“The sensations during treatment were varied: I went through fear, anguish, bewilderment … But I always ended up going back to a feeling of hope”
Amandine Forgali (Montauban, France, 1978) is the author of several books and the mother of two children conceived through assisted reproduction. After several attempts, Amandine managed to get pregnant in a process in which she lived through and felt so many emotions that she decided to capture them in her first book: A Sat Nav for the stork.
What made you start to talk about the process of assisted reproduction through your books?
During my journey through assisted reproduction I experienced incidents that seemed so surreal that I decided to get it down on paper. My fellow infertility patients, who had read this kind of “personal diary”, encouraged me to go public, convinced that it could help other couples who were in my situation… And so the idea was born for the first book, A Sat Nav for the stork, which brings to light the general misunderstanding that prevails about this taboo subject of infertility.
How can we break this taboo?
For a change in mindset to occur, we have to talk about infertility without shame. We are fortunate to have a range of communication tools, and we have to make the most of them. It is us, the ones who live it every day, who have to come to terms with it, talk about it and explain it, even though at times it may be really complicated.
Even with your two books published and another one on the way, you continue to be active online through your blog, where you talk about infertility in a humorous way.
What motivates you to go on devoting your time to it?
I lived through the start of my infertility totally alone. It wasn’t till several years later that I was able to find – virtually, thanks to the forums and social networks – other women who were going through the same ordeal as me. Today, when I receive messages of gratitude for what I write, I feel like I can’t stop dedicating my time to it: it would be like abandoning them. I also write for society as a whole, because today, there are still opinions on infertility based on a deep ignorance of the subject.
Do you think there is any way to change this society?
I am convinced that by changing its vision of what people with fertility problems go through, by receiving information objectively; this society will eventually end up showing the empathy that is so needed. My blog, 1001 things not to say to someone who is infertile, enables me try to accept better these everyday phrases that do so much harm. And indeed, it may also be helpful to the people around us, who may realize just how hurtful their words can be.
You have gone through the process of assisted reproduction treatment first hand. How would you describe the feelings that go with it?
The sensations during treatment were many and varied: I went through fear, anguish, worry, bewilderment … But I always ended up going back to a feeling of hope. Emotions are intensified because of the hormones, and throughout the day your morale goes up and down like a yo-yo. This mixture of different emotions is very difficult to deal with. We do battle in the hope of winning, but the concern about not succeeding is always present.
Such a struggle can’t be waged on your own … Where did you look for support to stay resolute while the process endured?
Your morale is constantly swinging from hope to despair. For my part, my fellow infertility partners, who I call “amigautas” – enabled me not to give in. It was largely thanks to them that I never gave up.
Like Amandine, many women seek online support. In this sense, psychologists warn that even though the internet allows for immediacy and direct testimony, you need to know how to select the information that is there, “Women undergoing assisted reproduction treatment and who seek information on the Internet have to take into account that each case is unique, and for this reason should avoid comparing themselves with the testimonies of other women they find there”, says psychologist Laura Venereo of Eugin. “On the other hand, the Internet has a positive thing to offer: it makes it possible to build a community and stay in touch with people who have gone through the same. We recommend combining the queries on these forums with the support of professionals” she says.
Some centres, such as Eugin Clinic, offer this kind of counselling. How do you rate this option?
At one of the assisted reproduction centres we went to, my husband and I were monitored by a psychologist. This monitoring, which was compulsory, seemed superfluous and useless to us at that time. It wasn’t until after a few years, however, that I realized that it was necessary. I think each centre should be able to offer this kind of support, without making it compulsory.
Once the treatment has ended, and looking at it in perspective, what you think the positive part of the experience is?
Assisted reproduction is not a bad thing. It represents, rather, an attempt to heal a problem that weighs us down. What I’m left with are not just the pleasant encounters, but also, and above all, the huge good fortune of having had two wonderful victories, which I owe to medical progress.
Finally: What would you say to a woman who is about to start treatment for assisted reproduction?
I would tell her to start off by not feeling guilty, since neither she nor her husband is personally responsible for their infertility. Also, that she should have no doubts about finding a listener and a support in the numerous forums in order to never feel alone and misunderstood. Then, I would advise her never to give up hope and fight tirelessly whenever possible (physically and psychologically). For my part, and this is personal, my motto was “I don’t want to live with the regret of not having tried.”