I’m having a ‘miracle pregnancy’.
But this is why I’d never tell people to believe in miracles.
Many, many individuals and couples go through fertility problems.
It’s a situation that is at the same time both incredibly common and incredibly isolating.
Suddenly, everyone around you is pregnant.
I’m not even joking. Everywhere you look, women are blooming, proudly sporting those ‘Baby on Board’ badges while you have to scrape yourself off the floor, enduring disappointment after disappointment, while attending endless appointments and enduring endless tests to try to get to the root of the problem.
There is greater awareness these days with great initiatives like the Fertility in the City one started by Somaya Ouazzani and Natalie Sutherland and the first Fertility Officers appointed at firms. But infertility remains a massive societal problem that people are largely silent about.
With the benefit of hindsight I now know that my own story is far from unusual. But at the time you feel like you are the only one in the world going through it.
As a family lawyer in a central London firm, my job was helping people with issues relating to their children. And yet the slap in the face for me was that I couldn’t get pregnant.
One miscarriage, three rounds of IVF and three years of huge amounts of stress later, we were unbelievably lucky to have our twins (or twinions as we call them).
It was wonderful. We were the lucky ones.
At the same time, we were faced with what at times felt like an impossible task of looking after two new babies (one with a fair few health issues) at a time when my husband and I were both utterly depleted from three years of extreme stress and dealing with a fair bit of other familial stress and bereavement.
We got through it.
And now, we find ourselves having a miracle pregnancy.
Our twins are now 5 and we are having a (totally out of the blue) baby to arrive in September. It’s exciting and completely surreal. I have become one of those women I used to hate with their ever-expanding families.
So why do I say I’d never tell people to believe in miracles?
Well, society is uncomfortable with infertility. People don’t know what to say to someone going through it. So they tend to start giving unsolicited advice.
Have you tried acupuncture?”
“Why not go on holiday? You’ll definitely get pregnant then”
“My friend stood on her head for 2 hours after having sex and she got pregnant that way. Why don’t you try that?”
“Have you thought about adoption?”
All of this is borne of a well-meaning desire to help. But believe me when I say, if you have a friend or family member going through fertility woes, they will have done all the research, they will have investigated all of the possibilities. They will have become an expert on the subject.
In these circumstances, there’s a danger that your advice might feel a bit, well, overbearing or, at least, misattuned.
Another thing that people like to say A LOT is “don’t stress and it will definitely happen”, “stress isn’t good for fertility” etc. Some studies suggest this is true. Other studies conclude that this isn’t proven.
Regardless, telling someone enduring fertility treatment to “be less stressed” feels like blaming. It sounds like you’re telling them that if they were calmer this would not be happening to them. They know they need to keep their stress levels down. Don’t bother saying it.
It’s like saying to someone, “we’re just going to turn your life upside down for a few years, drain your bank account and leave you in a situation where you don’t know whether the life you always wanted for yourself is ever going to materialise. BUT DON’T STRESS ABOUT IT”.
It is futile.
Instead, notice all the things they are going through. Congratulate them on the fact that they’re handling it, even though they’re on an emotional rollercoaster.
And, finally, please don’t tell people to believe in miracles. Yes, I find myself now in the incredible position of having a miracle baby (fingers crossed, touch wood, all of that). But I still think that believing in miracles over the long course of my fertility journey was not helpful for me. All that hoping, imagining pregnancy symptoms (“do I feel sick?”, “does my body feel different today?”, “if I just pretend to forget about it for a few months then it will definitely happen”) and envisaging miracle babies did not help me to move towards acceptance of my situation.
It held me back. As they say, it’s the hope that kills you.
I remember well a time before we found out we were having our twinions when I realised that (as nigh on impossible as it felt) I was going to have to try to work towards acceptance of my life just as it was in that moment, kids or not, if I was going to stay sane. Chasing miracles and holding out hope was not going to help. Focusing on life as it was and what was within my control was the only way forward.
That was what helped me ultimately. And I think that’s true for others too.