Here at Fertility Road we think of ourselves as more than just a magazine, more than just a digital platform, more than just a brand. We believe we are a resource around which people can express, inform, interact and learn. We’re a collective of writers, counsellors and experts who have sampled both the awful pain and perfect optimism that fertility (and infertility) provides.
In 2014 we launched Fertility Journeys, a project that has lifted the lid on the real emotions behind fertility treatment, and one that, ultimately, led to three babies being born this year. We’re so proud of Fertility Journeys but there is so much more to be done, and with that in mind we’re delighted to reveal SO Fertility, our 2016 campaign.
This is a multi-angled project – digital, in print, and showcased at live events. It embraces every type of person, every age, every background, whilst inviting in some of the entertainment industry’s most recognisable faces to drive some key messages forward.
But more than that, SO Fertility is a unique project that doesn’t stipulate or pigeon-hole in one particular area. We’ve seen the postcode lottery petitions, we’ve noted the funding protests and we’ve read the donor and surrogacy awareness marketing.
They’re all good and worthwhile, but it’s time to think about things in a different way. Fertility doesn’t categorise, so why should we? After all, one person’s IVF is another’s secondary fertility; for some low sperm motility represents the same challenge as others troubled by PCOS. And by the same logic, complementary medicine or exercise for some is ultimately the same solution as adoption or surrogacy for others.
It doesn’t matter the route we take – all that counts is the end goal is the same.
We really are in this together.
It’s time to link hands no matter what is holding us back from starting or extending a family, because only by driving forward with a shared voice can the attitudes, preconceptions and taboos – and challenges – of fertility be solved.
SO Fertility is a fully interactive campaign driven by those who care. It will take the form of events, promotions, fundraising, interviews and features. But in mirroring what we stand for across every page of Fertility Road, it will be filled with compassion, optimism and no small amount of laughter.
But what does it stand for? Well on the next page we asked author Helen Davies to offer her own definition, but for everyone it’s different.
We’ll be launching #SOFertility formally in our first issue of 2016, so consider this an early nod in your direction for a campaign we believe will have a hugely positive impact on how fertility is viewed in the UK and beyond.
Why not head to our SO Fertility page on Twitter for a taster of what’s to come?
We asked Helen Davies to put into words what SOFertility means to her
The author’s excellent blog at morelovetogivebyhelendavies.com (and Facebook page: ‘More Love To Give – an IVF memoir’) are journeys through disappointment, hope and a not inconsiderable financial burden. While Helen talks about how secondary infertility swamped her entire being, for others the reason will be different. And yet the morals are the same – to speak out, to support and to ‘be in this together’.
And finally the penny dropped. That’s me! It felt liberating yet strange to fully identify with myself when I hadn’t previously realised I was short of a label, a belonging, a diagnosis.
That was two years ago and the truth is, I had spent £20,000 on fertility treatment, undergone four rounds of grueling IVF in just 13 months and written a 90,000-word memoir about my struggle to conceive a second child, without ever realising my ‘condition’ had a name: Secondary Infertility.
It seems crazy now to think that there was a time when I didn’t know that name and didn’t consider my predicament would be recognised by others. I was just a girl who knew she was lucky to have her son, but was desperate to give him a sibling and felt immense guilt at wanting more. And so, I remained silent. I quietly suffered, all the time denying myself the very help that was literally a click away in Facebook groups, fertility magazines, blogs and books. If only I had known what to look for.
My single focus for writing the memoir was to explain the different pressures and emotions when wanting a second child compared to having a first. I’d often imagine talking to another couple and my message was always ‘you are not greedy, you should not feel guilty and you are not alone’.
When I finally launched my blog, I immediately had girls email me to thank me as they too had struggled unaware that there was a recognised condition. One powerful sentence has always stayed with me. “Thank you, I finally feel understood.” I felt that she must have been one half of the couple I’d always imagined and on reading her words, I thought my job was done. What I didn’t realise was it had only just begun.
Such was the overwhelming feedback from women who also felt relief at finally recognising their situation that my quest to seek out yet more began. Through my blog and Facebook I now support many people seeking understanding and empathy.
Caught between the baby world they long to be part of again and the infertility world that shuns them because they already have what so many others want, they feel utterly isolated, and remain silent. I want to dig them all out, let them know it is okay to admit they want more, tell them their situation is recognised and that there is an understanding world, with information, support and comfort. First step? Talking about it!
I will never, ever compare the pain of secondary infertility with primary infertility. I was always overwhelmingly grateful for the joy of having the son I never thought I would have. It is that very guilt at having something someone else wishes for that is perhaps the overriding reason so many secondary infertility sufferers stay silent. The fear of upsetting those who have yet to have any child at all means the term isn’t used beyond the diehard infertility world.
Therefore that silence, lack of admission and reluctance to share experiences are what has created another unfortunate medical taboo. And just like all the other taboos that surround infertility, this has to change.
Perhaps in the same way talking more about the subject has recently made it more acceptable to admit one has suffered from depression, the same gauntlet must be laid down in the infertility world, to lift the lid on stigmas; to let the silences find a voice.
To return briefly to secondary infertility, I’m going to be bold now. It still infertility – it’s just a different set of circumstances. It is real, it is painful and it must not be swept under the carpet to try to protect the feelings of those who have yet to have any children. We can’t let the fear of upsetting some prevent us from helping others who are in need. We need to talk more about it; we need to talk about all of fertility more.
Wider use of the words connected with fertility in general society will enable women to feel they can freely admit their desire to have a first, or a second child, without fear of reproach.
Unlike other medical conditions, acknowledgement doesn’t unfortunately start recovery or a cure, but a deeper understanding and general acceptance will help to lift anxieties that are holding us back in life, let alone fertility.
I hope as more pennies drop, so too will the fertility taboo, and please support this brilliant campaign in 2016.