Six things not to say to your infertile friends

I’m pretty open with my friends and family about infertility. Partly because, well, I find it difficult to keep my mouth shut – but partly because I thought it was an important issue which no one talks about.

Having discussed it at length with various people, at varying degrees of inebriation, for a year now, I now know what to expect. At the beginning, though, it was hard.

If you know someone in a similar situation, here are some oft-uttered lines to avoid.

1.”It’ll happen”

Honestly? It might not. It doesn’t happen for thousands and thousands of people every year. Positive thinking is a great thing – but unrealistic thinking will only end in heartbreak. Right now your friend needs to protect themselves from that.

2. “You just need to relax”

People love this phrase. Remember when you were 25 and everyone had a boyfriend except you, and people kept saying you will find love when you least expect it? This is that all over again.

When your body is giving you mixed messages for two weeks of the month – that’s literally half your life – “relaxing” is not an option. When everywhere you turn, babies and pregnant women and advertising (for it is targeted at women of a certain age) remind you of the one thing you don’t have, turning your conception radar to the off position is impossible.

And if you really think about it, this phrase is a form of blame. For months, I honestly believed the reason I couldn’t conceive was my own inability to chill out. This is victim-blaming at its finest. Stop saying it. Please.

3. “A year? That’s no time!”

Firstly, do you know what? It feels like an age. It feels like geological eras have passed since I started trying for a baby. It feels like if I ever do birth a child, humanity will have evolved to the point where it will have gills, or the ability to move objects with its mind, in manner of X-Men.

But my other point is that a woman may not want to share with you the exact details of what’s going on with her body (I will: I bleed. All. The. Frickin. Time) – but there’s a good chance she knows there’s something wrong. If someone is upset about not being able to conceive, it doesn’t matter how long they’ve been trying. They just need support.

4. “You can just have IVF/adopt”

Last year I had a heart procedure in which they sliced into my groin, stuck tiny wires up my arteries, and a cauterised a nerve in my heart. It was horrible.

The prospect of going through months of similarly intrusive and unpleasant – not to mention expensive – tests and procedures just to do what most people do without much effort? That’s horrible.

The prospect of going through it all and it not working? It’s difficult to even fathom.

As for adoption – of course we will think about it if all else fails. But I’m a woman – the desire to carry a child is ingrained. Not being able to do so will be very, very hard to get over.

5. “Maybe you should stop trying for a while?”

So if I finally conceive, I’m even older?

Yeah. Great plan.

6. “My friend drank raspberry leaf tea/had acupuncture/went to see a specialist and conceived straight away”

Babes! I’m so happy for them! Thing is, I’m a bit emotional at the moment and, depending on what point of my cycle I’m in, there’s a chance I’ll rush off to the supermarket, buy all the raspberry leaf tea, drink 18 cups a day and then be utterly inconsolable when it doesn’t work.

Ditto getting pregnant through the very act of going to see a specialist, or doing acupuncture (also, hello? $$$), or taking Clomid, or any of the solutions that worked for everyone else’s friends except me. Advice is nice but such is the emotional rollercoaster Team Infertile is on, there’s a good risk it will make us feel worse when Big Red arrives and we’ve done exactly what your mates did and it didn’t work.

Basically, my message is this: your infertile friends don’t need advice. Particularly if the most effort you went to while trying to conceive was lying back and thinking of England. Just because you have made a baby does not make you an expert at it. It just makes you lucky.

Them, on the other hand? They’ve already spent more time than you can possibly imagine Googling pregnancy symptoms and the likelihood of luteal phase spotting meaning a negative pregnancy test and whether having an achy big toe means they might be up the duff. They could write books about this stuff. They may not be great in practice – but their knowledge of the theory is unbeatable.

Basically, though all they want is a cup of tea, and someone to listen. That’s it. So go forth, and be supportive.

 

Some questions on Clomid

The last you heard of me (before I started moaning about my age), I was celebrating my enthusiastic new GP.

To be fair, she was great. But the pace of the NHS could be beaten comfortably in a race by most glaciers, and so I have lost patience and gone temporarily private.

I knew I wasn’t ovulating, for I have been diligently using OPKs and tracking BBT for months. Thus, I was pretty sure all I needed was a couple of rounds of Clomid and, boom, a baby would ensue. At the time, it made sense that I went private.

I’ve just started my second round and… I dunno.

The trouble is, there’s no one to ask. Mr Private Doctor is an appointment only kind of guy. I have exhausted the GP’s pretty limited knowledge of infertility (although her “aww honeyyy…” face cannot be improved upon) and it turns out literally no one in real life talks about infertility. Apart from on internet forums. Which make Donald Trump look like a beacon of accuracy.

So, here are the questions I would like to ask about Clomid, but that I have no one to ask. Answers on the back of a postcard, please.

  • When actually counts as the first day of your cycle? Because, you know, the bleeding started about six days after ovulation this time around, and progressing into more of a… gradual buildup. So I kind of guessed what my second day might be.
  • Related: does it matter if you take it on the wrong day? Am I going to die of that?
  • Related: today I felt a bit fainty. Is it because I took it on the wrong day? Am I destroying my (admittedly already not entirely functional) reproductive system?
  • Is it normal to feel like there is something sitting on your chest, all the time? Sometimes it’s about the weight of a small dog – a chihuahua, say – and sometimes it’s more of a three-year-old. Either way, breathing is not always completely easy. But that’s cool, right?
  • You know how Clomid is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it needs to release chemicals that make you ovulate? And you know how if you’re stressed you don’t ovulate? What happens if taking the Clomid coincides with your most stressful week ever? Will it still work?
  • Say, hypothetically, I got pregnant, and then I started bleeding because that’s pretty much what I do, and then I took more Clomid? What would that do? Really more as a thought exercise than anything at this stage.
  • Does my level of positivity have an impact on it working? Because right now, I cannot visualise getting pregnant. I’m trying to be super positive… but I just can’t imagine it happening.
  • Will you hold my hand please?

By the way, I have an appointment with an NHS specialist in February… but honestly, I can’t help but feel a new geological era will begin before the NHS works out what’s going on with my inner workings.

Old

My mum was 25 when she had me. To me, at 30, it seems ludicrously young. By the time she was my age she was a full-time mum with two girls, and an expat wife to boot – we spent five years living in Europe, following my dad’s job.

I think giving up her career and her freedom to raise kids while she was so young was probably harder for my mum than she has ever let on.

But her youth was always complimented by my friends’ mothers, and I was proud of her. She listened to Bjork and Radiohead at full blast and wore clothes from Karen Millen (it was quite edgy back then, you know) and big stompy boots and let me drink Smirnoff Ice. One time she even got stoned. My friends’ mums listened to The Beatles and wore clothes from Marks & Spencer and made them do their homework at the same time every day.

J’s parents were the other extreme – although his mum was 30 when she had him, his dad was 40. He remembers his friends all being better at football than him because they spent weekends playing with their dads (probably on t’moors, for he is a proud Yorkshireman) – but his dad was too old and couldn’t join in.

One of the over-arching themes of my wee-hours-of-the-morning, can’t-sleep angst sessions is that, by the time the infertility tests are done and a diagnosis is decided upon and a cure is administered and miscarriages have been had (see “translocation”) and IVF has been carried out and a child is produced, I’ll be old. I’ll be an old parent. A geriatric mother.

What’s worse is, J will be old too. He will be too ancient and creaky to play football with his sons. If that happens, it will break my heart.

Let’s face it: our combined gene pools are hardly likely to create the next David Beckham. But if they’re not going to spend their school football lessons crumpling like Bambi every time they are faced with kicking a ball, these kids are going to need all the help they can get. Geriatric parenting isn’t an option.