real life

"Do not give me advice." I'm infertile. Here are 12 things I need you to hear.

My name is Tayla. I am a nurse. 

I'm also a failure. I am brittle, and I am broken, but I am brave, and I live in hope. I am infertile.

I don't know what this is. A journal entry? A public service announcement? I honestly have no idea. But what I do know is that I need to say this, and you need to hear it. 

But be warned: this is real, this is raw, and this is definitely not PG.

Let me give you the lowdown: living with infertility is a half-life. It is not just the emptiness in your heart and in your arms where you hope so desperately to hold a baby, nor is it the grief that comes in 28-day cycles; it is the day-to-day things you miss out on, the practices and routines that you give up while you wait in the world of 'just in case'.

Watch: Bianca Dye on the last egg retrieval from her "emotional 2 years of IVF". Story continues after video.


Video via The Daily Edition.

For two years I've removed anything that could be harmful to a growing baby from my life. 

I've barely had a drink, I've disrupted my skincare routine (to the detriment of my skin might I add. Hormones + stress = pimples and wrinkles), I've stopped playing team sports - a constant in my life since childhood that has bolstered my mental and physical health and my social life. 

Slowly but surely, my husband and I have withdrawn from our normal activities and learned to exist as a shell of our former selves. 

Once, I was renowned for my inappropriate sense of humour; for being the life of the party. Now I find myself uncomfortable in these spaces, unsure how to behave or where I fit in. I'm too old for the party crowd, yet I don't quite fit with my age group, AKA the mums and bubs club. 

I live in the grey; the round peg that doesn’t quite fit in the square hole. Compounding this unintended social withdrawal is the ever-present fear of catching the dreaded spicy cough and the impact that would have not just on our health, but on our fertility treatments – another month derailed, more money down the drain. 

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And so it is easier to stay at home, to absorb ourselves in work and mindless tasks. I know in myself that this journey has diminished my spark, and the impact that it has had on my husband and I as individuals has been hard to bear witness to. Who have we become?

Despite our award-winning acting and 'everything will be okay' attitude, I know my family and closest friends see glimpses of the toll this has taken on us, how infertility has hollowed us out. They don't know whether to lean into it and offer support, or keep a watchful eye from a distance.

That's what this article is born from. I can't make you understand this awful, heart-wrenching journey in one short scroll on the toilet, and I truly hope that no one reading this will ever have to feel this first hand. 

What I can do is ask for a minute of your time to simply stop and think about what it would be like to be in our shoes.

Imagine spending each day with the seed of doubt in your mind that you will never get to carry the child you so desperately desire, and with each passing month watching that noxious idea grow as you try more and more drugs and procedures, turning your body into a war zone only for it to fail you time and time again. 

What kind of support might you need if you were in that position? How can you translate that into something that might help someone you know going through this right now? As someone who is amid yet another round of IVF and has seen what good, bad and downright ugly looks like in the way of support, let me help you frame that conversation using the lessons I've learned along the way.

Don't wrap us in cotton wool.

Invite us to the baby showers and the christenings and birthday parties. If we're having a shit day (and trust me, there are many) we will make up a poorly scripted excuse that you will pretend to believe and our friendship will carry on unchanged. This a lonely journey where we already miss out on so much; don't take away what’s left of our friendships and our social lives as well.

On the flip side, if we don't come to these types of events, don't take it personally.

There's a fair chance we are already rocking in a corner somewhere, silently beating ourselves up for not being brave enough to face the music.

You can ask questions.

My best supporters are the ones who check in with me not just on a superficial level, they want to know the nitty-gritty details. They Google, and come back to me with genuine, well-researched questions. For me, this highlights how invested they are in my journey.

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Don't get me wrong, there will be some days that I can't answer for fear that the only sound that comes out of my mouth will be a mixture of wailing/sobbing, but there will also be days when I will bore you with every technical detail. From a scientific perspective, fertility and IVF is absolutely fascinating, I just wish we didn't have to learn about it this way.

We have a lot going on, so forgive us for being preoccupied and forgetful.

In a typical IVF month I have to liaise with my fertility clinic, the pharmacy, the day surgery, the pathology centre, the radiology centre, the embryologist, the anaesthetist, my health insurance, Medicare etc, etc. I have to fit my normal life around 284659 appointments, between specific times when I have to pee on sticks or take medications.

Image: Supplied.

There is no flexibility in fertility treatments – everything has to happen on a certain day of your cycle; we must take medications at an exact time.

Image: Supplied.

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Honestly, all the appointments and phone calls are the equivalent of working a second job and it makes life admin a nightmare. I'm seriously considering hiring an executive assistant to run my fertility schedule for me.

We make this look easy. It's not.

I remember being on a girls' trip last year. My period was late, and that generates one of the most dangerous things in existence – hope. When my period arrived in the middle of a shopping centre halfway through the trip, I went to the public toilet and I fell apart. 

This was by far one of my lowest moments, sobbing in a bathroom stall surrounded by strangers. Ten minutes later I was out shopping for baby items with my sister and sister-in-law (who were both pregnant at the time) like nothing happened. For the next 48 hours I didn't cry; I didn't break. I gushed and fussed over cute wraps and clothes and toys. I picked out things I desperately wished I could take home for my baby and sent them home to other babies I knew I would soon meet and love. I kept it together because I didn't want to be selfish, and I didn’t want to miss out on these moments with the people I care about. So I did it all with a smile on my face and no one was any wiser. Meryl Streep, eat your heart out.

Just because we look okay on the outside does not mean we are okay on the inside.

Take your cues from us. If I whine about my husband's lazy arse sperm and my b*tch of a uterus, take that as a green light to make a joke. At all other times proceed with caution - our emotions are a field of landmines and we take no responsibility for any casualties.

Image: Supplied.

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Don't be positive all the time!

We have long ago given up on the traditional view of optimism; we are incredibly guarded so while we appreciate you holding out hope for us, we don't need you to be Pollyanna every damn day. It's exhausting. When things go wrong, let us moan. Anger is a normal stage of grief and each failed cycle we have to work through this phase to move on.

We live our lives in 28-day cycles.

Everything revolves around our fertile week where we must have copious amounts of baby-making sex that neither of us really enjoy. Work trips are a no go (imagine how I explain that to my boss!) and if you invite us on an overnight trip, we might not be able to come.

Sometimes we are uncontrollably jealous, and we feel guilty for it.

I am envious of you and your perfect family, especially if you are a fertile Myrtle who falls pregnant simply by looking at the nearest person with a penis. These intrusive thoughts creep into our brains unwarranted and then we feel terrible for having these genuine, normal, unavoidable feelings. Sometimes if I’m having a particularly shitty day, I flip the bird at pregnant women on TV who represents the life I so desperately want. It's nothing personal, but I’m also not sorry. Jealousy is a new part of my life I’ve had to learn to make room for and grow around.

Unless you have travelled the exact road that I have, DO NOT GIVE ME ADVICE.

I have a specialist for that, not to mention that I am an intelligent health professional who has taken a crash course in 'Infertility for Dummies' over the past few years. While I know it comes from a good place, we are well beyond the point of old wives' tales and you can bet your arse that I've either heard it a million times already, or been desperate enough to actually try it. 

Side note: every person who has struggled to get pregnant has put their legs up in the air after sex to marinate for longer. It doesn't work.

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Don't tell me you understand how hard it must be because it took you 6 months to fall pregnant naturally with your child. 

You don't, enough said.

Don't tell me it will happen when we stop stressing, or that we just need to relax.

If you so much as utter the words stress/relax, I will slap you. 

Image: Supplied.

So there it is, the very basic guide of how not to be a total d**k to people with infertility. 

This article has given you a glimpse into the psychology of an infertile couple who walk amongst you a bit broken. And to anyone reading this who might be in the trenches with us, I hope you feel seen. Maybe you can subtly leave this article somewhere for that know-it-all relative of yours to read, or stick it to the toilet door for your empathy challenged co-worker or boss. 

Lastly, I wish all the luck to you and your uncooperative uterus, your obnoxious ovaries or your husband's shitty swimmers. May there always be enough chocolate in the cupboard and lube on the ultrasound wand; may you rustle up enough energy on scheduled sex nights to pretend to enjoy it; and may you hold your beautiful baby in your arms soon.

Dedicated to our family and friends who don't always say the right things, but who I know are always here for us, and who we couldn’t do this without. Note: I haven't slapped any of them yet.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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