‘Mother’s Day is so hard for those who can’t have children’

Anya Sizer

Anya Sizer - Credit: Archant

For women struggling to have children, Mother’s Day can be very painful. Anya Sizer lives in Stoke Newington and runs a support group for those struggling to come to terms with infertility.

Anya Sizer and her family

Anya Sizer and her family - Credit: Archant

She was told 15 years ago she and her husband had just a one-in-25,000 chance of having a baby.

Which makes it nothing short of incredible that she beat the odds and conceived two children through IVF, before adopting another child.

Anya went on to write a book about her struggle, Fertile Thinking, which is a self-help guide for coping with infertility.

Today, she clearly remembers the heartbreak she went through during that period.

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“We had talked about being parents all our lives,” she says. “When we got together we assumed it would be a natural thing, so the process of not being able to was one the hardest things we’ve been through as a couple.”

The 41-year-old lives in Stoke Newington with husband Rob and children Hope, 13, Barney, nine, and Thomas, four,

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“It tested our sense of self worth, our marriage and our friendships,” she admits.

“Everything felt very shaken by this inability to conceive naturally.

“Then there was a real sadness at having to go down an IVF route, and the finances involved too.

“I felt very jealous of people able to conceive naturally. I withdrew. I found it hard to be around friends who were having children easily.

“In fact, a lot of friends tried to reach out and help but I was unable to even look at babies or be around them very long. I found myself withdrawing, rightly or wrongly. It was just a coping mechanism.”

Anya now runs a support group for women suffering from infertility at the London Women’s Clinic in Harley Street, and often witnesses how losing the dream of having a child triggers a grieving process, depression and frustration.

“It’s different from other grieving processes,” she says, “in that it’s relentless.

“It can go on for years and years – you go through one treatment cycle and you then have a huge crash if it doesn’t work.

“It’s very demoralising and upsetting but you somehow have to find the strength to go through other cycles.

“It’s the uncertainty and having to walk that fine line between hopefulness and disappointment.”

Anya believes Mothers Day is the toughest day of the year for many of her clients.

“It’ll be a day that triggers loads of people in Hackney currently going through IVF or the adoption process, or those who have come to the end of their journey trying to be parents,” she says.

“Any specific date in the calendar can have connotations, whether it’s your birthday and another year passing, or Christmas when everyone is with their families – but with Mother’s Day it can feel very much like you are on your own and you are different from other people, and that can add to the isolation.

“I don’t go crazy about it now, because I remember what it feels like to go through that.”

She recommends women acknowledge it will be a tough day, and that they do everything possible to support themselves way through it and plug into the community for support.

Anya is currently co-producing a play about a couple’s journey through IVF.

The Quiet House is written by award-winner Gareth Farr and produced by his wife Gabby, who met Anya while they were undergoing IVF before conceiving twins.

Anya, who also helped write the play, adds: “The play is honestly one of the most moving pieces of theatre I have seen.

“One of the things we are going to explore is childlessness. The play leads on a question mark rather than being a nicely tied up thing.”

The Quiet House opens in Birmingham in June before moving to the Park Theatre in London, when there will be an adjoining fertility festival in the theatre on June 11 – the first in the UK to explore the emotional impact of trying for a family through adoption, surrogacy and IVF. See parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-quiet-house.

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