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.”
Here Are Some Tips To Break The Invisible Wall
“Most relationships fail because we spend too much time pointing out each other’s mistakes and not enough time enjoy each other’s company.” – Unknown
Struggles through infertility can tend to take over your life. The constant stress of the treatments and the repeated disappointments can definitely strain the relationship between partners. Women may feel more irritable & emotional and her partner may feel helpless and worried. This makes for a difficult combination for any conversation to occur! Slowly there is an invisible wall starting to appear between the couple, emotions take over and make it even more difficult to talk.
With infertility, making a baby isn’t sexy. It isn’t fun. It’s stressful. It’s hard. It’s hormonal. It’s just miserable. The process truly is a make or break on relationships. Women can especially feel volatile just like a volcano about to blast at anytime with no warning. One minute you are positive, the next negative, becoming miserable, seemingly out of the blue. It can become exhausting for the partner quickly. The invisible wall gets thicker and taller… Sound and feel familiar?
Infertility can be an awful journey if the partners are not truly supporting and caring for each other. I have heard so many stories where partners are separating temporarily or permanently due to the stress and struggles with infertility. It doesn’t have to be that way!
Here are some tips to break the invisible wall…
1. To the woman who is in the thick of infertility, pay some attention to your partner. Ask them how they are doing. One of my clients asked her husband that very question on Father’s Day, and he broke down. Men also feel it, they just feel it differently.
2. To the woman struggling through this process, allow your man to be vulnerable. As a man, vulnerability with your partner doesn’t make you weak, it makes you even stronger. I have seen many relationships become very successful amidst the pain and struggles, when there is vulnerability between the couple. It strengthens your bond and makes you closer.
3. To both partners, when emotions are running high, remove yourself from the situation, take some time to collect yourself. Don’t talk or act when emotions are running high. The invisible wall gets higher when emotions are high.
4. Remind yourself and your partner frequently that “Together, we will make it thru this too”. Saying it out loud makes a world of difference and gives a great comfort to the other partner.
5. Get professional help, specifically someone who truly been there and understands the infertility struggle. They can help with tools and techniques to slowly eliminate relationship struggles, help identify the relationship goals and help you move forward positively in your life with or without successful fertility treatments.
Don’t let the invisible wall keep growing stronger and taller. Find ways to break the wall down slowly. Infertility shouldn’t be the reason for a relationship to break! Take small steps forward.
20 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Struggling With Infertility!
“You may never know what someone is going through, but if you notice any signs of pain—hostility, negativity, or over-sensitivity—then odds are, you know how they feel. Respond to the pain instead of judging the signs.” Lori Deschene
I have unexplained infertility and my fertility journey was very long and painful with almost 8 years of failed treatments. I had 3 miscarriages, 3 IUI failures and 8 back to back IVF failures. It was an emotional roller coaster. I struggled in silence for the major part of my journey. I avoided talking to people with the fear that they will ask me about having kids. I avoided going to India (where all my family is) for 4 years in a row giving all sorts of bullshit (pardon my language here) reasons on why I can’t go. I wore a mask at work and never talked about anything personal. Talking to friends and family members was a nightmare especially who recently became pregnant or had a child!
I always avoid telling others about my infertility journey to avoid the comments that can really sting, let my blood pressure rise and bite my tongue, to put it mildly. There are sometimes where I wanted to react in a more animated fashion to those somewhat insensitive and ignorant comments.
This doesn’t just happen to me. It happens to many of us who are struggling with pregnancy loss, primary or secondary infertility. I recently put a question (What is that one thing that people say annoys you most about infertility?) to an online FB support group and its members had overwhelming response talking about their personal experience with these insensitive comments.
This list is based on my personal experiences and the collective experiences from many amazing souls going through fertility challenges including my wonderful fertility clients.
I am writing this to create awareness to those people who haven’t experienced infertility, who typically say things like this (many times with good intentions) to others going through infertility.
Here are 20 things NOT to ask/say people going through infertility:
- When are you going to have a baby? You are running out of time.
- Just relax, it will happen
- Drink a glass of Wine, it will happen
- Go on vacation, it will happen
- Stop trying, it will happen
- Lose weight
- You are young, you have plenty of time
- Do this, try this, it worked for, it will happen (Varies all the way from eating McDonald’s fries to using essential oils)
- For people with secondary infertility or have experienced losses before- You at least know you can get pregnant
- I know a bunch of ladies who’ve had babies in their 40’s! Don’t worry, it will happen
- To people with secondary infertility- At least you’ve got one, you’re so lucky, you might just have to be happy with one
- You are lucky you don’t have kids yet! (or) It’s so hard having so many kids
- You can have one of mine
- My husband looks at me and I get pregnant (or) I sneeze near my husband and I get pregnant
- Comments by a younger couple – We tried for a really long time( 2-3 months) to get pregnant, I understand your frustration
- Don’t worry, the technology is so good these days!
- Have you thought about adopting? it will kick-start your hormones and you’ll get pregnant. It happened to my (insert random relative)
- If God thought you were ready, you’d be pregnant.
- Maybe it’s just not meant to be (or) whatever is going to happen will happen.
- It’s not just the words, it’s the body language too- When people ask if I have children and I say, I do not, their reply almost always is, you never wanted kids?! With a surprised look on their face.
Even today at my nail salon, my manicurist asked me, how many kids, I said one(adopted). How old, 5 years. The next question immediately, you don’t want to have more???? You should have more..
This article is not intended to judge or blame those folks who say these comments. Many of you say these things out of good heart and well intentions. You all want to support and care for your loved one dearly.
Just keep in mind, these words can and will create a deeper wound to people going through fertility struggles. Because many of us are desperately seeking and doing whatever it takes to get and stay pregnant and yet it’s just not happening.
Unless you have experienced infertility, it’s hard to understand and relate to the pains and struggles all around. Infertility affects ones overall being- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Here is one suggestion I will offer to people who are supporting a friend or a loved one.
Tell them, I may not truly understand what you are going through, but remember, I am here for you. And give them a big hug. Sometimes that’s all we need to feel better even a teeny tiny bit!
“Sometimes, what a person needs is not a brilliant mind that speaks, but a patient heart that listens.” Anonymous
Fertility Treatment Survival Skills
Practical and Emotional Top Tips from Iris Fertility Sherpa Natasha Canfer, Clients and Colleagues.
As the founder of Iris Fertility – an organisation offering bespoke practical and emotional support and companionship to individuals before, during and after fertility treatment – I am regularly asked what people can do to help manage the challenges that fertility treatment throws at them. Together with Iris Fertility clients and colleagues, I’ve put together our top tips, insights and nuggets of information.
- Put Yourself First Throughout the Process
Go gently, treat yourself kindly and say ‘no’ to people who are going to sap your emotional energy especially when treatment’s underway or you’re in the 2 Week Wait (2WW) – finding interest in or compassion for anyone else while you’re in the throes of fertility treatment can be challenging. Put activities on hold that you’re not interested in or can’t face. If you feel like you ‘should’ be doing something with someone then probably best to avoid! Be aware that how you feel day to day (and even within the day) is likely to change.
Don’t put off taking that first step – that might be going to your GP or going directly to a clinic for a Fertility MOT.
Don’t do too much of your own research – it can be mind boggling, confusing and cause anxiety.
Seeking the support of an individual or organisation (like Iris Fertility) who knows the process really helped us with having a sounding board away from the clinic environment. We could ask the questions we didn’t necessarily want to ask our clinic and raise concerns we weren’t able to share with friends and family. Don’t leave a niggle or a doubt unsaid.’ Loretta, Somerset
2. Trust Your Gut Feeling
Follow your instincts. Those instincts or your gut feeling might not appear to be logical but if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t for you – even if you can’t pinpoint the reason.
3. Inform Yourself
Depending on your circumstances, appointments at fertility clinics can feel overwhelming. You might be presented with a lot of information and it can be difficult to take in exactly what’s being said and what that means for you – particularly if you’ve just received tests results that aren’t as you’d hoped. Also, a clinic may only give you information that’s specific to the services it offers rather than providing you with an overview of what might be available to you nationally and globally.
‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions – the doctors aren’t gods and they need to be challenged sometimes so that you know they’re doing the best for you as an individual.
Talk to people who have also been through this and don’t bottle things up especially through the 2 Week Wait.
Don’t be scared by the process. Embrace it but be careful as it can become addictive – trust your instincts when it comes to knowing whether you’re ready to say “enough is enough”.’ George, Ireland
Other sources to look into if you feel able are:
Progress Educational Trust (PET) – a UK-based charity which advances public understanding of science, law and ethics in the fields of human genetics, assisted reproduction, embryology and stem cell research: Progress Educational Trust
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority – the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos. An expert organisation in the fertility sector and the first statutory body of its type in the world: www.hfea.gov.uk
‘Question, question, question your clinic about all the costs involved and its refund policy.
Ask your clinic about risks of failed fertilisation and unsuccessful thawing of frozen eggs and embryos.
If you opt to use a clinic abroad, check whether you can use a clinic of your choice in the UK alongside that overseas clinic or are you tied to one of their associated clinics?
If you go abroad, factor in how easy it is to arrange scans, blood tests, medication, intralipids, etc. Also work out whether you will easily be able to get flights and accommodation at short notice.
Is the clinic open at weekends and able to work around you?’ Sarah, West Yorkshire
4. Remind Yourself that it’s OK to be in a Different Emotional Place from Your Partner
Depending on your circumstances, it’s possible that you and your partner may want to choose different treatment options or you may find yourselves in a different emotional place from one another. That’s OK and totally understandable. Open and honest ongoing respectful communication with each other is important – and can also be exceptionally tricky especially when emotions and hormones are running high. If you feel that counselling would be beneficial then speak with your clinic about what they can offer you and when. Otherwise, you could locate a specialist infertility counsellor through BICA
Take the time you need.
Talk to your friends. If they are real friends they will want to lend an ear.
It’s OK to recalibrate your understanding of who you are if that’s necessary.’ James, Hertfordshire
5. It’s All About You: ‘Fertility Treatment’ is an Umbrella Term
Ensure that your clinic tailors all your treatment and medication to you and your needs.
6. Who’s Who? Clinic Staff
Make a friend among the clinic staff and ask them for their work contact details. It’s beneficial to have an ally or two on the ‘inside’.
If there’s a staff member who you have strong negative feelings towards for whatever reason and you would prefer them not to be involved in your care then let your clinic know. Most clinic staff work as part of a team and will try and accommodate patient requests of this nature.
I would’ve liked to have treated myself almost as if I was recovering from an illness – very gently. So do what makes you happy or at least calm. Go to places that make your heart sing and your fear retreat. See only those people who make you feel positive and with whom you can be completely yourself.’ Caitlin Allen Acupuncture, West Yorkshire
7. Statistics and Other Numbers are Only Part of the Picture
Perhaps easier said than done but try not to get too hung up on statistics and numbers. No one can say for definite how things are going to work out for you. Ultimately you need one egg, one sperm and one womb to get along with each other. If you’re comparing clinics then make sure you’re comparing like for like statistics. The figure you’ll probably be most interested in is the live birth rate for the female age group relevant to your situation.
8. Check Out Donor Conception Network
If you’re considering using donated eggs, sperm or embryos then check out Donor Conception Network (DCN) as soon as you can but preferably before you even start any treatment or become pregnant. Donor Conception Network is a charity and supportive network of more than 2,000 mainly UK-based families with children conceived with donated sperm, eggs or embryos; those considering or undergoing donor conception procedures; and donor conceived people. Staff, volunteers and network members have a wealth of knowledge, information and expertise about all things past and present in the world of donation including the possible impact of telling or not telling donor-conceived children about their genetic heritage: www.dcnetwork.org
‘If you wish to find the best possible fit with a surrogate mum, then Surrogacy UK is a great association to join. With their ‘friendship first’ ethos, get togethers are organised so that friendships can be formed before Teams are created.
Speaking as a two-time surrogate mother, I felt that finding the couple to team-up with was all about friendship chemistry. Being open, honest and approachable is a good way to connect with a potential surrogate. It may feel scary at first and you may feel exposed and vulnerable, but it works both ways. Imagine a year down the line when your surrogate/friend is about to birth your baby, she will be trusting you to hold that space for her, as the baby is delivered at long last in your arms.’ Jay Kelly, Surrogate, Baby Alchemy
9. Going Abroad – Is the Grass as Green as You Think?
If you’re thinking about going abroad for treatment, investigate what the implications of doing so could be for you and any future children. Here are just a handful of things to consider:
- If your UK clinic is encouraging you to go to a particular overseas clinic then is it affiliated in some way to that clinic? If so, how and what does that mean for you and those clinics?
- How is the overseas clinic regulated?
- What’s the legal situation regarding types of fertility treatment in the country (or state) of your choosing?
- Which screening tests are performed on patients and partners?
- How much is it going to cost you financially, physically and emotionally especially by the time you’ve factored in flights and accommodation?
- If you’re using a donor abroad then how are they screened and selected?
- What are the anonymity rules in relation to donors and how would this impact on any child(ren) born from treatment?
- How many families can a donor donate to and what could this mean in terms of the number of half siblings for your potential child?
10. DIY Donor Sperm – Future Proof Yourself
If you’re using donor sperm outside of a clinic environment then before you even start preparing for pregnancy ensure that your personal safety is paramount. Also, get legal advice regarding your specific situation and make sure you have legal agreements in place in relation to your particular circumstances.
11. Remember the Adult Child
While your focus may initially be on you becoming pregnant, your goal is to have a baby. That baby will hopefully grow to become an adult so when making decisions around the types of treatment you are willing to undertake, consider how your future (adult) child at different life stages could feel about any decisions you make and the impact of your choices on them.
12. Include Your Partner
It might feel that the spotlight is on the individual physically undergoing the fertility treatment so actively include (and encourage your clinic to include) your partner if you have one.
13. Changing Times
The nature of fertility treatment changes all the time so if it’s been taking you a while to get that baby into your arms you might begin to wonder if a particular treatment had been available to you earlier then whether life would have worked out differently. Be kind to yourself and remember that on your quest to become a parent you can only make your best decision with all the information you have available to you at the time the decision needs to be made.
Develop a new hobby or skill in which you can immerse yourself and that can be done at any time regardless of the stage of treatment you’re at. Current favourites to distract clients are escape rooms, singing and learning a new language.
If you’re eligible to receive NHS funding but you’re not sure you want to have treatment in your allocated NHS fertility clinic then you could investigate the possibility of transferring your funding for use in a private fertility clinic.
If you’re not eligible to receive NHS funding or it’s not available in your area then speak to your clinic about any payment plans it might offer. You could also look into specialist fertility funding organisations which provide IVF refund schemes and multi-cycle programmes.
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