volunteering at your local primary school which would give you some of the experience you need to help with an adoption application. As you say it is extremely unfair as none of us who are lucky enough to be able to conceive naturally have to jump through any of the hoops infertile couples have to.

    As for facebook I totally agree that there is no need to plaster messages all over it and luckily my daughters agree. I would never dream of putting a Happy Mothers Day message to my mum on facebook, she gets a card, flowers and a visit or a phone call as we live a long way away. Same with my daughters, one of which was completely amazed that some of her friends were putting long winded messages for their one year olds on there who obviously would not even be able to read them!

  15. You don't sound bitter at all, Louisa. It is hard when Mother's/Father's day/Christmas/First day at school comes up as people put up all their photos on FB. On these days I don't bother going on to have a look. It is strange how just a few miles can change how many cycles you get. Up here you get 2 cycles now as it was changed last year from the three that we got but I do agree that's it's unfair that it can vary so much between where people live and that there should be a standard amount.

    Sending you much love xx


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