To coincide with ‘National Fertility Awareness Week’, 2-8 November, a new play will highlight the emotional impact of being unable to conceive – something which now affects one in six couples.
The Empty Frame is being performed at the Mumford Theatre by PSYCHEdelight, based on the writer’s professional experience in a fertility clinic. Using music, drama and visual poetry, it draws the audience into a waiting room, where a couple nervously await their results.
Locally-based Bourn Hall Clinic is supporting the play. Says independent counsellor Jackie Stewart, who supports Bourn Hall patients: “Individuals who learn they are infertile often experience the distressing emotions common to those who experience any significant loss — including shock, grief, depression as well as loss of self-esteem and a sense of lack of control over their destiny.
“In my experience, a huge amount of people also feel a sense of guilt and shame – for something that they feel they ‘should’ be able to do easily and naturally. “The pressure on the couple is huge, unlike other traumas they might experience; they are often unable to support their partner as they are only just able to keep their own head above water.”
Jackie continues “Infertility is an intrinsically private matter, this means that a person can be very isolated. Coping strategies can lift the pressure immensely. Grief in infertility can take a person by surprise, there is nothing concrete to grieve, people around them don’t understand and there is a subtle pressure to get on with things. Having their feelings validated can be the starting point of the grieving process.
“By offering unlimited counselling patients are not put under pressure and are able to work through the grieving process, including denial, anger, depression and finally acceptance.”
The Empty Frame is at the Mumford Theatre, 7 November, 7.30pm. A Q&A follows the performance. Tickets are £12.50 (£10 concessions, £8.50 students).