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By Kerrie Patterson

The internal agony 

As Christmas draws closer, many people will be focusing on precious time with their family. For some, however, Christmas is a painful reminder of the desperately wanted family they don’t have. With many couples now choosing to start a family later, or struggling with fertility issues, this can be the painful reality they face.

So how does it feel when you’re struggling to conceive? Pretty awful, to be honest. I know, I’ve been there, as have many of my friends and family. That gut-wrenching feeling each month when you realise that yet again, you’re not pregnant.

That quiet, internal agony when couples around you announce their exciting baby news.

You want to be happy for them, and actually, you are. You just wish it was you.

The effect on mental wellbeing

Thankfully, this is starting to be talked about much more – and so it should be. The effect on a person’s mental health, never mind the relationship difficulties it can bring, should never be underestimated. The feelings of frustration, worthlessness and guilt can be all-consuming. Add to that depression and anxiety, and you should be starting to get a picture. Sometimes just acknowledging this and realising that it’s normal can help.

So what can we do to help ourselves and others in this situation?

Talk, talk and talk some more. If people know what you’re going through, they can help. There are many forums out there with people experiencing the same difficulties, so don’t be afraid to use these. Remember that you’re not alone.

Dreading family gatherings for insensitive questions?

If you’re dreading the ‘baby’ question at your Christmas party or family gathering, please don’t. Be prepared for this and have a stock answer ready. A simple ‘no, we’re not thinking about a family yet’ should suffice. Or if you really want to floor someone, be honest and reply ‘actually we’re having difficulty conceiving’. If you’re in the fortunate position of having a family, please let’s be sensitive and avoid the baby question altogether. Remember, this is a difficulty which can be experienced by anyone.

Access support

Fertility Network UK is a national charity which provides support to anyone who is or has suffered fertility problems, including the involuntary childless community. It hosts events and forums and also provides a support phone line and online support. Find out more about the Newcastle-based arm of the charity here: https://fertilitynetworkuk.org/events/newcastle-fertility-group/ or email: newcastle@fertilitynetworkuk.org 

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