Alice Rose on Why Coping with Infertility is NOT Just Down to You
For a long time, I thought it was just down to me to try and fix the way I was coping with my fertility journey.
To cope with my jealousy when I heard pregnancy announcements; my guilt directly afterwards and my sadness each time I saw a negative pregnancy test. I thought it was just down to me to work on my self development, change my diet, jump up and down 33 times on the spot in the full moon and chant Buddhist affirmations in order to get myself a bun in the oven. I thought it was all down to me to find the support I needed to unlock a part of myself which might actually help me cope with the fact that I could. not. get. pregnant.
I thought it was just down to me to deal with the inescapable rollercoaster during ovulation induction, trans-vag scans and to deal with the nonsense that people say to try and make you feel better.
But somewhere along the line, last year, when I was doing my best to help other people find the things which eventually DID help me cope with our 11 rounds of fertility treatment, I realised: it was NOT just down to me at all!
People were saying dooshy comments which were compounding this horrendous journey.
Now let’s be fair - they often say dooshy comments because they don’t know any better (and my theory is also that many people going through infertility don’t want to talk about it publicly, which is absolutely fair enough, but has resulted in a massive lack of awareness).
Or people tend to say things trying to ‘fix’ your infertility (my favourite, ‘have you tried putting your legs in the air after sex?’ GAH!).
Of course this sort of ‘advice’ only makes you want to throttle them/push them down the stairs. Because it isn’t their job to get you pregnant. It’s their job to be your mate/Mum or maybe colleague who you’ve taken into your confidence because they found you injecting in the loos at work (with hormones, to be clear, not, like, heroin).
Now, when it comes to professionals and anyone working in patient facing roles in the industry, I feel a little more strongly.
I believe there should be a safe space when anyone walks through the doors of their GP surgery, hospital or fertility clinic - especially the latter - where they don’t have to worry about navigating insensitive comments. Unfortunately, from the hundreds - maybe even thousands- of messages I have received, the comments keep coming.
It’s just not cool for a nurse to start chatting about her own young kids when someone is lying on the bed in clinic, waiting for the doctor to come back in and confirm a miscarriage for example - I mean...come on! Have some sensitivity!
My ‘Think! What not to say’ campaign aims to shine a light on this issue using humour and videos which are made for sharing. It aims to gently ask people to simply think before they speak. It asks for greater emphasis to be put on respect, empathy and compassion.
Because the people going through infertility are trying to change their diets, habits and emotional mindsets while navigating some of the most challenging emotional, financial and decision-making challenges you can imagine. They are supporting their partners, they are coping with grief, they are holding down full time jobs while privately going for scans or acting like a blinkin’ pharmacist trying to work out how much more Lubion they need or how in the hell they’re going to be able to make their next meeting with their appointment ran over by, I dunno, 2 hours (not unusual). They are managing serious mental health disorders manifesting because of their infertility. They are trying to keep their sex life going in amongst stocking up their sperm-friendly lube and monitoring cervical mucus day by day - oh you haven’t read about sperm friendly lube or mucus before? Welcome to the life on an infertile!
So, while I believe that there are powerful ways we can take ownership of our mindsets which is why I have launched a £10 online course to help people do that (did you like this subtle product placement?!); I also know that the wider world must educate themselves further about this.
And the professionals I’m afraid, are often the worst culprits. I am optimistic though!
We can change this if we work together: patient, friends, family, colleagues, consultants, sonographers and media - by raising awareness, sharing this campaign and talking about this openly and with open minds. The dreadful experience of infertility can be made so much better if we can all simply understand how to support someone going through it. For more resources on what TO say I have written this blog but in a nutshell:
For non-professionals: be kind and in general, don’t offer advice. Just be there.
For professionals: communicate essential information with respect for what the person sitting opposite you has gone through, be sensitive to their experience and understand that every person walking through that door does so with their own unique set of fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams and they will likely be hanging onto every single word you say. You don’t need to sugar coat difficult things, you just need to speak with kindness and say something like, “I know this must be really hard to hear but…” You might also consider asking them how they would like to talk about things - some patients will actually prefer something more clinical. Others need more gentleness. Let them self-advocate but give them the chance to do it.
Let them feel empowered, let them keep some dignity.
About Alice Rose
Alice Rose is on a mission to empower people during one of the hardest experiences in the world: a fertility journey.
Alice wants you to feel stronger, safer and more in control. She wants to equip you with knowledge and techniques to help you not only survive, but to rise like an absolute Phoenix from the ashes, clutching an infallible toolkit, so that whatever happens, you are owning your life, experience and soul.
To Find out more about Alice, her writing, her TWINTs (Think What Not To Say) and her mediation package visit her website https://www.thisisalicerose.com/ and follow her on Instagram @thisisalicerose.