Last month, it was reported that the arbitrary ten-year legal time limit for freezing eggs might be extended by the government. It comes at a time when conversations around women’s fertility are finally being frankly discussed in the open. High-profile people like actor Amy Schumer and podcaster Elizabath Day have recently shared their IVF journeys with fans, exposing the tough but hopeful realities. And shows like Deadwater Fell and I Am Hannah have explored the issue in mainstream television. This is essential because there really should not be any stigma around IVF, especially when the number of women freezing their eggs is at a record high and IVF treatment cycles increased by 39% between 2014 – 2016.
That’s what makes the speech read out in parliament by Pontypridd Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones on Thursday 6 March so important. Delivering her personal message to mark International Women’s Day, Davies-Jones discussed her own “extremely tough” pregnancy journey, before telling other women “you are not alone”.
Here’s what she read out in full:
“The primary inspiration for my comments around International Women’s Day come from a very important man in my life: my son, [Sullivan]. Sully will be celebrating his first birthday in just a few short weeks and I’m thrilled to be spending this International Women’s Day with him by my side.
“I’m sure I will face some stern opposition from the members when I say Sully really is the most precious child in the world. Before I’m hit with comments from aggrieved parents everywhere: like many people before us, my husband and I knew that the road to pregnancy would be an extremely tough one. "
“Yet, in the grand scheme of things, we were very, very lucky. After just one round of IVF, and against all the odds, my only surviving embryo, my one in a million, arrived. Sadly, he was quickly whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit where he spent the first two weeks of his life. I can hand-on-heart say that they truly were the most difficult weeks of my life and I wouldn’t wish the anxiety and sheer dread on anyone.
“My fertility story has a happy ending, but I know for many this isn’t the case. At the end of this month, I’ll also be spending my first proper Mother’s Day with Sully. Traditionally, this is a day for the past few years that has filled me with sadness and emptiness.
“Seeing the joy of so many faces on social media, of mams up and down the country celebrating their children has always pulled a part of me that has been desperate for a child, while always knowing that without help I wouldn’t be able to have one. "
“This International Women’s Day, I want to shout out to every woman who has looked at a celebratory pregnancy social media announcement. To every woman who has walked past a glowing bump in the street. To every woman who has been asked: ‘When are you having children?’ To every woman who has sympathetically listened to a friend moan [about] how tired she is after looking after her children, always suppressing the mixed emotions of envy, sadness and self-loathing.
“I want to say to these women that you are not alone. Sometimes, as a woman struggling with fertility issues, you feel like a complete failure. You can’t talk about it with mams without seeming bitter. Without having stigma surrounding you, that your body has let you down, and has prevented you from becoming the mother you always dreamed of being, but know potentially you can never be.”
Fellow Labour MP Dianna Johnson shared the speech on Twitter, writing alongside it: “In the #InternationalWomensDay2020 Debate in Parliament @AlexDaviesJones made the most powerful, passionate and deeply personal speech about the choices women make in having a child or choosing not to have a child. A fantastic MP and great addition to the Parliamentary @UKLabour.”
Jess Phillips agreed, adding: “She certainly did, it was very moving about how women’s bodies and our fertility are used to make us feel constantly unworthy or guilty. @AlexDaviesJones is an absolute asset, a great MP and a great mom.”
There are many things for women to celebrate on International Women’s Day (and everyday in between), and this just proves how important it is to support and celebrate each other.