Last month I volunteered at Fertility Fest - the world’s first art festival dedicated to fertility, infertility, modern families and the science of making babies. The London 2018 festival took place at The Bush Theatre London from 8-13 May with 40 events over 6 days with 200 artists and fertility experts - this trailer gives just a snippet of the wonderfully diverse programme:
I'd attended the inaugural Fertility Fest in 2016 - quite memorably, just 48h after egg collection for our third IVF cycle (so not only was I so bloated that I resembled a spacehopper, but I also spent the morning sessions semi-watching my phone like a bomb detonator, nervously waiting for THE CALL from the embryology lab with the Day 2 update).
It was a truly amazing day. I laughed, I cried - but most of all, I felt like I was with my tribe. With people who just got it.
I knew that this event was something very special, very important, and very, very needed.
So I was delighted when the wonderful co-founder & organiser, Jessica Hepburn contacted me to ask if I was interested in helping out at this year's Fertility Fest.
Hope and hopelessness
In the 2 years since the previous event, I had very sadly reached the end of the road with my own infertility journey - with Drs on both sides of the Atlantic having told us that we had exhausted all our options, and that we had to accept that my womb was not capable of sustaining a pregnancy.
Last time I'd been in a position of desperation and hope; hoping with every fibre of my being that one of those embryos would go the distance, and that we would have a much-longed for baby. This time I was in a state of resignation and hopelessness; coming to terms with saying out loud 'We can't have children'.
Last time, I was only a third-division barren - 3 cycles and 1 miscarriage wasn't that much, after all. Definitely amateur status. This time I was a top-flight pro, Premier League, elite squad professional barren. Unequivocally über barren.
And I felt very, very alone.
Solidarity & community
Taking part in Fertility Fest 2018 wasn't just interesting, informative, or inspiring. It was the opportunity to be amongst my people. Where I felt like I was part of something much bigger than me. Where I felt less alone.
Because I wasn't alone.
There were so, so many women (and men) who felt the same. We all have different stories and different experiences, but we felt an incredibly sense of solidarity with one another.
These are just a handful of the comments left by some of those who attended the event:
Über Barrens Club
This is what Über Barrens Club means to me - it's not a specific forum or group, it's the wider community of people who get it. People who can empathise with what it's really like to be excluded from the parents' club, peering in from the outside, desperately wanting to join in. People who you can be open with - who acknowledge that it's really really shit, really really gruelling, and really really unfair.
You don't want anyone else to have to become a member of Über Barrens Club. But it means the world when you can speak to other members of the club no one wants to join.
That's what I take away from my experience of Fertility Fest.
And that's why I'm trying to write this book.
And if you're also a member of Über Barrens Club, I'd love it if you'd consider sharing your story too.