The Conversation - Big Fat Negative Podcast
Journalists, podcast heroes and friends, Emma and Gabriella, are empowering women who are experiencing fertility struggles. Putting their combined infertility experiences towards breaking the taboo around the difficult journey to motherhood. We caught up with the pair and quizzed them all about their podcast, Big Fat Negative, and the light at the end of their IVF journeys.
Congratulations to you both! Emma on your new baby and Gabby on your pregnancy. How are you both feeling?
GG: I’m fast approaching my third trimester now and feeling pretty good! I’ve definitely started to pop out, which I love. I was complaining about not looking particularly pregnant before but now it’s fairly obvious. Finally, I can wear all the maternity gear I bought when I first found out I was pregnant! I’m also really enjoying feeling the baby move more and more. It’s such a treat. I definitely feel I’ve had an easy pregnancy now that it has finally happened.
EF: My little girl, Noah, is now almost four weeks old and man am I feeling it! It’s so tempting for new parents to complain about lack of sleep, cracked nipples, not having had a shower for several weeks - but having started trying for a baby almost four years ago, I’m painfully aware of what a wonderful position I am in. That doesn’t mean I’m not sleep deprived - it just means I feel very lucky that I am (although ask again at three o’clock tomorrow morning and I might give you a different answer…).
How and why did you start the Big Fat Negative Podcast?
GG: Emma and I have been friends for years, we used to work together as business journalists. Emma was already in the IVF process when I started trying for a baby – she mentioned she was thinking about creating a podcast about it – which I thought was a great idea. A year later, when I still hadn’t conceived, we said let’s do that podcast together and BFN was born. Luckily Emma had produced and hosted one before at City AM newspaper, so she was well-versed in how to get it off the ground. We started it as a way to explore what we were going through and get it off our chests – a bit like therapy. But happily, it has helped many more people now, which is the best possible outcome.
You have had some amazing guests/experts on your podcast, who has been your favourite and why?
GG: We have had so many different guests on, all brilliant in their own ways, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. We love them all! As well as speaking to experts, it’s important for us to tell as many different stories as possible – from women going it alone, to the unique experience of certain ethnicities and faiths, the male point of view, adoption, egg donation – you name it.
EF: I tend to enjoy the ‘real life’ stories the most. The women and men who have appeared on our show and shared very personal, very intimate stories of loss and grief with our listeners are extraordinarily brave, and those conversations are unfailingly emotional.
Why do you think it’s important to break the taboo and
talk openly about infertility?
GG: When you’re struggling to conceive it can feel like you’re the only person in the world going through it – social media is a tsunami of pregnancy announcements, baby showers, first day at school pics etc.
It can feel very isolating. But the reality is that one in six couples will struggle and it’s almost certain that whatever emotions you’re going through or weird thoughts you’re having – someone else is having them too. By talking about it we can feel less alone and by sharing stories (even laughing about them) we can start to take back a bit of control.
EF: It’s worth pointing out that sharing your story is your choice. Some people feel uncomfortable discussing their infertility ‘journey’ (our least favourite word - but we have yet to find a decent replacement…) with others. But that’s ok - that’s what we’re here for!
How do you think the BFN Podcast has helped to change
the connotations surrounding infertility?
GG: It’s a fairly dark subject and a painful thing to go through. We try to bring some humour to the table and put a smile on people’s faces. Seeing the funny side of things helps you to deal with them. That’s certainly how we have felt. We really hope that by telling as many stories as possible, including our own, that people have felt less ashamed and more able to open up about what’s happening to them – at least with others in the community. There is a large and supportive group of people in the same boat and often connecting with them can open you up to friendship, advice and support.
Could you give us a brief overview of your struggles with infertility and what you’ve learnt from the experience?
EF: When I was 10, I had undiagnosed appendicitis. In the end, my appendix burst, causing an infection in my abdomen called peritonitis. Almost two decades later we discovered it had gunked up (technical term) my fallopian tubes. On top of that, my husband has a chromosomal disorder which means our chances of conceiving a child with Down’s Syndrome is much higher. En route to Noah we tried three rounds of a fertility drug called Clomid, which didn’t work, and then we moved on to IVF. After an egg collection and genetic testing, we ended up with five embryos, and transferred our first in November 2017, which didn’t work. I then had three more failed attempts at transferring an embryo, before the embryo that became Noah was transferred in November 2018, when I saw my first ever positive pregnancy test! All in all, from when I started trying to conceive to Noah’s birth, the process took just under four years. All I’ve learnt is that life can be randomly cruel when it wants to be! But also, that you don’t have to go through this alone: a community of the most amazing, strong women exists to support those going through this - it was a revelation when I discovered it.
GG: My husband and I were trying for a year before we went to see a doctor. We were trapped in a monthly cycle of boundless hope followed by bitter disappointment. It was incredibly hard and felt like the people around us didn’t really understand. We got the classic response – “just relax and it’ll happen” so many times it drove us mad. Following some tests, it transpired that a bout of mumps in his early twenties had left my husband with some dodgy sperm. We were eventually referred for IVF, but plenty of experts insisted that natural conception wasn’t impossible, so we kept trying (and hoping) while we went through the prep for IVF. The old natural route never did work but we were surprised and delighted to find that our first round of IVF did. I’m currently pregnant with our little boy. I’ve learned a lot about compassion and to never ever ask anyone when they plan to start a family or whether they want a second child – you just never know what someone is going through.
How (if at all) do you think this has affected your work with your podcast?
GG: We have used the podcast to tell our individual infertility/IVF stories – we have shared every minute detail, as well as speak to other people about their stories. Using the platform to tell our stories really helped us to process what was happening. I personally went from crying regularly about my situation to laughing about it with a great friend (and our audience). It made me feel empowered rather than hopeless.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to someone experiencing infertility?
Firstly, you’re not alone. And if you want to find people going through the same thing, they are there to be found. There is a huge community on Instagram, just search hashtags such as #TTCcommunity, #IVFjourney and our personal favourite, #InfertilitySucks. There are also private groups on Facebook that you can join. Secondly, I’d say find a way to get your story out. Whether that’s writing a diary, talking to a friend or starting a blog – getting it all out helps to not only process what’s happening but gives you ownership over it.
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