I recently explored why I believe it’s good to talk about infertility, but this didn’t address the reasons why we’re afraid to talk about it in the first place. I want to thank to my lovely Instagram followers who have kindly shared their reasons why they find it difficult to open up.
I found that there were three main reasons why we feel we are unable to share our struggle to conceive, although different they are all very much connected. Over a series of 3 blog posts I will share my thoughts about how we might be able to see them differently and work towards breaking that taboo.
I’m by no means saying that you have to open up and talk about your infertility struggles, you can still choose not to, but what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t talk about it.
I call it ‘The Vicious Cycle of Infertility’:
We don’t talk about infertility and so…
- We fear being seen as a failure…
- We feel isolated…
- We fear what people will say…
…and because of this we don’t say anything.
The only way to break this cycle is to raise awareness, to talk and share our stories.
That is what Defining Mum is all about – not only talking about how my infertility journey has defined me as a Mum but also talking about the struggle to become a Mum – Chasing Motherhood and what the experiences have taught me.
Everyone has a different story, it is sharing these stories that make us feel less alone.
It’s a vicious cycle– nobody talks about infertility and so you feel like you’ve failed because you can’t become parents in the conventional way, and because you feel you have failed you don’t say anything, therefore perpetuating the cycle.
Here’s what my Instagram followers told me:
“I felt like a failure as a woman, not being able to do the most natural female basic function”.
“Because everyone wants perfection and I will be seen as a failure”
“Because we are afraid people will pity us”
“We are afraid to show weakness and that we are not in control of it all”
I understand these feelings all too well. I remember when I was first diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure, the word failure reverberated in my ears.
I felt like my body had failed me.
I felt like I was old before my time.
I felt like I wasn’t the woman that my husband first met.
I had to learn to believe that being infertile wasn’t my fault. It’s so difficult when you’re used to being in control of your life, so when you are suddenly feeling out of control it can feel like you have done something wrong, that you have failed. I had planned to have a child before I was 30 and because I had planned it in this way I automatically thought that, as I approached this age and having tried for 2 years, I was failing. But how could I have changed this? I came to accept that had no control over this infertility ‘disease’. It is unfair, it is life changing but it is not our fault.
What I could control however was how I chose to respond to it and only I could choose how to try and turn that failure into success. I’m not saying that I was happy and positive every day, far from it (my husband will tell you this was definitely not the case!) but I came to learn that although it may not happen the way I originally envisaged, if I wanted to be a Mum there had to be a way.
We chose to be open about our struggle to become parents and initially I did worry that I would be judged for having failed. In reality, what I actually found was that those who we told never focused on us failing at becoming parents in the conventional way, far from it. Instead they were in awe of the strength we had to fight through it. As I spoke about our infertility, IVF, loss and hope, they realised how lucky they were to not have to face that challenge.
I believe that if we are open about our struggles, the majority of people will not see you as a failure, but instead as a fighter. Infertility was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with, but now it has become my biggest achievement in life. How can someone see that as failure?
Love, Becky x
I’ve always been a big advocate of talking things through, whatever the issue. I was no different when it came to our infertility. They say, a problem shared is a problem halved. Well, in this case a problem shared means that at least others are aware that there is a problem in the first place. Frankly, if your friends and family don’t know how can they support you?
Talking about problems may not be everyone’s cup of tea, after all, British stiff upper lip and all that. But I truly believe that by talking about my feelings with my friends and family I was better equipped to address what life had to throw at me throughout our journey.
Here’s half a dozen reasons why I think it’s good to talk:
1. You might actually find that you’re not alone.
Over the past 5 years I have found countless numbers of people who have been or are going through IVF. I’ve even found another lovely Mum who, like me, used donor eggs. This came up in a conversation whilst changing our baby’s nappies. I opened up to her about how my eldest was conceived and she gasped ‘Oh my goodness, me too!’
Knowing that others are in similar situations definitely helps with the isolating feeling that infertility can bring, especially when you realise that you’re not the only one.
2. There’s no having to remember who knows what.
If you’re open, you don’t have to keep worrying about who knows what. I only told a select few people at first, whilst I got my head around things. I soon found myself constantly thinking ‘do they know?’ and even worrying that someone might be offended that I hadn’t felt close enough to them to confide! Once I started to be more open and comfortable to talk about what was happening I no longer needed to worry about who knew.
3. Sometimes it’s good to have a cry, and you need a shoulder (or two!) to cry on!
Sometimes you just need to shout about how utterly s**t your situation is! Sometimes you want to shout that it’s just not fair! With friends and family being aware you are able to let your mask slip when you need to. After all, bottling things up is no good for anyone.
4. You might be able to avoid, or soften at least, some of those difficult pregnancy announcements.
If your friends and family know that you are struggling to conceive it at least gives them the opportunity to try and be sensitive. Now, I know this doesn’t always turn out to be the case but if someone doesn’t know then it’s harder for them to protect you from potentially upsetting news.
5. You can build both new and deeper friendships by talking.
I bonded on a much deeper level with some amazing women, some of whom I may have never met or only known from a distance.
One who was a complete stranger and became my inspiration and strength throughout.
One is the girlfriend of a friend, who was diagnosed with the same condition as me a year later. We now share a special friendship, both as Mums through donor eggs.
One very close friend became pregnant during my lowest time, she was so sensitive and thoughtful of my situation during her own happy time, we have a much richer friendship because of it.
I honestly believe that when you have built a friendship through something like infertility, it will last forever.
6. If we all talk more, together we can help break the taboo around infertility.
It’s not uncommon, it affects 1 in 6 couples, so why do we feel like we’re the only ones going through it? The more people open up, the more others will too, building those support networks and special connections.
Part of my mission with Defining Mum is to encourage people to talk more openly about infertility. I was extremely lucky to have a fantastic support network around me. Without them, I’m not sure I would have been able to cope with the rollercoaster that became my fertility journey.
In this blog picture, here I am on my wedding day with my closest friends and bridesmaids. Underneath the smiles I had not long since discovered that our 4th IVF attempt was unsuccessful. These girls knew everything I was going through and were always there for me every step of the way.
I’m not saying you should shout it from the rooftops, but maybe start with confiding in someone close who you trust. It may surprise you and might make you feel a million times better. If you don’t feel able to just yet, you can always contact me here or one of my social media channels. I won’t have all of the answers but I’m always happy to listen 🙂
Most importantly, remember, you are not alone.
Love, Becky x