“Fuck off with your ‘Relaxed’!”

{Also features on The M Word }

Recently I wrote a post about Living With Infertility, and I focused on what the direct impact of it was like at the time. But although it discusses infertility itself, what isn’t often discussed is the effect of that, and how it affects your day to day life.

The quote above pretty much nails it – spoken to me only yesterday by a family member as we discussed our separate IVF experiences. 

The first sort of – side effects I’ll call them – of infertility that I noticed are the feeling of loneliness and exasperation it brings. First up, you don’t really recognise that you’re infertile for a long time; you can’t. You’re told things like ‘relax, it’ll happen’, or ‘it can take 18 months for some couples, don’t worry’, or ‘just don’t think about it’. Please see aforementioned quote..!

Can you think of any other medical issue where the first line of advice is always centered around the idea of ignoring it and it will go away? No, me neither.

That’s not meant as a criticism of the people who say those things – doctors say it too. Mostly they’re said in an attempt to comfort, and usually come from a good place. And in lots of ways of course they can be true – sometimes it does take months to get pregnant, and sometimes stress can play a part. But I think it’s when it’s said in a dismissive tone, which also happened to me sometimes, it makes you feel a bit lonely. After a while you feel less and less like you can bring it up with anyone, and it feels like you’re the only ones who this is happening to. That’s when you start to wonder if in fact there really is something wrong, maybe you are the one in four couples affected by infertility.

It’s well known that as soon as you start seeing someone, the questions flood in about when things might get serious… when you might be engaged..when you might set a date… and of course the best of all, when there might be the pitter-patter of little feet. Again people say it with good intent; it’s just something people say. I’ve said it myself lots of times! I saw a post on Instagram recently about what not to say around the topic of inferntilty, and the basic message on it was ‘just don’t ask’. Of course that’s true – just keep it zipped is the best approach.

However for me, in a way I think it was worse when people stopped asking. Then I knew for sure we were the ones that people were wondering about… ‘shhh they must be having trouble, don’t say anything’. People started to avoid the topic of babies altogether around me so as not to upset me – again – well intentioned, but ultimately, more upsetting. Because then it was real, and it must be happening. I just didn’t want to be treated differently. But it was real, and no amount of ‘just relaxing’ or ‘not thinking about it’ was going to save us now it seemed.

It’s important to remember that of course people are different, and everyone deals with things differently and in their own way.. this is just my experience. Personally, after a few years of getting nowhere, I could feel myself starting to withdraw into myself. The effect of infertility was starting to interfere with friendships – not from the part of my friends, but from me. I started to find it very difficult to be around anything baby related. Going to Christenings, or birthday parties, or even in some cases, just visiting friends with babies. It’s a very difficult thing to try and explain so that people who haven’t gone through it can understand. (Much like any personal challenge!) On the flip side then, friends found it difficult to relate to what I was trying to deal with.

Infertility is draining, because it’s so consuming. It’s a medical condition, a physical thing, but to me it felt much more like a mental health condition too. You don’t ‘feel’ infertile physically. But you definitely feel infertile mentally.

The next phase is acceptance, and the mental rollercoaster that follows while trying to conceive. One year, nothing. Two years… three years… four years in. Nothing, not even a nearly. And yet throughout it all you still remain hopeful…. maybe this will be our month. But every month came the devastating confirmation that it wasn’t our month. Get up, get knocked down. Brush yourself off, get up, get knocked down. Repeat. It trains you to get used to failure and defeat, and to see the negatives first, because that’s all that’s ever happened up to now.

News of other pregnancies was everywhere. From where I was standing, people seemed to get pregnant just by looking at eachother! It was always hard to hear the news from others. Not because of jealousy though, I feel strongly about pointing that out. It’s not something you begrudge of anyone because you know how hard it is for some to achieve. It’s just a pure devastation for yourself… you’re still happy for whoever is sharing their news with you, and so you should be. They’re entitled to sing it from the rooftops, and you are happy for them, but just so sad for yourself. I always preferred to be warned in advance when possible, rather than a face to face thing. That way I could compose myself, be sad for myself first because that was inevitable, and then when I saw my friend or family member, I could have dealt with my own issue privately and be genuinely happy for them when I saw them and share in their excitement.

I don’t believe the effects of infertilty ever go away, however your story turns out. Even after everything, all the trying and wondering, and then all the treatment, and the birth of our two sons, it still lingers. But like anything tough to go through, it makes you who you are I suppose. Is that a consolation prize? Maybe.

Infertility made me stronger, it made me realise my own strength, in lots of ways. I’d hate to see someone I love go through it, but you will get through it. It taught me so much and in the end, gave us the best things that ever happened to us. I know how lucky we are. I really hope for anyone reading this who might also be going through it, that one day, they can say the same.

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Posted by:Jen Ryan

I'm Jen, 30-something, married, Mam of two little Munchkins, 2 dogs, Irish, red-haired and actual genius. (May not be true). I love Photography, cheesy stuff (including the music), fond of a cup of tea or two, although since the Munchkins arrived and taught me that sleep is for the weak, coffee is currently in top position.

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