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Jody Day – Living The Life Unexpected

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Face with the reality of settling for a plan B after over a decade of infertility, Jody Day found fulfilment in helping other women survive the heartache of not being able to start a family. Through her online sisterhood, and new book ‘Living The Life Unexpected’, Jody aims to prove that happiness after infertility is in every woman’s reach.

For any woman, the realisation that she will not fulfil her dreams of motherhood can be devastating; her sense of loss only compounded by society’s seeming lack of empathy. It’s a combination that can leave someone feeling utterly heartbroken and disenfranchised.

But author, social entrepreneur and founder of Gateway Women, Jody Day, 51, believes you can not only survive the agony of infertility, but flourish in the future, going on to live a life that is both meaningful and full of joy. Her new book Living t he Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children, is a practical and inspiring guide for rediscovering your purpose and power after infertility.

“My own experience of coming to terms with my childlessness was hard, lonely and scary, and I wanted to make it easier for other women to make this transition,” begins Jody when we speak to her about this debut book, which is a combining mesh of autobiography, case studies, social history and self-help.

When London-based Jody got married aged 26 she admits that motherhood was the last thing on her mind. Her husband, seven years her senior, was a successful fashion designer and they were young, glamorous and deeply in love. They began trying for a child when she turned 29 and, four years later, during a laparoscopy was told that everything was working as it should be.

Yet by 37, after eight years and over 100 visits to doctors, acupuncturists and nutritionists, there was still only one line on every single pregnancy test. The only diagnosis? Unexplained infertility. By this point Jody’s marriage was hanging by a thread – her husband lost in a fog of addiction and the reality of a children becoming ever distant.

When her marriage ended a year later Jody was determined to find a new partner and begin her family. She had also reconciled herself with the idea of IVF, which she had considered too expensive previously, but reasoned she would need to be in a stable relationship for at least a year before that was a viable option.

Wind forward again, and upon the breakdown of her most serious post-divorce relationship, it suddenly dawned on her: she would never be a mother.

Though crushing, this realisation brought about another unexpected emotion: relief. In her book, Jody describes a physical sensation in her tummy as the two versions of herself – the Jody who was going to be a mother one day and the one who was actually living – reconciled themselves. For the first time in years,she could look forward with certainty and reassert a firm grip around the control function of her future. She decided to train as a psychotherapist, a five-year-course she had put off in case she fell pregnant and began the Gateway Women blog to reach out to others in her position.

“The blog was a place for me to write honestly about my childlessness and how I was struggling to come to terms with it,” explains Jody, “because I found that nobody would let me talk about it.

“I didn’t know anybody in my circle of friends, in my family or amongst my colleagues who had wanted to be a mum yet failed, like me.

“When I went online and looked for support all I found was an endless quantity of websites for women who wanted to conceive and a couple for women who had no children by choice. So I started the blog and thought ‘well even if one person reads it, that’s something’.”

Yet in 2016, Gateway Women is now a worldwide community over two million strong. It’s a platform where women can find local social groups, read inspiring articles and blogs and generally support, encourage and uplift one another. For Jody the network has proved invaluable, not just by providing a ‘sisterhood’ but by giving her a new sense of purpose as a beacon of hope for other women.

In her book she reveals:

“Today I love my life again. And being able to guide and support other women as they learn to love theirs once more gives me great joy and satisfaction. If I had my time over, I’d still wish to be a mother, but these days I’m genuinely fine with the way things have turned out. Really, I’m not faking it!”

This sense of sisterhood and togetherness seems to be essential in a world where women without children are marginalised. Words like ‘spinster’ pop up in the media and the childless are made to feel like failures instead of the formidable entities they are, whose energy not devoted to parenting can be focused in other areas.

And as Jody points out, one in five women in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and Australia have turned 45 without having children, and in some countries – Germany and Japan included – it’s as high as one in three. Although it is estimated that 10% of women without children have chosen not to be mothers (‘childfree’) and 10% are childless due to infertility or other medical reasons, the remaining 80% are ‘childless-by-circumstance’ and living a life they never planned for.

“The image that the media and culture puts out there is that a childless life is a miserable and unfulfilled one from which you’re probably going to die alone surrounded by cats. There is nothing positive out there about it but it can be a really amazing life. We live in an extraordinary moment in history for women, and we should be allowed to embrace that,” says Jody.

The solution then is to change the conversation, and the more women who feel they are able to embrace life after infertility, the more we can diminish the stigma and fear surrounding it. Living the Life Unexpected is a practical guide to rediscovering yourself after arguably one
of the most traumatic and stressful periods in a woman’s life.

Jody is keen to point out that you are allowed to grieve the children you never had, that in fact this is a necessary step in moving forward. “One of the difficulties of disenfranchised grief, of which childlessness and infertility is one, is that you are told you are not allowed to feel it,” she explains. “But grief is a form of love, it is created by love. You cannot grieve what you have not loved and that is what helped me to understand that I had really loved the children I never met.”

Readers are encouraged to work through the book, which is broken down into 12 chapters with corresponding exercises, one chapter per week in order to process the information and give time for healing to occur.

Jody also suggests reaching out to the wider community, either online or at group sessions; the overwhelming message being: allow yourself to begin the process of grieving, then find strength and support in other women who can truly empathise.

For Jody, this is all part of a bigger picture; the more women who speak out, the weaker the taboo becomes and, as a society, we can begin more conversations about infertility in general. After all, with one in seven couples requiring fertility treatment, and one in five women reaching their mid-forties without becoming a mother, why should anyone suffer alone?

She may not have been able to realise her ‘plan A’, but what Jody has achieved is remarkable. By channelling her need to nurture and love this social pioneer has helped millions of women rediscover themselves and created a network of powerful friendships across the globe.

“I feel I’ve brought together a very caring and compassionate and passionate group of women who have mothers’ hearts, they just didn’t get to be mums.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Jody Day is a former fellow in social innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School, Cambridge University, and founder of Gateway Women, the global friendship and support network for childless women. She is also a trainee psychotherapist. For more information visit gatewaywomen.com.

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Fertility Life

Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown

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Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown

Louise Brown is an extraordinary woman.  Extraordinary by virtue of her conception – the first IVF baby. On 25 July 2018 Louise Brown and the world are celebrating her 40th Birthday.

You might think that there is nothing special about a 40th birthday but this is no ordinary birthday. In the last 10 years, finally, IVF has come of age as a scientific “discovery” and from it so many other areas of advancement have sprung; encompassing legal, ethical, medical and technological developments.

Although too late for Patrick Steptoe who died in 1988, Bob Edwards received a Nobel Prize in 2010 and was knighted in 2011, recognition coming just 2 years before his own death.  It was also too late for Jean Purdy, whose clinical and laboratory roles have been highlighted recently, bringing her to the attention of those of us who had been unaware of her huge contribution, which has been rightly and publicly celebrated.

Thanks to the public recognition of those pioneers, this decade birthday is being celebrated around the world. It is a commemoration of achievements that transformed the management of fertility problems.

IVF has enabled so many couples to build families that otherwise might never have been. These families aren’t simply a child or maybe two for a couple to bring up to adulthood but families in the truest sense of the word – grandchildren for grandparents, cousins and future parents, aunts and uncles.  Making a family is not just life changing for one or two people but has inter-generational impact.

Today, IVF has been assimilated into accepted practice. This by virtue of the HFEAct for which we are indebted to Mary Warnock and her great ethical insight. The Act underpins the regulation of current practice and ongoing research through license to the HFEA.

The news of Louise Brown’s conception, and her birth, drew huge public interest. The response was fascination and alarm in equal measure. Whilst there was rejection of the science and scientists by the public, press and peers, this did not mean that her existence was neglected.

Although that direct interest in Louise Brown has therefore waxed and waned there have been key milestones. Perhaps most significant was the interest when she herself (after her sister) became a mother naturally (what did we think was going to happen?), and we were again reminded that she is extraordinary.

Louise Brown’s very existence is extraordinary. However she is also extraordinary in her very ordinariness.  She is normal. There should be something ordinary about Louise Brown. She was a child born and brought up in the 70s and 80s; she is a wife and mother and works for her living.  It is right that she is ordinary – is that not the point?

Our patients, probably very much like her parents, don’t want to be extraordinary – they want to be ordinary people with ordinary lives who raise families in an ordinary way. Yet some of them have to go to extraordinary lengths to make that happen. Why? Because we have yet to acknowledge that the lack of this ordinary ability to found a family leads to extraordinary suffering.  We have yet to accept, despite the undoubted success and safety of IVF treatment, that it is an ordinary NHS treatment, for an ordinary medical problem, which ordinary couples and individuals face, day in and day out.

The idea of a postcode lottery for health service commissioning is not unique to infertility but it is certainly the most brazen and most generalized. This is not a drug that has been singled out to be too costly, this is wholesale neglect of a specialist area of medicine. This neglect is not confined to IVF itself, but in some areas has an impact on the ability even for patients to get a proper medical opinion, to be properly investigated or to have access to any other appropriate treatment.

Moreover, even when a diagnosis and opinion are available and there is a good chance of successful treatment, social limitations may be applied by commissioners, which override any clinical decision making. This is unique to fertility patients. And we find ourselves failing to treat a significant fertility issue for one partner because the other has been judged to be undeserving. Making such judgments within our National Health Service the norm may lead to compromise in our own social right to other areas of health care.

It is of course necessary to consider cost-effectiveness and not provide treatment where there is little chance of success. But guidance for IVF has rightly been given by NICE (the National Institute for health and Care Excellence); it is largely ignored.

Some people say that fertility treatment is a luxury, that the desire to have children is a lifestyle choice.  I would argue that that drive is as innate as the need for shelter and sustenance. Whilst as humans we can make a rational decision or choice not to have children (not always without regret) it remains for many a deep and fundamental need.

We also live in a world where second families and alternative family building is common. Traditionalists may not like the change in social patterns but that does not make those families or indeed those parenting models less valid nor indeed inferior. As physicians we consider the welfare of the child but our job is to treat the medical problem. As a society we must be careful not to make prejudiced judgments, which may infringe basic human rights and needs.

Driving healthcare into the private sector may seem a natural step for some, but the commercial sector has been criticized roundly in recent years for potentially exploitative practices in reproductive medicine. Centres must work with integrity around treatments where evidence is poor or lacking. That includes those treatments which remain experimental or still require proper validation. These simply must not be promoted for commercial gain. Thankfully, it does not appear to be a sector-wide issue but one that must be taken extremely seriously.

Louise Brown came from extraordinary parents who along with many others aided the research that brought about her birth. They were able, ultimately, to build the ordinary family they so desperately wanted and went to such lengths to bring about.

That is not the end of the story however. Having had the spotlight of public interest swing her way over her 40 years of existence, Louise Brown was not satisfied with ordinary. Harnessing her celebrity, she has not balked at shouldering a responsibility for promoting the very technology that gave her her being.  She has become an ambassador for IVF and technologies following. More importantly she has become an advocate for patients and patient rights speaking out on the inequities prevalent in our NHS fertility provision and for the promotion of reproductive health provision worldwide.

On the occasion of her 40th birthday, Louise Brown has picked up the public interest that has once again swung her way and used it for the good of those yet to come.

Louise Brown you are an extraordinary woman and I and the British Fertility Society salute you for it. Happy Birthday!

Originally published https://britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/2018/07/25/happy-birthday-to-louise-brown-bfs-chair-dr-jane-stewart-reflects-on-40-years-of-ivf/

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A Woman From Canberra Who Conceived Naturally After Nearly 10 Years Struggling With Infertility Is Now Helping Other Women To Get Pregnant

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Liz Walton With Husband

Liz Walton, now 48, had tried six rounds of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and spent around £30,000 trying to conceive.

But today she is the proud mother of two-year-old Willow after getting pregnant naturally- despite doctors saying the couple not have children without medical intervention.

Liz, from Savery Street, Garren, said: “I thought I was going through the menopause and was shocked to learn I was in fact pregnant.

“I’d let go of our dream of having children. I think because we were relaxed and finally accepting of the situation, we were, in fact, ready to have them.”

Liz, who got pregnant at the age of 45, has gone on to work with 14 women across 3 continents – and they have all since had children.

Liz, an international leader and coach, said: “I now focus on helping women who are having difficulties getting pregnant for various reasons, as well as unexplained fertility.

“It is because of my own experience and learning that I can support and help women so they receive the best help to get their desired outcome.”

Liz techniques such as hypnotherapy and a healing process called The Journey to help women tackle stress, which is often an underlying factor in being unable to conceive.

Liz, who has over 20 years’ experience in the therapeutic industry, said: “Constant stress shuts down all our reproductive systems and sometimes what we want most can be pushed further away.

“I can’t guarantee the support will result in a couple getting pregnant, though there have been many cases.

“But what I can enable is a shift, which allows people to find peace and see beyond just having children.”

Liz, who previously ran a complementary health practice in Canberra called Body and Mind, has returned from seven years in the UK, where she cared for ailing mother, who has sadly since died.

She has set up Liz Walton Therapies and Coaching to help people deal with a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief and infertility.

For more information about Liz’s work, visit lizwalton.org or call +61 0432 427 464.

 

Liz’s story:

Liz and her husband, Greg, 43, married in 2005 and tried to have children soon after.

But they later learned Greg had anti-sperm antibodies, which can cause sperm to stick together and reduce movement – preventing them from fertilising the egg.

They had IVF for over eight years and were told their chances of conceiving with treatment were still less than five percent.

Liz was devastated each time it was unsuccessful and the stress put a strain on the couple.

Liz said: “We got married and thought ‘OK, let’s get pregnant. But a couple of years later it still hadn’t happened.

“We grow up believing we are put on this earth to have children and when I couldn’t, I ended up attacking myself. I asked myself why I couldn’t and what had I done wrong.

“I was devastated each time the treatment failed. It tore me apart and I felt annihilated. I kept thinking ‘how can I fix this?’ It became an obsession and drove me crazy.”

Liz piled on weight because of the stress – gaining nearly two kilos after each course of treatment, going from 67kilos to 75 kilos.

Liz said: “Being told ‘no, it hasn’t happened,’ would be stressful and I’d often go into a bad mood. The stress was overwhelming and I turned to food for comfort.”
Rather than save for a home, they used all the money they had to pay for treatment.

But when Liz’s sister-in-law fell pregnant it was a turning point for Liz, who now past 40 was told her chances of conceiving through IVF was now unlikely.

Liz, who used to run her own holistic complementary health practice, turned to coaching.

She said: “I took part in an emotional healing workshop and it brought our relationship to a whole new level. It also helped me to cope much better with the situation.

“I didn’t want to be a person full of bitterness and I realised I needed to let go. It had got to the point I wasn’t living my life, but holding out for something I couldn’t have.

“I cried for weeks, but it was something I had to do. It’s better than shutting down and turning to eating or drinking – which is something I would have done in the past.”

Liz worked with therapists to come to terms with infertility and now offers counselling and coaching to other women in a similar situation.

She said: “I think there were many reasons I got pregnant when I did. Partly, Greg turned 40 and he started to review his life – realising he wanted children in it.

“I believe our mindset can influence our bodies and I learned tools to become mentally and emotionally healthier. Something must have changed for both of us and we were finally ready for this.”

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Fertility Life

The Fertility Show Manchester 2018

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Fertility Show Manchester Q&A Stage

After a successful first year in the North, The Fertility Show is returning to Manchester for the second time on 24th and 25th March.

The Fertility Show Manchester, held in association with Fertility Network UK, is a follow up to the renowned London Show, which celebrated its ninth year in November last year and welcomed almost 3,000 visitors.

Manchester’s Central Convention Complex will play host to exhibitors including doctors, clinicians and fertility experts all offering help, support and guidance for patients on their fertility journeys. The Show will also feature a diverse seminar programme, with 30 topical sessions across the two days delivered by experts in the field.

Key issues and hot topics that will be discussed in Manchester include:

  • Secondary infertility – Trying for another baby
  • Natural cycle and mild IVF – fertility treatment without the drugs?
  • Options for adoption
  • Improving the odds of IVF working for you
  • Dealing with and treating endometriosis
  • What men need to know about fertility
  • Infertility management and the rule of 3

Visitors to the Show will also have the opportunity to be involved in the unique Q&A stage, running throughout the two days in association with Fertility Network UK and hosted by Jessica Hepburn, one of the UK’s leading patient voices on infertility. The stage gives visitors an opportunity to put forward their questions, either openly or anonymously, to a panel of experts.

For more information or to buy tickets please visit www.fertilityshow.co.uk/manchester

We look forward to seeing you there!

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