At the moment I'm watching one of my favourite shows on telly – In The Club. I love the show but I know it's very silly and a bit far-fetched but I like the idea of The Club and it is something I wanted so badly to be part of before my husband and I were successful with our IVF.
Missed the previous post? View it here: The Importance of a Support Network, Part Four
Society has a tendency to put parents onto a pedestal. If it isn't the enormous outpouring of congratulations on social media when a pregnancy is announced, it is the sudden openness of strangers who believe they now have some connection with you and the right to impart their thoughts on your good fortune, regardless of how you arrived there.
Before our IVF treatment, during our 'testing' time (pun intended), I came to dread announcements on social media about people's baby news. I understood it was an incredible time for them; I just couldn't face the congratulatory messages, the 'welcome to the club' greetings, and those who were congratulated because they were somehow themselves responsible for the fact that they were naturally fertile - think things like "Firing on all cylinders there!" and "Not shooting blanks!" or, my personal favourite, "You two are at it like rabbits!". I suppose it hurt because it implied that if naturally fertile people were responsible for their pregnancy success, then by definition the opposite was also true – that our infertility was somehow our fault. We were definitely not in a situation to be congratulated for our amazing fertility, even though it was never in our gift to change it and having good fertility for people was their good fortune, not their good actions. It felt like people were joining this club, this exclusive club, and we weren't allowed to even walk past the door. That's a difficult place to be.
When our treatment worked, we underwent a sort of transition from constant care from the Hewitt Centre, to being in the 'normal' antenatal system. That felt scary because we were used to being so well looked after and we didn't want to be on our own. Of course the flip side was that we were now in 'The Club' with other people and we could enter the system and stand alongside them as if we were the same. Except, we weren't the same. We had been through something really hard, really tough, really upsetting, and really significant in our lives. And it gave us a new understanding of people and their own struggles with infertility.
We attended NCT antenatal classes, partly to make friends and partly because they were on a weekend and we could go together. At the first session, we went around the room introducing ourselves and telling everybody an 'interesting fact'. One couple, who we remain friends with now, announced they had become pregnant through IVF and they felt really lucky and special to be in the same club as everybody else. That really resonated with us and it was very humbling for everybody to hear that.
Four years on, I am conscious that we are lucky to be where we are and that there are many people on the side of the bridge we were at only a few years ago. They will be at various points in their journeys. I find I recognise signs now in people that I meet, that indicate if they are having their own fertility struggles, even if they don’t speak about it. Perhaps our experience has made us more in tune with it. It has certainly made us more sensitive to other people and more appreciative of what happened for us.
Ultimately, I feel like when we went through IVF, we joined a different club. We joined a club of people who have a common bond because we’ve all been through something unique. It can't be understood fully by those who haven't walked in our shoes. And that makes it a special club to be part of.