The following extract is from Liz Ellis’ book, If At First You Don’t Conceive.
One woman in her early forties who I met while researching my book was incredibly inspirational in how she had dealt with the failure of her treatment, and not being able to realise her dream of being a mum. She was in the advanced stages of working through this and was incredibly comfortable talking about it.
One thing she had done which I thought was super impressive was to put her story out to her friends and relatives in the hope that it would help them to help her. She did it by way of an email, which she has very graciously allowed me to reproduce, in the hope that it will help someone else. She says feel free to use this as a starting point for setting up a discussion with the people you love.
A template – telling the people you love about the end of your fertility journey…
After a long discussion with [partner] and a lot of soul searching I have decided to let you know about a significant challenge we have recently been facing. We are unable to have children. IVF has proven to be a long, painful, expensive and heart-wrenching journey for us. The medical reality for people in our situation doesn’t match up with the media portrayal that IVF is a cure-all. For us, it has not worked, for most people it does not work. This IVF journey has now ended.
Now, I’m not telling you this for sympathy. I’m telling you so you will hopefully understand why I sometimes might struggle to talk about babies. Mostly though I hope that it will put an end to jokes about ‘ticking clocks’ and ‘leaving it too late’. For me, they aren’t funny, they are hurtful. This situation is about no one else, it is about us and I am so proud of how we have coped together through this and as much as I am devastated that this will not be our reality, I am very much looking forward to sharing my life with [partner] and having our own adventures together.
In these situations sometimes people are confused at what to do and truthfully, each person experiencing this probably wants something different. So if you would like to help me through this, here is what I would like and not like.
What I want and need from you is this – your love, understanding and support! I don’t mean the kind of support where you feel you need to check on me 24/7 (we are OKAY and will be OKAY), just be there for me (and for [partner]) without judgement or assumptions.
All this means is, let’s have normal-people conversations about normal-people things. Let’s plan things to do together like normal. Don’t feel like you have to get everything ‘right’ but just take into account that this is a tricky time for me. We just need empathy, for you to not try and fix things, for everyone to accept that a shit thing has happened for us and to help us imagine a different (still positive) future.
Specifically, the things that I do not want or need from you are:
Sympathy and platitudes: Hearing ‘sorry’ or ‘you poor thing’ is bloody awful and makes me feel worse. Hearing ‘everything happens for a reason’ or ‘don’t give up, keep trying’ really underestimates the pain we are feeling and what we have been through.