October is an important month for making babies. It culminates in National Fertility Awareness Week (Monday 31st October to Sunday 6th November) along with The Fertility Show – the biggest IVF trade fair in the UK – where I’ll be speaking for the third year running.
This month the national charity Fertility Network UK has launched a campaign to raise the profile of what it means to face fertility issues. It’s called Hidden Faces and aims to show the real people behind fertility struggles because despite the fact it’s estimated that 1-in-6 are affected, the experience of infertility remains a subject shrouded in secrecy and shame.
I’m passionate about changing this. Unless people know how it feels, how will the world ever understand? And if the world doesn’t understand, how will we fight for equality of access to treatment in a country that prides itself on having a National Health Service but where getting IVF is dwindling and dependent on where you live? And how will those of us who have been through fertility issues grieve and rebuild our lives if no-one understands or wants to treat our pain? In saying this I’m not just referring to people like me for whom IVF didn’t work, but also those who went through the darkness and came out with the dream, because they remain deeply scarred by the process too. Whatever your outcome, we are not different, we are the same.
Coming out about my pursuit of motherhood was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I hoped that if I tried for a baby hard enough, I would eventually be rewarded and no-one would need to know. I didn’t want to publicly admit to what felt like the biggest failure of my life. But eventually I did: I did come out and it saved me. So I am honoured to be the first face of the Hidden Faces campaign. Within less than 24 hours of my film being posted by Fertility Network UK on Facebook it had been viewed over 5,000 times. If you haven’t seen it already, please watch it and share the ‘pain of never’.
By happenstance this October also marks three years since I started writing this blog. My very first post was called: Spreading the Secret. I guess you could say I’m still at it and three years on this is what I know: shame is toxic and it breeds in silence. Sometimes the only way to combat it is by going viral.
Pippa Kassam said:
Thank you for the Hidden Faces video. I watched it last week with the usual admiration for your honesty. Forgive me if I am wrong, but if you are anthying like me, saying what you said out loud must have been very hard, despite you doing it many times before. So thank you for bravely and tirelessly raising awareness for us all. Admitting out loud how utterly devastating it is not to have your own children is something only woman like you or I can understand.
I offered to help with the Hidden Faces campaign but they have had a fantastic response, so said they were not sure if they needed to interview us, but still, great that so many people have come forward to share their journey. Maybe the tide is turning on the taboo? You inspire as always Jessica.
Thanks Pippa. I find the more you say it, the less hard it becomes but also that the process of saying it somehow liberates you from some of the pain. You’ll have to be part of Hidden Faces next year if not this year. I truly hope the tide is turning and am honoured to stand side by side with you and so many other wonderful women (and men!) who understand what the pain of never is! Jessica x
Dubliner in Deutschland said:
Very powerful video, thanks for being brave enough to share. I wish more people could be open about infertility and miscarriages as you can feel so alone going through it
Me too! And thank you so much for reaching out because when people do it makes me feel braver and I know there is still so much to do to break the taboo so I need to keep being brave. I love your wordpress name too ‘Dubliner in Deutschland’. Cool! Jessica x
Jane UK said:
Thanks so much Jessica for your account on hidden faces. Just watched it and it brought tears to my eyes for you and for me. The pain of never is exactly what I always hoped my family and friends would understand from the start – in 20 years they haven’t. Anyone watching this would surely be able to understand the pain – eternal and a never ending struggle for some of us…….
Thank you so much for watching and reaching out…it’s so sad to read that your family and friends don’t understand and I hope in a small way the film can start to change things because I know that many people feel the same. It is an eternal and never ending struggle but I also hope there is light in your life too, I try as much as I can to find it in mine. Much love and solidarity, Jessica x
Jane UK said:
Thank you Jessica – yes, more and more I am finding my lighter self (inspired by you much of the time!). Thank you again for being incredibly brave in sharing your inner thoughts (I identified so much with how you expressed this loss). I’m learning to let go of the frustration and anger towards family and friends (they truly cannot relate) – my appreciation of day to day life is far sweeter than it used to be. Thank you for somewhere to always find solidarity and love, Jane x
Here’s to a sweeter life for both of us and inspiring each other! Jessica x