TV personality Jeff Brazier has been a qualified life coach for the past two years, working with individuals and couples in need of additional support as they navigate a difficult time in their lives. With personal experience of close friends going through fertility treatment, as well as his professional work coaching clients, Jeff has some expert advice and coping techniques to offer couples struggling to get back on track after a miscarriage, failed IVF or any other difficult setback in their quest to become parents.
Many of you reading will have suffered the intense emotional and physical stress of trying to conceive. Hurdles and obstacles litter your path and sometimes it may feel like your mind is so cluttered, you can barely see the wood for the trees. You may have been knocked down so many times that you’re finding it increasingly harder to get back on your feet, but Jeff’s first piece of advice is to remember why you’re actually there in the first place.
“We forget what our goal is and can only see what we feel at that given moment,” he says. “When you embark upon fertility treatment and start down that difficult road, the majority of couples, especially those that have had the right kind of support available to them, will already be aware of the potential pitfalls along the way. But they also would have known what their overall goal was – to have a child – and so when those setbacks happen, they’ll just realign themselves with what they wanted in the first place.”
Jeff stresses the importance of trying to shake off negative thought cycles by arming yourself with the irrefutable facts about what happened during your failed treatment. “It’s always better to deal with fact; assumptions are ultimately what lead us down the wrong path. A lot of pain can actually be created based on things that haven’t happened yet; things that we don’t actually even know are ever going to happen,” he offers.
“So it’s best not to be hard on yourself, or the situation, until you’ve actually got the facts in front of you and then you can start making decisions based on your options, based on truth and facts.”
For couples who have experienced disappointing results during their journey to conception, sometimes starting treatment again – and risking another negative result – sadly seems like an even harder proposition than simply giving up. Jeff suggests an excellent way of considering that difficult decision. “The reason why we ever give up on anything is because we decide it’s too painful and we can’t face that disappointment again. My argument as a coach would be that you’ve just been through it once and you’re still standing, so what makes you think it’ll be any worse, second time around?
Will it be worse or because you’ve experienced it once, will it be easier? The fact is, nothing ever hurts as much the second time around, but the problem is when we experience something particularly painful, we don’t allow that second time to happen – of course, we don’t want to experience that pain again. But that’s all we’re doing; we’re protecting ourselves, which is a very natural defense mechanism after we’ve gone through something painful.”
Rather than throwing in the towel on another treatment, Jeff urges couples to go back and talk to the specialists, because there’s often a rational explanation regarding the outcome and the fact that the results are not always favourable.
He also suggests being wary of letting these setbacks impact on the strength of your relationship – which is more important than ever right now. “In these situations, you both want the same thing, so it’s very important that you don’t allow the setback to trigger arguments or negativity towards each other,” advises Jeff. “It’s forgivable and understandable to take out your stresses and insecurities on your partner – that’s what we’re here for sometimes – but in a situation where you’re unclear of what’s gone wrong, what’s about to happen and what your options are moving forward, it’s always good to remain as strong as a couple as you possibly can.
Ultimately whether you’re able to conceive or not, that relationship will need to be able to withstand that disappointment just as much as it will need to adapt to the opposite fact that you have been successful and your life is about to change because two are about to become three or four!” How does he suggest helping a partner recover from the traumatic pain of a setback? “I think the assumption is the woman takes things harder than the man, but that’s not necessarily true,” considers Jeff. “The reason people are having treatment in the first place is because you have to consider both partners’ fertility levels; the reasons for treatment could be a combination of factors from both people.
“Within a relationship it shouldn’t be about who’s bringing less to the table than the other; you’re a team and the whole process of fertility treatment aims to heighten your chances as a couple who are taking that step to parenthood. There has to be support given from both partners, offered freely, more than any other time during that relationship. This is a huge test for two people and very often it’s the really strong couples that do the best job of it.”
While he strongly advocates the support we can provide to our partners, Jeff is equally clear about how important it is to share your own emotions, in a healthy way.
“In a situation like this, where you are literally putting it all out there in order to achieve something highly desirable to you and your partner, there is absolutely nothing to gain by withholding your emotions. You may think that you’re saving or protecting that other half by not sharing exactly how you feel or how upset you are, but more often than not, they’re going through exactly the same thing – they will know exactly where you’re at.
If you bottle things up and don’t talk about it, that’s just going to add to your stress level; that’s not good for you anytime, but certainly not when you’re going down the fertility treatment route. You need to keep yourself as mentally healthy as you possibly can and that’s when sharing whatever it is that you’re going through counts double. It doesn’t even have to be your partner: whether it’s to a close friend or family member, it’s always better to share with someone who is a particularly good listener and doesn’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, or why you’re wrong. Share it with someone who’s just going to listen because that’s all you need, you just need to let it out. You don’t need to find the answer, you just need to release the negativity.”
Jeff has personally dealt with some extremely difficult circumstances in his life, including the death in 2009 of his former partner Jade Goody, mother of his two sons. Over the years following their loss, Jeff has poured everything he possibly can into fatherhood, nurturing his children. Running parallel to these fatherly duties, Jeff has diligently built up a respected career as a much–loved television presenter. He is currently one of the faces of breakfast television – presenting The Hub segment for ITV’s This Morning, among many other on–screen appearances.
Now his new life coaching venture is going from strength to strength, and it seems as though Jeff has found his true calling. He explains how he has helped people, and what he has learned in the process of doing so: “I have coached people in very difficult periods in their lives; people often come to coaching to provide themselves with the support they need in order to continue to move forward, even when it gets emotionally difficult”.
What I’ve always found is that it’s really important for those clients to be reminded of what their goal is, because when we’re comfortable and relaxed it’s very easy for us to talk about our goals and dreams, but when we take a knock or experience a setback, it becomes very difficult. We forget what our goal is and can only see what we feel at that given moment.”
So why would Jeff suggest life coaching as a useful tool specifically for couples going through fertility treatment? “Some couples are really strong; they’ve been together a long, long time and they know full well that it’s something they will see out together. For some, the relationship is under no pressure whatsoever; it’s not about the relationship, it’s just about their bodies and what they’re capable of under the circumstances”.
However, if a couple does feel like they want the best possible support then I do recommend coaching because it can help them make subjective decisions and always remain in a healthy state of mind with a good sense of perspective, which is a very healthy place to be. It doesn’t need to be once a week, it could be once a month and it can actually be far less expensive than people imagine, but it can make a huge difference in terms of keeping the relationship as healthy as possible, by reducing the amount of stress that can be experienced and with the difficult decision-making process.”