“Why don’t you just…” and other annoying questions

All over the internet, the same questions crop up time and time again under posts about IVF and fertility treatment. Below, I attempt to answer some of the clangers that those of us going through fertility treatment get asked on a regular basis… (Note: these are my own answers and are therefore based on my own specific situation.)

Why don’t you adopt?

Adoption is a really special option – one we have (and continue to) look into – but it is also a long and complicated one. One that requires significant research and very careful consideration. It means subjecting every single area of your life to scrutiny and putting your fate in the hands of a third party, often at substantial expense. If you’re in the UK, it means letting go of any dream you may have of nurturing a newborn baby and spending months, if not years, waiting for a complex, high-stakes legal process to complete before you’re able to bring your child home. It means proving to a professional counsellor that any residual wounds from infertility are now completely healed and accepting all the unknown challenges that an adopted child may bring. Rushing prematurely into a decision so huge is unfair to all concerned – prospective children included.

For Simon and I, we’re just not there yet.

Below is a quote from a couple I highly recommend you follow (on Instagram as @DaddyandDad) who have documented their experience of adoption in the UK and who have written about it in a detailed, 5 part series of blog posts…

“Our adoption process was divided into twelve defined stages over approximately twenty four months.

Even though the end result is absolutely blimmin’ marvellous, the adoption process is an endurance. It’s complicated, bureaucratic and intrusive. But if it were any less of these things, if it skimmed over the gory details, there’s every chance apprentice adopters would be ill-prepared for the reality of parenting adopted children, with all of their quirks, problems and baggage.”

But IVF is a long and complicated process too, why are you choosing that route?

Yes, it is. But we’ve chosen it for two reasons.

The first is a practical one. For us, IVF is expected to be a far simpler (and I use that word lightly) path to parenthood – in terms of time, logistics, emotional stress and finances.

The second reason is sort of primal. Somewhere deep within me, hard-wired into my most uncontrollable and innate desires, I want to be pregnant. I want to experience every single bout of nausea, every twinge and kick and symptom that growing a baby has to offer. I want contractions and labour pains and broken waters and childbirth. I want sore nipples and sleepless nights and I want to cradle a screaming newborn in total disbelief that I created something so unbelievably beautiful yet so unbelievably loud. And yes, of course, I have absolutely no idea exactly how much hard work goes into any of this but all I can tell you is – I want to find out more than anything.

IVF gives me the chance to.

But there’s an overpopulation crisis, why are you trying so hard to add another human to it?

The state of the planet is a legitimate concern for us all but it is not solely the responsibility of the infertility community to address.

Anyone who has weighed up issues like overpopulation and climate change and has come to the earnest conclusion that they don’t want to bring a child into a world so full of uncertainty has my utmost respect. Equally, anyone who has chosen to create wonderful new children – via whatever means – is perhaps raising the most worldly conscious, forward thinking humans our planet has ever known – and they deserve the same respect.

We will all have different views, and that’s OK. But we should all be respectful of the choices other people make, particularly ones about their own body and their own life. Putting the accountability of overpopulation on those of us without any children – those of us who hope to be lucky enough to bring just one into the world – seems a bit backwards to me…

Why don’t you give up?

Conversations about when and if to “give up” on fertility treatment should only happen between the people involved and a medical professional. Frankly, it’s outrageous that anyone else would feel as though it’s ever an appropriate suggestion and it belittles the enormity of what abandoning treatment really means to people.

Giving up will always be an option, for any of us, with anything we do but it isn’t always the right option and it certainly isn’t always the easy one. For us, right now, walking away from this mission is quite simply impossible to even think about and whilst I’m fully aware that our energy will inevitably deplete in line with both time and heartache – here and now, we still find ourselves wondering if the next obstacle is the one that takes us over threshold.

Reportedly; Walt Disney’s finance approval for DisneyLand was rejected 302 times; JK Rowling’s Harry Potter pitch was dismissed by 12 different publishers; Mohammed Ali failed every single one of his initial boxing assessments; Lady Gaga lost her first record deal; Anna Wintour was fired from Harper’s Bazaar; Colonel Sanders had his chicken recipe rejected 1009 times and it took Thomas Eddison over 10,000 attempts to invent the lightbulb.

Success is so rarely achieved in the first attempt, or even the first few, and I imagine each one of these people considered giving up every single day – they were probably encouraged to do so on a regular basis – but, remarkably, they didn’t. And of course I’m not going to (nor is it possible to) go through IVF 10,000 times but, hypothetically, if I did – that’s entirely my perogative.

A further story I would like to share here is about a woman who actually did give up on her dream. She trained from the age of 7 as a figure skater, coming very close to making the US Olympic Team on several occasions. Eventually, after years and years of dedication and hard work, she had no choice but to accept that she wasn’t ever going to realise her dream and called time on her ambition. She wondered if she would ever feel passionate about anything else ever again. But she did… Today, she is recognised as the world renowned fashion designer – Vera Wang.

Giving up isn’t giving up. It’s changing course.

Why don’t you use donor eggs, donor sperm or a surrogate?

If any of these options increased our odds for success, we wouldn’t hesitate to do so. As it stands, they do not.

Using donor sperm and/or a surrogate adds yet another series of obstacles to the process we’re currently in the midst of. We would still need to go through all the jabbing, pill popping and operations we’re already doing but alongside a third, not-that-easy-to-come-by volunteer. And although using donor eggs would remove the need for ~some~ of that treatment, finding a suitable donor in the first place offers it’s own challenges.

Surrogacy and donation are both areas I know fairly little about; but three women who do (and who are writing about their incredible journey’s) are listed below:

The Mother Project – Sophie Bersiner is an award winning columnist for The Times. Her experience with IVF and subsequent surrogacy in both the US and the UK is documented in heartbreaking detail in her weekly column @themotherproject

Defining Mum – Becky speaks extensively about premature ovarian failure, IVF and donor eggs on her blog @definingmum . After several rounds of IVF with her own eggs, she moved onto donor eggs and now has three beautiful daughters.

Mothering Solo – the @motheringsolo account follows one woman’s journey to IVF using a sperm donor – a process she is currently in the thick of and is recording on her Instagram page with all the twists and turns that come with it.


Why don’t you just chill out, go on holiday, quit your job, pay for this treatment, take this vitamin, see this person, follow this diet, try this position, pray harder, lose weight, drink less, sleep more and also just stop thinking about it?

Trust me, we’ve done it.

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