When Helen Davies struggled to have a second child she felt guilty about wanting one. Having spent £20,000 and written a book she is now helping others.
I can remember clearly when I finally found the identity and recognition I’d been looking for, though never knew I needed.
We had been trying to have another baby, a sibling for our little boy, for almost two years without success.
We had tried fertility drugs unsuccessfully for 15 months and were now just about to start IVF at Hull IVF Unit.
I had been terrified, not knowing what those three little letters, I. V. F. really entailed and was wading my way through a bible-thick manual on fertility, when one tiny paragraph hit me like a ten-ton truck.
‘People with children who are struggling to conceive, often feel guilty for wanting another child.’ That was me. Someone had recognised me and written about how I was feeling.
It was a momentous evening. Finally I felt understood.
The following year was gruelling as we underwent four rounds of IVF in just 13 months.
As well as the terrific emotional, mental and physical pressure anyone who has experienced the rollercoaster of IVF will testify to, I was also wrecked with intense feelings of greed and guilt of wanting a second child.
Having tried for almost four years to have my first son, I knew the pain of infertility and so I, more than anyone, knew just how very lucky I was to have a child. He was all my dreams come true – until Mother Nature came knocking again and the desire to have another child kicked in.
As we struggled with periods arriving, negative ovulation tests, negative pregnancy tests, a loss and two failed cycles, the intensity of the pain at not being able to do what I had done before, to get pregnant, was simply overwhelming.
My desperate desire didn’t mean I forgot the pain of what it feels like to want, but not be able to have any children nor did it diminish my understanding that I was already lucky to have what many other couples still prayed for.
And yet others thought differently.
The response was always: “You’re lucky to have Zac” or “You should thank your lucky stars you have one child or “Some people wish they had what you have, you can’t be greedy!”
Nobody more than me knew how blessed I was and I certainly didn’t want to upset anyone still trying for a first child.
So I did what many couples do, I fell silent. I clammed up, didn’t talk about our desire and often pretended we weren’t trying again to avoid the hurtful criticism.
I began to write down my feelings and as the treatment progressed, my writing turned into a diary, which ultimately became a 97,000 word memoir.
I had felt so isolated during that last year that I just wanted to share our story with other couples in the same situation and let them know they weren’t alone.
It was at this time, when I was trying to get my story published, that I realised my identity had a name: Secondary Infertility. I had spent £20,000, had four rounds of IVF and written a book without knowing my condition had a name!.
When a publisher knocked me back stating that “nobody searches on Amazon for ‘Secondary Infertility’”, that was the spark that lit my touch paper to take a stand and make sure that fact changed.
Nobody searches because few know the term ‘Secondary Infertility’.
If you do, there is a little information, but not much. Secondary Infertility is a lonely place, caught between the baby world you long to be in again and the world of infertility, which doesn’t want to know you as you already have what so many of them desperately want.
One in six couples struggle with infertility and of those having fertility treatment, one in three already have a family.
That is a huge number.
Yet because of the guilt you feel, too few people talk about their situation, so in turn, far too many people now don’t understand how common or painful a situation it is.
We have created our own isolation.
After our fourth round of IVF, we were blessed with twins and our family is thankfully complete, but I remain committed to my mission to reach those couples still struggling and tell them they are not alone, they should not be afraid or ashamed to admit they want another child and they should certainly not feel guilty.
I am now involved with Fertility Network UK representing Secondary Infertility, I write regularly for Fertility Road magazine and I recently launched a support website www.secondaryinfertilitymatters.com, from which I offer a monthly newsletter ‘Buddy’, with information, support, advice and motivation for couples who need it.
I frequently receive emotional Facebook messages or emails saying “Thank you, I finally feel understood” and because I remember that moment myself, I know just how much raising the profile of Secondary Infertility and sharing our story really means to those couples and that we must continue.
Helen Davies, 42, lives in South Newbald with husband Jason and children Zac, eight and four-year-old twins Anya and Xavier.
She runs www.secondaryinfertilitymatters.com, and has a blog More Love To Give on Facebook www.facebook.com/morelove togivebyhelendavies and Twitter @MoreLoveToGiveX.
Her second book, The A-Z of Secondary Infertility will be available in 2017, and her memoir, More Love To Give is available on her website.
Helen supports Hull IVF Unit as Patient Representative speaking to new patients about secondary infertility
Hull IVF unit has launched a new campaign to encourage couples in Hull and East Riding who have been successful in having a family, to share their news openly to give hope and confidence to others yet to embark on fertility treatment.
The #DareToShare campaign, set to run on social media, will involve former patients sharing photos of their babies conceived through treatment, using the hashtag #DareToShare, with the aim to help remove the stigma of IVF and other fertility treatments that assist with conception. 1 in 6 couples in the UK (approx. 3.5 million people) are affected by infertility and Fertility Network UK’s focus this year is to highlight the unseen, intimate and day to day reality of fertility issues.