If you have had unsuccessful fertility treatment and are in the process of moving on after this, you might be interested in a discussion group being organised by Louise Hesselvik who is training to be a Clinical Psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire.
Louise is researching how women who have had fertility treatment are able to move on when treatment has not been successful. If you have tried fertility treatment in the past but have decided to stop treatment, and if you do not have any biological children, Louise would be very interested to speak with about participating in this group.
She will be holding a small focus group to present my research so far, and to get your thoughts and perspective on this at Conway Hall, London on February 2nd at 6:45pm- 8:15pm. By participating in this study you will contribute to a better understanding of the factors which help women coping with unsuccessful fertility treatments and those who are involuntarily childless. Her aim is to use this research to help to guide health professional in how best to support women in this situation.
If you might be interested in participating, you can email Louise at email@example.com and she can give you more details and answer any questions.
If you haven’t already read this article by Bibi Lynch in The Guardian, you should do. It’s a powerful piece about the reality of being childless in a world where motherhood is given a status you aren’t even aware of unless you aren’t or can’t be a mother. So much of what Bibi Lynch says will resonate with anyone who has experienced fertility problems as well as those who are living with childlessness.
She talks about the way people react when she says she doesn’t have children, about the assumption that only parents can care about children or are kind and loving people – and the idea of hardworking families as if anyone who does not have a family could not possibly be hardworking.
Read it, share it and give it to your family and friends to read – it may help them not to make assumptions or unhelpful comments, and to appreciate just a bit of how it might feel to be involuntarily childless. You may also want to read Bibi’s previous article about childlessness.
When Lesley Pyne came to talk to the Infertility Network UK London group about coping strategies, she was a huge hit – so now she is going to be talking about this online on 26 April. Lesley has personal experience of IVF and involuntary childlessness and now works supporting others – you can find her website at www.lesleypyne.co.uk
The online group is run by Infertility Network UK and is completely free of charge – if you would like to attend, all you need to do is email your Skype username to firstname.lastname@example.org. The London group found her tips and suggestions really helpful so I would definitely recommend joining the online talk if you can
One of the depressing things about trying unsuccessfully to conceive is that there are often some rather outdated cliched ideas about what women who don’t have children are like – career-obsessed, selfish, hard – whilst mothers tend to be seen as good, kind, selfless, caring…
Of course, it’s nonsense; having children doesn’t define your personality or who you are, but the stereotypes can be hard to break and all the more difficult to deal with when you are feeling sensitive about childlessness.
Jody Day, who runs the Gateway Women support network for women who are childless by circumstance, has come up with a fantastic pinboard of role models of women who don’t have children (she calls them NoMos) which deftly illustrates quite how untrue the cliches are. Jody says that NoMos are often invisible in popular culture and her pinboard aims to show that women without children have more sisters than they realised…
It’s something no one wants to think about when they are starting out on a fertility journey, but the truth is that IVF doesn’t always work. We know that average success rates in the UK for an individual cycle are around 26%, which means a 74% chance of it not working. In reality, as recent research has shown, cumulative success rates are far better and over a course of treatment, the majority are likely to have a child – but even so, IVF is not going to work for everyone, something this article from Australia illustrates.
It may seem as if treatment not working would be the most unbearable outcome possible, but I have been really struck by pioneering childless women like Jody Day of Gateway Women and Lesley Pyne who show that this doesn’t have to mean the end of your hope for a happy future. Jody’s Gateway Women offers a chance to get together with other women in similar situations and she runs workshops and events, Lesley offers support through her blog, newsletter and one-to-one sessions, and there’s also help to be found from More to Life which offers support and regional contacts for anyone who is involuntarily childless. It may be useful to see a counsellor, and BICA – the British Infertility Counselling Association – can provide a list of specialist qualified counsellors across the UK, some of whom offer Skype or telephone counselling too.
Do listen to the interview here on BBC Radio 4 with the excellent Robin Hadley about living without children from a male perspective. We hear so much about what this is like for women, but Robin speaks very eloquently and honestly here about how it feels for him.
A word of warning that the section of the programme immediately before Robin is a mother talking about how much she didn’t enjoy having children – the section with Robin starts at about 7.20 into the programme.
You may be interested in this great blog post from Lesley Pyne about her experiences joining a BBC discussion panel for the 100 Women project to talk about living without children – and wince at the comment she got from one of the other women on the panel. For those of you who aren;t familiar with Lesley, she has become a voice for women who are involuntarily childless and offers support services to those who are coming to terms with living without children. You will find a lot of interesting and inspiring posts on her website!
You may be interested in a weekend workshop to be held in London on the weekend of 7th and 8th of November for people who are childless. Anyone who has experience of fertility problems or unwanted childlessness is welcome. The workshop is run by fertility counsellor Gill Tunstall, and aims to help people to explore their emotions and to open up the possibility of moving on in their life. Women, men and couples are welcome.
You can read more about the workshop on Gill’s website here
Today I went to meet a PhD researcher from the University of London who is keen to talk to women about their experiences of living with involuntary childlessness. Her work is focused on women in midlife who are involuntarily childless, and she is looking for women who meet the following criteria-
Are you a woman, aged between 45 and 55, who wanted to have your own biological child and are no longer trying to have a child?
Are you in a long-term heterosexual relationship with no adopted, step-children or children of a partner from a previous marriage/relationship?
There are some other criteria for the research which researcher Megumi Fieldsend will discuss if you might be willing to share your experiences confidentially. She is conducting face-to-face studies with the women who are willing to take part, and this will involve between an hour and an hour and a half which will be spent talking about your thoughts, feelings and experiences. All information will be kept confidential and anonymous.
The research aims to provide information to help other people who have been through similar experiences in midlife. It will also add to the psychological understanding about what life means for people living with involuntary childlessness.
If you are interested in taking part, you can email Megumi, who is studying at Birkbeck, at email@example.com for more information.
For those who weren’t able to be there, Saturday’s discussion on Fertility Myths at the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre for International Women’s Day proved to be a fascinating debate. I was chairing a panel with obstetrician Dr Susan Bewley who is known for her concerns about women leaving it later to conceive, Zita West who runs a very popular and successful fertility clinic in Central London, Jody Day founder of Gateway Women which supports those who are childless by circumstance and Jessica Hepburn who wrote a powerful memoir about her experiences of fertility treatment.
Each of the speakers began by giving their own brief introduction, and we then launched into a discussion about fertility myths. The key theme which we returned to time and time again during the discussion was age, and how so many women are still under the misapprehension that IVF offers a solution to age-related infertility. Susan Bewley spelled out some key facts about women’s fertility which many of the audience weren’t aware of – the alarming increase in the miscarriage rate once women are in their forties, and the fact that we stop being fertile up to ten years before the menopause itself. She explained that although the age at which women’s periods start has got younger as we are stronger and healthier, the average age at menopause has remained firmly stuck at 51.
There were some really interesting questions and comments from the audience, and a lively discussion about why women were leaving it later to have children and how to address this. As a generation encouraged to delay motherhood, to work hard and have careers, many women who are now in their late 30s and early 40s are finding that following a male career pattern of establishing your position before thinking about starting a family doesn’t fit with a female reproductive pattern – but how we begin to change this is a real challenge. Why do so many women find it hard to meet the right partner to have children with? Do we think too much about potential obstacles before we have children? Are men enjoying the chance to delay fatherhood at the expense of women’s fertility? Is teenage pregnancy really such a bad thing? Are we guilty of glorifying motherhood?
Thanks to the brilliant panel and the audience too. In conclusion, it’s clear we can’t change the female biological clock, and perhaps we need to start thinking about how we change society and our own attitudes – your thoughts or suggestions are welcome!