Drawing the Line: When IVF doesn’t work

First Drawing the Line

  • What do you do when IVF doesn’t work?
  • How do you decide when to stop?
  • And how do you come to terms with life afterwards?

Drawing the LineThese are the questions I discussed with Charlotte Smith when she and Anne-Marie Bullock the Producer of the BBC Radio 4 Programme Drawing the Line: When IVF doesn’t work, came to my house to record my contribution.

When I agreed to be interviewed I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

The media generally give the impression that IVF is straightforward, and this programme gives the real view, it shows through real, hard hitting examples just how hard it is both physically and mentally. The programme is thoughtful and sensitive and you couldn’t fail but to be moved by it.

I feel that it should be listened to by all women going through IVF, well all women probably because it’s only by listening to this that they’ll understand what we’ve been through. So if your family or friends are having difficulty understanding your experience, send them this link, then they will.

Next Woman’s Hour!

Woman's Hour I was delighted that Woman’s Hour picked up the topic and my husband, Roger and I recorded an interview with Jenni Murray. In it we spoke about how we came to terms with our life afterwards, including how helpful being a member of MTL has been to us.

You can listen to Woman’s Hour below (we’re 8.30 minutes in) & here we are in the recording studio (cupboard!).

I hoped that speaking out would make a difference, that it would help some people and it appears that it has. Here’s a small selection of the comments I’ve received.

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Last night spent the evening with one of my oldest friends who had listened to your interview.
Finally. After all these years we were able to have a frank discussion about our treatment and coming to terms with finishing. Even though we had talked at length before this was the first time I think she really had some understanding of what we went through financially and emotionally and how important you all are and MTL. Thank you😘

Thank you both for saying “we healed with them together”

I know that what you have said will make a huge difference to the people who listened whether or not they have been blessed with children.

You both came across extremely well and it is a very difficult subject to discuss privately even with friends let alone to the ‘World’. As you’ve both discovered there is more to life than children, I have always thought you were a very strong couple, and you’ve got through the dark side and are getting on with your lives doing what you both and want to do which is brilliant.

Great interview with you both and very brave of you both to talk about this sensitive issue. Huge respect to you both and a wonderful example and hope to other people who are going through or have gone through the same issues.

It’s so good to see the other side of IVF highlighted. I found it surprisingly difficult to listen to even though I’m very happily out the other side – and I’m so proud of what you do to support others.

Your positive ways of dealing with life’s set-backs are an inspiration! It shows how you can influence the world by ways other than genetics!

Brilliant! I was so glad to hear you sharing that life after childlessness can be happy & fulfilling – it’s so rarely heard

We’re proud to be amongst the friends to whom you referred and great to hear a man on Woman’s Hour! [/dropshadowbox]

And then the Woman’s Hour phone in

On Monday 1st June Woman’s hour had a phone in which you can listen to below. I thought it was helpful but maybe had too many happy endings.

My thoughts

I was honoured to be chosen to contribute to both programmes and I’m pleased that they showed a more realistic view of what it’s like to go though IVF.

Too often the media gives the impression that you can go and have IVF and all will be well, but as you know it’s not always like that. And it was good to be able to demonstrate that being childless can be Okay.

In my view the phone in had too many ‘never give up’ callers, but overall the BBC should be congratulated for realistic programme making and starting to break the taboo around talking about infertility and the reality of IVF success rates.

And finally

I know how hard it is to go through IVF; and I am pleased to have had this opportunity to explain to the world that:

  • Time will only heal you so much – you need to take positive action to heal your grief and sadness.
  • It is hard to do this on your own – working with someone who has been where you are and knows the way out makes the journey so much easier.

And most of all, you can have a positive life. You don’t have to hide, and if you take action to find support you can become the beautiful butterfly that’s inside you.

In both programmes I said that childlessness has proved to be my biggest gift because without it I wouldn’t be enjoying the wonderful life that I now have.

If I can say that, you can too.

Here’s what others thought

Pamela Tsigdinos the author of Silent Sorority and Finally Heard wrote an excellent blog on this topic and there’s a really interesting debate in the comment. You can read the blog here.

Bionews reviewed the series of programmes, you can read what they say here.

What did you think?

If you listened, what are your thoughts on the programmes? I’d love to hear below.

The work I’ve done means that I can say that I have have a positive life.  If you want to say that but it’s too hard right now, how about booking a complimentary session via my online diary and spend 20 to 30 minutes getting clarity on how we can work together to create a life you love.

This is what the BBC says about Drawing the Line. ‘Around 50,000 women go for IVF treatment in a year. For them and their partners it offers the hope of having a baby where natural means have failed. But, on average, only 25% of cycles result in a live birth. So what happens to the couples and individuals in the other 75% of cases that haven’t worked?

With many fertility treatments now on offer and statistics on clinics’ success rates available, couples often feel they should try everything possible to increase their chances of having a baby. Yet when IVF keeps failing, the cost and sense of grief with each cycle can be overwhelming. But, how do you choose to stop when, in theory, the next cycle could result in that long-dreamed of baby?

The world of IVF has been called ‘a market in hope’ by Lisa Jardine, ex-chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, who says extensive media coverage of the successes makes us believe it’s possible for everyone – but in reality people should be informed of its potential to deliver grief and a sense of failure as well as success.

Charlotte Smith talks to those who’ve experienced repeated IVF failure, and asks them at what point they made the decision to say ‘enough is enough’ and how that impacted on their lives and relationships.’  Presented by Charlotte Smith. Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.

15 thoughts on “Drawing the Line: When IVF doesn’t work”

  1. Well done, Lesley and Roger, for sharing your positive story on radio 4! You are role models on how to deal with life’s set-backs and are doing valuable work in giving support and information which, until recently, has rarely been available. I think you’re going to help the next generation, who, I hope, will be better informed about fertility issues. (I speak as a mum who was lucky to conceive through IVF.)

    • Thanks Pamela, I appreciate your comments & I hope too that the next generation will be better informed than we were.

    • Thanks Loribeth, as you know increasing awareness is a step by step process and I hope that last week we took a few steps forward.
      Thanks to you too for all you do to raise awareness and provide support.

  2. Great interviews, Lesley (and Roger too of course). It’s so good to hear intelligent, thoughtful interviews with intelligent, thoughtful people about these subjects. So refreshing that the articles didn’t resort to cliches and stereotypes, but really sought to learn what it was like, and addressed the realities of failure around IVF.

    Well … except for all those people who rang or texted in to say “never give up.” I just rolled my eyes at them!
    Mali recently posted…#MicroblogMondays: Blog posts I won’t be writingMy Profile

    • Thanks Mali, I agree there were too many ‘never give up’ callers on the phone lines.
      It’s so sad to see people focused completely on having children and believing that there is no other life. Because, as we both know (and the other programmes presented) it is possible to have a great life without children.
      They need to read Tracey Cleantis’ book ‘The Next Happy’https://lesleypyne.co.uk/the-next-happy-interview-tracey-cleantis/

  3. Well done Lesley and Roger! What an achievement to be feature on not one but two Radio 4 programmes on the same day. If we wind back to the first time we met, very shyly on my part, over email in 2002, who would ever have believed that in 2015 I would be sitting in the shade of the African sunshine listening to two of my closest friends being interviewed on the radio. We would have laughed until we cried at the stupidity of the idea. At that time we were barely able to talk about our experiences to each other it was too painful. How times have changed for us.
    Kate Brian thought that Lesley was “quite an inspiration”. I disagree, you are a huge inspiration to those of us who know you well and those who you are now starting to work with.
    Jenni Murray was a little taken aback by Roger’s comment that he sees himself as an “evoluntionary dead end”. I laughed out loud at this as I understand your ironic sense of humour but also because you have hit the nail on the head. The legacy we leave to the world is not through passing on our genes but we do all leave a legacy in the changes we have made to the world.
    Well done and thank you for sharing your story so honestly and openly.

    • Thanks so much for your lovely comments Louise.
      How times have changed indeed and thank you so much for your continued support.

  4. Great job on the interview, Lesley. Given the lack of verbal and social construct that exists for this topic, anyone who is able to speak clearly on it deserves extra pats on the back for sure!

    Though I agree there were an excess amount of “happy” ending stories in the call in portion, I will say that it was at least good to hear almost no one (or was it no one?), whatever their result, downplaying the physical and emotional trauma if IVF. When I tell people in the outside world I went through one surgery and ten failed fertility treatments, it’s as if I told them I went to the beach and picked my nose. It was actually nice to hear people talking of IVF’s atrocities for a change (and I’m not one to insist focusing on the positive, either)!

    • Thanks Sarah,
      You’re absolutely right, in terms of showing how hard it is to go through IVF these programmes were a game changer so thanks to the BBC for that.


  5. Great job, Lesley and Roger, I listened to your motivated sharing on radio 4. You inspired me a lot to tackle all the hard rocks in my life. I think you can do more than that


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