Jessica Hepburn, the author of the moving memoir The Pursuit of Motherhood has been recently pouring her seemingly relentless energy and resources (this lady climbed an eye wateringly big mountain and has swam the English Channel) into organising the first ever ‘Fertility Fest’ – a pioneering event which I really hope becomes an annual one, as it promotes, celebrates and raises the profile of a fantastic cause. Infertility is a potentially life-wrecking experience for the one in six couples who suffer with it, and at ‘best’ (ie if conception is achieved) can only be endured with tremendous stress, and the likelihood of huge expense and compromise to life and work.
Many people I talk to about the struggle to conceive (and I run a support group as well as meeting them in and out of my practice) also despair at the collision of the medical and the human realms. When a woman’s body is being invaded by hormones/needles/scans/tests she becomes a ‘patient’ in a clinic and objectified as such. Her body becomes quantified, while her experience is a qualitative one – as someone clever once said, ‘it’s not about the sounds, it’s about the music.’
Clinics are businesses (the NHS doesn’t offer IVF to everyone) and while many do their best to offer emotional support and view their patients holistically, many people I speak with need more support and care than is on offer. Many don’t of course, and I know some clinics do brilliantly. Stress also arises around how to juggle treatment around work commitments – would you want to tell your boss you are trying to conceive when you are going for a promotion? Or even if you aren’t going for promotion, after all, it’s none of anyone’s business.
The effort to build a family through assisted reproduction keys into some profound fears and losses – it can easily become an all-consuming pursuit and can threaten relationships between the couple and with others around. Many feel that the only people who really understand the inevitable toil involved are others who have been through their own version – hence the huge value of support groups and events like this.
The Fertility Fest will take place over two days – in Birmingham and London with a really exciting agenda full of discussions, art, performances and exchange of ideas and support. I’d encourage anyone trying to conceive to buy a ticket fast and I’ll be lurking in the London even Quiet Room.