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Just a Delay - Fertility & Weight Stigma.

*** This is an emotive and powerful read it is a difficult read and mentions early pregnancy loss, fertility, mental - ill health, fat phobia, weight stigma and obesity bias and body shaming***

If these topics are difficult for you at this time please be gentle if you choose to read it. If you are able to read this I encourage you to, to hear the lived experience of the women that you may meet. This may help us to support them in a more compassionate way.

It is interesting to me that despite the fact that there is no upper body weight that on its own stops menstruation for a woman and yet menstruation can stop for many women who have a low body weight however when it comes to assisted fertility for women a larger body weight is such a focus point. The below Blog written by one of my clients covers this along with such more more. I want to thank her for her bravery, vulnerability & courage in sharing.

Infertility is one of those things that unless you have experienced it personally can be difficult to relate to or understand the toll it can take on every part of someone’s life.

For the next few minutes imagine your own personal holiday of a lifetime, that trip you have dreamt about since you were little. Finally, after years of fantasising and mentally planning every aspect of this journey, you are finally ready to go.

You get all your tickets together,

You pack your bags,

You start to feel yourself filling up with excitement.

So you set off to the airport. Once you get checked in you find yourself a window seat in the lounge and you wait for your flight to be called.

As you sit and wait you feel the excitement building and you find yourself daydreaming about just how amazing and life-changing this trip will be... you can almost feel the warm sun on your face as it reflects off the crystal clear waters. You take a break from your daydreaming to notice the countless passengers boarding their flights, their faces beaming with happiness for the journey of a lifetime they are about to start. Your smile mirrors their happiness.

You wait......

You wait some more...

You hear that your flight has been delayed...

So you wait... after all, you're not going to let a delay ruin your excitement, ruin your dreams.

Still feeling hopeful and excited you watch all the other holiday makers come and go and as you glance around the terminal, you realise you are the only one who isn’t moving, the only one with no flight to catch.

Your excitement begins to turn to anxiety. That feeling of hope sinks into the pit of your soul and turns to jealousy and disappointment.

You have been waiting for what feels like an eternity with no updates and no answers.

You begin to wonder if there ever was a chance of catching that flight.

Still, you wait.... because what choice do you have, I mean yes you could leave the airport, and start the journey back home, but you will be leaving behind your chance, your hope of happiness, your one chance to embark on that journey of a lifetime.

Infertility is a painful, lonely and isolating road to travel. It seeps into every crack and corner of your life until it takes over and you don’t even recognise who you are anymore, who you were before all of this.

Experiencing infertility in a larger body has often felt impossible and at times if I’m being honest ... un-survivable. For as long as I can remember I’ve been overweight. It feels like my whole life I’ve been on a journey of just trying to find something to like about myself, and sadly failing every time. I have always been quick to make a joke or a comment at my own expense because if I say those horrible things about myself I take that power away from anyone else who might say them about me.

I didn’t have the easiest of starts in experiencing relationships, I suffered heartbreaking rejection and years of emotional abuse. In my early 20s, I had to work through the deepest of darkest depressions.

Just when I thought I’d be alone forever I found someone who loved me for all my broken parts. Someone who thought my flaws were not flaws at all but that they were the things he loved about me. Through his eyes slowly I started to like myself. For the first time in years, I could look at the person in the mirror and love her for all she was and for everything we have been through together. Even when faced with pregnancy loss and infertility I didn’t hate myself I was able to love myself through it all.

Unfortunately, this feeling of self-love and acceptance can be short-lived and for me was very quickly snapped away from me in a consultant’s office. So I decided to write this blog post to show just how damaging weight stigma in our health care system can be.

My husband and I had only been trying for a few months when we lost our first pregnancy over 3 years ago and have not been able to get pregnant since. At every chance, at any appointment doctors would mention my weight, but with no other reason than to just mention it. My weight didn’t cause me to lose my baby, there was no reason to suggest that my weight causes my infertility.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive for over 3 years when we received our letter that it was our turn to be seen by NHS fertility. I was aware going into this appointment that the NHS had a BMI limit of 30 and that I did not meet that requirement.

However, I decided I wanted to attend, I felt like some advice or information about our infertility might be explained to us. We have both male and female factors in our infertility so I felt if we were even given advice on how to improve my husband’s results this would be a worthwhile trip. We were met by a female Consultant who swiftly ushered us into a dark office. The minute we set foot in that consultant's room I could feel the energy shift.

For the first few minutes, the doctor didn’t look directly at me and was just staring at the computer, she looked through the bare minimum of notes on us both and was more interested in how much I had paid for private appointments and procedures wasting no time in asking me for figures. She made no effort to explain my husband's recent test results and didn’t even take the time to look at them.

I could feel it coming from a mile away.

For the first time in this appointment and after about 7 minutes of looking at her computer screen she turned to look at me. She gave me a look like I’ve never had before - at least not from a professional.

Her eyes scanned my whole body slowly up and down.

She then said in a very cold, and almost mocking tone “obviously you know what you need to do” clearly indicating my weight. I could feel a ball of emotions welling up inside me but I kept telling myself not to let it show just hold on.

This doctor decided she didn’t need to take any official measurements or even send me for a quick trip to the scales of shame... no she didn’t need any tools at all as she proceeded to actually guess my weight just by looking at me.

I couldn’t quite believe this was happening, I was appalled ... but I felt powerless to speak up, after all, she was the doctor, the professional, what could I say to change what her mind had already made up about me.

It was hard for me to focus after she had so cruelly dismissed me. The appointment ended as quickly as it started with the doctor explaining we would be taken off the list, the only advice she offered to us was to “just have sex 3 times a week”

“WOW’, I remember thinking- we are 3 years deep in this infertility nightmare and you are telling me to try having sex 3 times a week... I didn’t know I needed to do that!!

Because of my weight she had not only decided that I wasn’t worth her time but she had also dismissed my husband and all his worries about his own test results.

Of all the dark and disappointing places I have been in my life, this is the one that hurt the most. Fat never hurt me..I never let that word have any power in my life. This time though she was telling me I was too fat to be a mum, too fat to make my husband a dad, too fat to be worthy of her time.

I managed to make it to the car before breaking down, I cried the whole way home and truth be told any time I think of this event I cry again.

I cry for the opportunity denied to me, I cry because I feel I am a disappointment... but most of all I cry for the girl who had just started to love herself, just started to see how amazing and strong she can be.

She disappeared after that, and that little girl who hated herself for being fat was back hiding in her corner hoping no one could see her.

You see I’m writing this for that little girl who has survived so much and will continue to survive because she is strong and she is worthy.

I’m writing this for every woman who has ever been objectified or made to feel unworthy because of their body size. You have the right to demand better! We have the right to demand better. All we are asking for isn’t much- quite simply an unbiased and fair approach to our healthcare.

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