By Rob Stewart
A journalist has started a diary that will chart her attempts to have a baby in her third course of fertility treatment and its emotional impact.
Ralph: media’s responsibility
Over a nine-week period, Anna Ralph, a feature writer with The Journal, Newcastle, will share her thoughts with readers in a weekly column called “Testing Times: the diary of an IVF couple”.
“When I think about what lies ahead for us – all the drugs, all the mood swings, the hopelessness of it all, I just want to cry,” Ralph wrote.
“I want to lock out the world and hide until it makes sense.”
Ralph admitted that her and husband David’s two unsuccessful attempts at IVF treatment were “heart-breakingly, mind-numbingly awful” but said that would not deter them “searching for that elusive joy – the ‘take-home baby'”.
“Today marks the start of our third IVF treatment and to be honest with you, I’m really dreading it this time,” Ralph added. “We know what the terrible pain feels like, the grief-stricken moment when the doctor tells us my pregnancy test is negative. After nine weeks of hope, struggle and side-effects there’s nothing to show for it.
“We’re just ordinary people pursuing our dreams and trying to hold on to each other in the process which, while coloured with anger, guilt and frustration, is also a lesson in love, trust and forgiveness.”
IVF treatment has an average success rate of about 20 per cent. Most couples have three cycles costing an average of £3,420.
She said: “Everyone knows someone who can’t have a child and yet I doubt you’ve ever really thought about what that means for the friend, the brother, sister or colleague. Maybe this is an attempt to tell you, to fill in the gaps, to show you that IVF is as comic as it is sad and as ironic as it is clever.”
Ralph told Press Gazette: “The fertility industry is on the brink of a new era, a time when we are beginning to see what can go wrong as well as what is possible. More than ever before, it is swamped with ethical and moral dilemmas. Who should be treated? How old is old? How far is too far?
“To answer these questions, society needs to get to grips with what it means to be childless. This can only be achieved if people like myself rise above the stigma and misunderstandings so often attached to those who can’t conceive naturally.
“The media in general has a responsibility too. With so much happening – cloning, designer babies, stem cell research – we have a duty to write more than the ‘miracle baby thanks to IVF’ story and take part in the debate.”