It seems these days that we get to a certain age, or stage in our lives (early thirties, long term relationship, newly wed) and people start asking the inevitable; when are you going to have a baby?
As if it is that simple. The lovely Nicola at All Things Spliced recently wrote a great post about this – about how many people think it’s as run-of-the-mill to ask, especially but not exclusively, women when they’re having a baby, as it is to ask them what they’re having for dinner that night.
So what if that person doesn’t want children? They’ll probably tell you they don’t. What if they’re not planning on babies just yet? They’ll likely tell you. What if they’ve just suffered a miscarriage? What if they’ve been trying to have a baby for almost two years, picking themselves up after the heart breaking disappointment of having their period arrive every month? What if they’ve been hiding tears of emotional agony every time someone at work announces they’re expecting?
They’ll probably choose to tell you that they’re not planning on babies yet. That they’re happy as they are and just enjoying their relationship.
Because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Meanwhile their feelings are suppressed. They fake a smile and pretend everything is ok but it’s not. The one thing you keep asking them is the one thing they want more than anything. And the one thing they can’t have right now.
According to the Fertility Network UK, 1 in 6 couples experiences problems with fertility, resulting in the need for medical intervention to help them conceive. Around 50,000 women undergo IVF treatment every year in the UK alone and by February 2015, 250,000 babies had been born in the UK as a result of IVF, contributing to the worldwide total of 5 million! 2017 even marks the 40th anniversary of IVF.
And yet the conversation about fertility is still a taboo one.
We are getting better at talking about Post Natal Depression. We are making huge strides with acknowledging baby loss, with movements like #waveoflight. There is still work to be done until people (both men and women) feel fully supported to discuss these things, but we are well on the way.
Baby Loss Awareness Week is happening this year from 9th-15th October. It is the 15th Baby Loss Awareness Week and is (quite rightly) supported by 36 charities.
In contrast, National Fertility Awareness Week is from 30th October – 5th November. It is the 3rd National Fertility Awareness Week and has been established by the Fertility Network UK. Even a comprehensive search of Google turned up only four more fertility charities. I’m sure there are a lot more, don’t get me wrong. But I’m just saying that they weren’t that prevalent or easy to find.
This is not a competition about which (baby loss and fertility) is more worthy at all. But if we acknowledge how utterly heart wrenching it is to lose a child, we have to acknowledge that the prospect of never being able to have one is also completely heart breaking. How desperate these people in both situations feel. How the emptiness they experience is overwhelming.
But the good news is that fertility awareness is starting to happen. We are only three years into a national campaign but it is happening and that’s what people need to access support.
I know a lot of couples who have struggled to conceive. And unless they were extremely close friends, they have never shared their journey right from the beginning. It has been a year down the line when they have admitted that they have been trying, and have been unable, to conceive. Some have never opened up about it before and so have struggled in emotional silence, suppressing normal and natural human reactions to questions, birth announcements and other people’s babies for months, sometimes even years.
I’m not sure why the conversation is only just getting started. Or why people feel unable to tell their story until perhaps they reach their happy ever after, either through IVF, surrogacy, adoption etc. Maybe it is just too raw whilst they are going through it.
But maybe it wouldn’t be so raw if people stopped asking when they were going to have a baby. Maybe it would be less painful if they knew that almost 20% of the office had struggled to conceive naturally.
We have to keep the conversation going now. I’ve watched friends talk through tears about struggling to have children, knowing mine are tucked up in bed at home after I lost my shit at them for flooding the bathroom at bath time. Feeling guilty about that wont help anyone. So I’m finding a way to help.
That’s why I’ve signed up to be one of #100fertilityfaces for National Fertility Awareness Week. To raise money and to be a voice for those people who are not yet ready to tell their story. For whom it is still too raw, too soon. For those who don’t want to jinx anything. For those who have almost met their happy ending but are scared that it could be snatched away at any minute.
#100fertilityfaces basically asks 100 people to raise £100. I’ve no idea whether they’ve had 100 people sign up yet or whether they’ve already had thousands. But it doesn’t matter. If each ‘fertility face’ raises £100, that’s a fantastic donation towards resources and support for people wanting to access fertility treatment/counselling etc.
So if I try and sell you a cake, or ask you to give me a quid for riding my bike somewhere (I last cycled in about 2008 so that should be fun!) or ask if you’ll donate something if I don’t speak for a whole day (husband has his fingers crossed for this one!) then please say yes!
I’m passionately trying to raise awareness of this. I’ve watched too many people break their hearts every month over it. And each and every one of them deserves children. I can’t wait for the day when they can tuck their kids up in bed, after losing their shit because their bathroom is flooded.
You can donate to National Fertility Awareness Week here if I’m not likely to see you in person to sell you cakes 🙂
Proudly linking up with: