In my mid-forties, I had been with my life partner for many years and we were both finally ready to have ‘the talk’ about creating a baby together. Up until that point, I had spent my adult life in service, working in the fields of psychology, counselling, writing and publishing. But I had not realised how long I had buried the desire to have a child until we started discussing it.

Initially most of the doctors told me my age automatically made me ‘the problem’, even though my partner had had a vasectomy from before I met him and that was the primary reason for us seeking I.V.F specialised services. 

We kept moving forward, finding the inner strength to go beyond what was deemed to be possible without buying into age-related judgements. 

My journey of multiple injections, pills, pessaries, egg collections, internal scans, embryo transfers, plus my dear partner’s testicle being jabbed multiple times to extract sperm on three different occasions, has been intense.

It’s been a mix of excitement, fear, wonder and deep grief; a grief, that left me feeling raw and stopped me in my tracks on some days. And it’s a grief that many people who do I.V.F. are reluctant to share with others. 

In March this year we fell pregnant, but then lost Bub at nine and a half weeks which was devastating. I was given less than 2% chance of even falling pregnant at 46 years of age using my own eggs, so I am also grateful I was able to experience the joy of being pregnant and that will stay in my heart forever. If you are reading this and you have had similar experiences of loss, I feel you! And I know just how hard it is to keep persisting when you feel like the odds are against you.  

At a subtle collective level there can be judgement towards people who don’t conceive the ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ way. Experiencing ‘challenges’ when we are told it’s supposed to be quick and easy, can lead to questioning our womanhood/manhood, virility and our potency; questioning what may seem like a big part of who we are.  

To put things in perspective, in Australia alone, one in four couples experience ‘fertility challenges’. And where babies come from has become a more colorful picture, and perhaps one that requires updating with more openness, conversation and care.

My journey has been about letting go, surrendering and receiving, which has allowed me to know my strength of spirit and I feel grateful we can utilize these medical services that would not have been available forty plus years ago. 

I now have a deeper connection with my body, my being, and my partner and the appreciation I feel for the kind souls who have never given up on us, is immense. Beauty is revealed in the most unexpected ways as our journey to have a baby continues with divine timing.

Kindness and awareness are the keys when it comes to supporting someone through I.V.F. And when more people can express and process how they feel, healing can take place individually and collectively and there is less of a tendency for grief to be disenfranchised or for people to feel isolated. 

Here are some do’s and don’ts:

 *Avoid asking the person or couple how the process is going all the time. They may already be feeling on edge, thinking about their next injection and the fear of failure can be activated easily. 

* Avoid saying multiple cycles were failures or implying they don’t have the right ‘baby making mindset’.

* If there is a close relationship, not asking how the person/couple is at all or avoiding the topic altogether can also appear to be quite cold unless the person/couple have expressed that they don’t wish to share any details.

*Avoid asking if they have considered adopting or being a foster parent (these are beautiful ways to become a parent, however, best left for the person or couple to raise).

* Try not to complain about your kids all the time, be grateful for what you have, as some people are struggling to even have a child or are not able to at all.

*If you haven’t experienced I.V.F. yourself first-hand, please don’t say, “I know how you feel”. Instead, just be with the person and ask how they are feeling. 

* If you are participating in I.V.F. and you share with a fellow I.V.F. friend, remember to check in with each other rather than giving an update on your egg collection tally- it’s not an Easter Egg competition!

* Avoid using the opportunity to whip out your latest multi-level marketing product. Expect some sighs and eyeball rolling from your friend when you try to sign them up for that special lifetime membership.

* Avoid telling the person repetitively to be positive.  The positivity model can be an approach for some and yet growth requires not getting stuck in polarity or resisting the so called ‘negative’ feelings and glossing over it with a sugary smile. Being vulnerable and allowing reactions ‘to be’ as well as challenging limiting beliefs and expectations, can create a space of kindness for growth to occur.  

*Be in your heart space. You don’t have to be Mother Theresa, just be there when you can and be open. Sometimes the need for space with no talking can be just as important to respect.

* Well timed humor from a caring space, can be just as healing as crying or beating a pillow!

Remember you don’t have to offer advice, say the perfect words, nor do you have to feel responsible to cheer the person up. Listen without an agenda and ask open questions in a non-judgmental way without the Spanish Inquisition.

If you have done anything on the ‘avoid’ list please don’t give yourself a hard time, learn from it, as it’s a growing experience for all involved.