Let me preface this by saying I’m British. I feel like I’m always clarifying this on this blog, but I do think it adds context as – despite being The Biggest Americophile Of All Time (I was watching a programme on retiring to Florida last night and I wear a Disney ring to work every day – ha) – I live and work in London, which although it’s cosmopolitan and whatnot still has a heritage of Britishness and the “stiff upper lip”.
In the UK, we don’t really talk about pregnancy before 12 weeks. If you suspected beforehand, it would be considered very bad form to mention it. (Ref the annoying b**** at work who asked me if I was pregnant when I wasn’t – faux pas of the highest order.) We very rarely talk about miscarriage other than to brush it under the carpet (hurtfully) and so it’s pretty darned rare you’d ever hear people talk about infertility, let alone IVF. It’s this thing that’s cloaked in secrecy, to the point that my local IVF clinic even has frosted windows lest anyone see you waiting in there.
I’ve lived all over the place (not UK) growing up so I tend to think about things a bit differently to a lot of British people, but in the case of personal privacy I’m still probably “a bit British”. Like… I don’t really like talking about my feelings. (This isn’t a good thing but a legacy of the school I went to where they pretty much beat all weaknesses out of you. I couldn’t cry for years and I’m still scared of crying because I would lose control and never stop.) Whack this against the backdrop of adoption and the prevailing view that you should be grateful for what you have (“unwanted ethnic baby saved by white parents” narrative) and, well, I really don’t feel comfortable with expressing too much emotion around infertility, other than through an anonymous blog. (Which has been a lifesaver!)
I feel like I have this great community of blogfriends who’ve somehow since this time last year sprung up around me. I feel like you’re by my side, cheering me on, and that we share in each other’s successes and commiserate each other’s hardships. It’s awesome. I wish I could be more “honest” with you about who and what I am, because we’re friends now. But I’m very identifiable (being transracially adopted and quite searchable) and it’s for reasons of privacy that I am not open about who I am… I don’t want my work to find out (because they have already previously made things difficult for me and would not be sympathetic towards someone trying to get pregnant – pregnancy is protected in law but trying to get pregnant is not) and I don’t want my friends to know, unless I personally tell them.
A few people know that I have had a long history of infertility, but really only my very good friends. A smaller subsection of them know about the first IVF, but they only found out in retrospect. We didn’t tell anyone when we were doing it, and I’m glad we made that decision. It was stressful enough with going through the IVF experience / bad stuff at work and the subsequent miscarriage without having people ask what stage we were at and whether there was a positive test, and so on. I think I would have found that difficult. I find all the questions about when we’re going to have children really intrusive and this would just add another layer.
Then when we got the positive test, we never made it to the magic 12 weeks. During that time, I really felt tempted to tell people. It would have been nice to experience that positive news, but I was too scared. In the end, I told my parents who were overjoyed. But retracting positive news is just awful. I couldn’t even tell them on the phone when we had the miscarriage. I just had to text them. They asked if they could tell my siblings and I said yes, and again that was so painful although the outpouring of love and support was comforting.
Talking about it on the phone when I told my best friends was excruciating. I just didn’t want to talk. I can’t imagine how awful it would be to retract FB announcements and so on. Even now, I find it difficult to talk about in person and I really don’t want to. Maybe that’s some kind of British reserve. Part of me wants to yell out “My baby is dead! Be nice to me!” and part wants to never mention it again, because if I don’t say it, it didn’t happen.
I know if it ever happens I will not tell anyone. Probably until the baby is born. People who see me would know but I couldn’t face making a big to do about it. I’m not naive enough to think that a positive test is a baby. (Oh to go back to the naïveté of cycle 1, where I was so happy it had “worked”. I now know never to trust a positive test.)
So… What to do second time round?
I’ve started but I still haven’t told anyone. But recently my sister had the same experience, losing her IVF pregnancy a few months after me. (Horrible coincidence.) We have talked a lot about treatment and I even recommended her a clinic and some reading. She doesn’t know about the blog. I don’t know if I want her to read my innermost thoughts – especially the stuff about family – although we do talk about it in real life. Our relationship has really improved in recent years as we’ve had these shared experiences and can empathise with each other.
I feel like I should tell her, but my automatic response was to be vague about start dates. (We have started down regulation and she did ask me if we were planning to start another cycle, and she’s kept me updated with what they are doing.) It sounds strange but there’s part of me that feels worried about being in “competition” with her – I already know that I’ll feel terrible if it works for them and not for us (though conflicting emotions, all wrapped up in sibling history… I will feel happy for them as well obviously).
I feel like I might tell her. Although I will say I don’t want her to ask about dates and things. It would be my idea of hell to have to give status updates all the time and having to give bad news. I’m already psyching myself up for the idea that it will fail even before pregnancy. Having done it once, I now know just how many hurdles there are to cross. This sounds like I’m being really negative but I promise I’m not! Just trying to manage my expectations. (I think the fact that we only hear about successes means that if we don’t have direct experience, we have an unrealistic idea of success rates.)
Who did you tell and when?