Seeking allies during our journey to fertility
There is a large group of people who know perfectly well how you feel: 1 in 7 people also have difficulties getting pregnant
Going through fertility tests and treatment is never easy, but the feelings of isolation that many people experience at this time are difficult to cope with. If all your friends seem to be getting pregnant and having babies, you may start to feel that you are the only one who is struggling to conceive. You may find that your friends’ lives seem to be changing as they start their own families, and you can begin to feel left out if conversations always end up coming round to baby-related matters.
Having someone to talk to about your feelings is vital, but your established network of friends may be the very people you are having difficulty connecting with. You may find that although friends want to be sympathetic, they can’t really understand how you are feeling. It is quite common for people who are just trying to be helpful to say things that can seem very hurtful to anyone with a fertility problem – perhaps giving advice that you might want to consider adoption, get a dog or just relax and stop thinking about it and it will happen!
Sharing experiences with those who understand
Of course, there is a large group of people who know exactly how you are feeling and that’s the one in seven of the population experiencing fertility problems themselves. If you happen to know someone else who is having difficulty conceiving it can be a godsend, but not everyone is in that position. Many people don’t feel able tell friends or colleagues that they are having problems getting pregnant, as it can seem such a private matter and may be painful to talk about, so you may not be aware of those around you who are going through exactly the same thing. Even at fertility clinics, people tend not to want to talk to other patients in the reception areas or waiting rooms. You will be very focused on your own treatment and what is about to happen at your appointment, and making small talk with someone else may be the last thing on your mind.
So how do you get in touch with others who are going through fertility tests and treatment if not at your clinic or through established friendship groups? One route many fertility patients use today is the Internet which is awash with websites where people can connect with one another. You will find many different sites where you can chat to others or where you can post on a forum. You don’t need to reveal your identity but even so, not everyone feels comfortable posting their own thoughts. Just reading through people’s experiences is often beneficial as it can help you to learn more about how others deal with similar issues – although it is important to remember that this is not the place to look for medical advice.
One way of getting together which is now sometimes overlooked is meeting up with others in a support group or workshop. Many of the fertility charities and support networks across Europe run such groups, and being in a room of others who all understand how you are feeling can be hugely helpful. People are sometimes put off this kind of group meeting, imagining that it will be very gloomy and miserable – but in fact, most of those who venture along to a group find that it can be unexpectedly uplifting and that the groups are more often full of laughter rather than tears.
On the other hand, your fertility clinic may have an emotional support service, which is quite common. Under the guidance of skilled professionals – they are usually teams of psychologists experienced in cases like yours – you can also find support that may turn out to be of great help.
Whichever route you may choose to connect with others, there is much to be gained and little to be lost from seeking out those who have travelled a similar path – and sharing experiences can give you strength on your own fertility journey.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.
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