Are you feeling shamed after IVF?

Are you feeling shamed after IVF?

Isn’t it weird how you can be in the midst of your emotions….but not quite see them?

A few weeks ago we were waiting for an email to confirm if our little IVF embryo had made it at the endof a long two week wait. Waiting while reading trolling comments from YouTube each time I refreshed. Getting the news, sharing it that evening with you, because I can’t then relax until it’s out there and the cycle is finally over. Finally time to start processing it all and coming to terms with it.

And all I knew at that point is that I didn’t want to share any more. Because whilst so many of you left hundreds of beautfully supportive messages, a few had made me feel I should hide away.

I had I guess, a knee jerk reaction. Too overwhelmed I just wanted to run away and so decided I wasn’t going to share anything until it was finally a successful IVF story. I pulled back hugely. I guess it was the only way to protect my heart for a little while.

I didnt realuse until I arrived at a fertility show for the day, when I was in a room with thusands of other women in similar situations, how much I was actualy feeling shame. A feeling I had ot past in my 20’s when I started talking about infertility publicly. When I realsied that shame hides in the shadows of secrets. Lurking, growing, affecting your choices and your perception of the world. But when we talk, it shines a light in those shadows and shame can’t live here any more.

But it had crept back in, with something I hadn’t expected. The shame of multiple failed IVF cycles and the judgement that came with that. Both from myself and others. Others that I can now see clearly, and past, but at the time felt looming.

“If you’re not peaceful inside,

the world outside will look chaotic”

The work of Fertility Network and IVF Babble at the fertility show empowered me, rejuvenated me. Jessica Hepburn and Hannah Vaughn Jones were there, who have had multiple cycles not work, the realms I now find myself in. Lisa Faulkner talked with confidence as a mum by adoption which absolutely meant the world. Louise brown talked about how it felt from the point of view as a child by IVF. It started to give me my confidence back and realise the power in sharing what still feels very vulnerable in society right now

I did Psychology at Uni  and it still fascinates me, so I decided to look into shame.

Women in particular used to be made to feel ashamed of their fertility. That still exists but with more people being open, it has lessened a little. Like I said, shame hides in shadows…but I am finding it still massively lurks in the world of repeated implantation failure. When your IVF hasn’t worked 3 or more times.

On a personal level feeling that your walking around with a sign saying “I am SOOOO infertile that even multiple cycles of IVF couldn’t work on me”

People saying

“Its worked for other people, you must be doing something wrong”

“ It hasn’t worked by now so it never will”

“Don’t you think its time to give up”

But being around so many women that day showed me it’s not uncommon. Unfortunately the media tend to show infertility either asa money pit for the NHS (which all the exaggerations and lies they bring with that) or the beautiful success stories. It rarely talks about those of us in between. Contrary to some comments or media portrayals, it doesn’t mean if we keep trying we are shameful, desperate, obsessive, attention seekers!

I’m not. I’m happy with my little family, my friends, my job. I would just like to add to it in the way that feels right to us right now. Women without fertility problems can basically try for a baby every month. Every time they ovulate, say 12 times a year….and it is common for it to take up a year. Yet when people with medical infertility want to try more than 3 times, it means we are obsessed?! Just for wanting to have the same chances? That doesn’t add up. It’s unfair

The second thing with IVF is, not everyones bodies are the same. After each cycle, if you have a good doctor, usually you and your doctor will look at this long list of reasons it might not work and decide which tests to try next before the next attempt. Most people can’t afford all of the tests right at the start, it would be thousands of pounds and a lot would find they didn’t need them as the most common problems on the list will be found in the first couple of rounds. So as time goes on, you work your way down these tests, the doctors hope they have found the right problem and you try again.

For some women this take a lot of cycles to find that one reason it isn’t working. It might be one of the a rarer reasons.

With any other health problem, if someone wanted to find out why part of their body wasn’t working, it would be met with understanding. People would say don’t give up. With infertility we are doing the same. Finding out why it isn’t working.

It’s not obsession to want to find the reason your body isn’t working as it should. It’s not desperate to want to add to your family. It’s pretty normal. We just have to try pretty hard to make ours.

If you are feeling ashamed after many failed cycles, or pressure from others. It’s not your fault. If multiple cycles haven’t worked yet, then if it helps, I am trying to see it as getting closer to the reason why. For examples we can check off that it’s probably not the NK cells for example, or the need for PGS. Slowly you work your way down that list until hopefully bingo. You find out why and you get your ultimate dream. We just have to go further down that list unfortunately. A tricky one as not everyone can afford to keep going to achieve their dream.

I have trust the future is good, whatever.

I feel hopeful looking at the possibilities next. At being treated like a person, not a number with the advice we have had recently.

I had wanted to hide away in my shell. To protect myself from those that wanted to make me feel shame.

But I realised without being vulnerable and sharing my journey, I cut myself off from belonging, empathy, understanding and making a difference (Brene Brown does an amazing talk on this subject).  The same if for you if you haven’t been able to share yet. I don’t necessarily mean publicly. That isn’t for everyone. But at least with a close friend, in a meet-up or one of the supportive facebook groups. And I wonder how many people have felt they have to hide because of misplaced shame.

I hope that has explained a little why some people might keep trying with IVF and how it works a bit more. I hope that if you are feeling a similar way that this has helped to share my coping perspective. If you have been feeling shamed, please know you aren’t on your own. There are thousands of women in the same position. We don’t need to hide. Talk brings understanding. It busts myths. It shows each other we are in this together


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