“Just relax,” they say. Who? Oh, you know, those really relaxing people in your life. Like your dentist. Or your gynaecologist. Or maybe your acupuncturist. Y’know, the ones wielding drills, fertility and needles.
Research continues to suggest that stress is the enemy of fertility; continues to reinforce this incredibly unhelpful refrain. Because there are few things in life more stressful than trying to get pregnant when – month after month, cycle after cycle – it doesn’t happen. In what known universe is ‘just relax’ going to soothe a terrified woman on her sixth cycle of IVF? Sure, tell us to do the yoga, see the shrink, practice the breathing in the hope that we can disconnect our reproductive organs from our sad and stressed brains. But ‘Just relax’? Come on. The idea that we should quietly remain in the home until our ovaries do their job is an appalling, unrealistic and largely unaffordable anachronism.
And that phrase gets used as a kind of chiding chant; an indication of our inadequacy. “This would be so much easier if you would just relax,” said a doctor while trying to give me a cervical sweep (deeply unpleasant) when I was midway through what turned out to be a three-day long failed induction. “If you can’t cope with this,” he continued soothingly, “how will you cope when it comes to pushing out the baby?” That’s relaxing you utter bastard. That little speech has made all the difference. Help yourself to my tranquil cervix while I drift away with the fairies.
What about we replace “Just relax” with, “I know you may feel tense and scared. And that’s OK. I will do my very best for you.” What about that?