The Kindness of Strangers

by | 16 Mar 2014

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that two weeks ago I revealed I’d agreed to do a feature on my IVF story in the Daily Mail. Well, I was right in my prediction of the headline: ‘Addicted to IVF’. But, oh dear, I wasn’t prepared for what came underneath: ‘Jessica’s craving for a baby cost her £50,000, drove her to the brink of insanity – and very nearly killed her’.

Yet, I can’t say it’s not true. We are still paying off our IVF debt (and will be for many years to come). I am a little mad (but then all the best people are). And I did get rushed into hospital to have my ectopic pregnancy removed from my stomach (don’t ask me how it got there).

Frankly though even more mortifying than the headline were my legs in the photograph. I’d been told to wear a dress to the photoshoot but nobody said that I couldn’t wear my black tights. So, I actually had to get my legs out which, let me tell you, was probably the first time in a decade.

And on the subject of ignominy, I confess that although I wrote in my blog that I  mustn’t look at the online comments: of course I did. The first one read ‘I want a baby kinda sums her up!’ and I watched in horrified fascination as hundreds of people clicked the arrows ‘up’ or ‘down’ to say whether they agreed or disagreed. By the end of the day the commenting community had passed judgement and decided that there was, in fact, more to me than wanting a baby which I sincerely hope is the right answer.

But I must say that although there were some catty comments, the one that got by far the biggest positive response was truly compassionate. Posted by someone in Dublin, it read: I don’t think unless you’ve had the heartache of infertility you can truly comprehend how it cripples you. There’ll be those who post who say having a baby isn’t a ‘right’ but part of you feels like you’ve failed as a woman, not being able to do something that is so easily achieved by others.’ 884 upward arrows and counting.

Added to this were all the messages of advice and support from people who emailed my website from all over the world. When I woke up at six in the morning and opened my lap top they had already started to come in. From the healing powers of the Peruvian Maca root to Carol Vordeman’s detox diet, I was flooded with words of encouragement and inspiration. It just goes to show that life constantly confounds you. In all the things I thought and said about doing that Daily Mail article, I had never imagined for a moment that it would bring me such kindness from strangers.

So this week’s question comes with all my thanks: when did you last receive the kindness of a stranger?


  1. kiftsgate

    I thought you looked great in the picture! Legs included! I can’t even imagine what it must be like to open up so much and then face comments from all over. You have all my admiration for it! I’m glad you got kind comments, you deserve them!
    As for kindness from stranger, a couple of days ago a man offered to carry my suitcase in the metro. Simple gesture that is nevertheless very rare these days. And I even got a smile with it!

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Ah, you are very kind! I have to say if you’d told me a few years ago I’d be doing this, I WOULD NOT HAVE BELIEVED IT. But it’s kind of liberating. Pow, infertility. Pow pow pow. Jessica x And ps. good old fashioned suitcase carrying chivalry will never be dead.

  2. Dee Armstrong

    You are ‘daring greatly’ as Brene Brown would say – revealing your vulnerability for not just loved ones to see but the whole world, which is beyond brave really and will have helped so many women in the same situation. Bravo!

    (I had a very, very old gentleman come up to me on the bus one afternoon recently and tell me that the way the sun was shining on my red hair made me look beautiful and that it had made his day! I was so taken aback but said that he’d made mine by saying so … and then I flirted with him all the way to his destination.)

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Wow! What a lovely story. Has brought a big Sunday night smile to my face! Jessica x

  3. A Calm Persistence

    I’m so thankful that you had such support from strangers, although a few uneducated jerks interfered with that a bit. I can’t imagine what it would be like to put yourself out there like that. You are so incredibility brave and I thank you for giving IF a voice. Btw~ You look great in that picture! Legs too 🙂

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Thank you so much. My legs are starting to feel brave too. If people keep saying nice things about them, they’ll want to come out this summer. And that is definitely not happening! I’m pleased to say that uneducated jerks definitely seem to be in the minority but maybe that’s because more and more people are starting to realise what a massive issue this is. Jessica x

      • A Calm Persistence

        I’m so glad to hear that they are in the minority. I often read those negative comments on various articles and they feel so personal to me. I also wanted to tell you that I downloaded your book today. I look forward to reading it! 🙂

        • thepursuitofmotherhood

          Thank you! I’d love to know what you think when you have. I hope you like it. Jessica x

  4. Joanna Norland

    Recent act of kindness from a stranger — A busy author/theatre maker offered to meet up to discuss where I’m going with my playwriting, thereby inspiring a burst of sustained productivity that I haven’t enjoyed in years 🙂 . Good reminder, though, to try and practice daily acts of kindness–even if it’s just taking time to write a nice comment on YouTube if I’ve enjoyed someone’s music, or doubling the contribution I would otherwise make to a kid raising funds for a charity walk, so as to help foster their sense of the difference they can make in the world. Congrats on the brave Daily Mail article — I thought the picture looked great. bring on summer…

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      I write this smiling – I am very much looking forward to our meet up! Meanwhile, let’s both keep channelling Tennessee Williams and hope summer’s on its way indeed. Jessica x

  5. Lesley Pyne

    Great blog and excellent article Jessica. I’m so glad that the positive comments outweigh the negative and it just goes to show how far we have to go to educate others.
    When we stand up in the arena there are bound to be people who will try to knock us down (especially if they can do it anonymously). I too love Brene Brown & aim to work to this quote she mentions. so if you’re not in the arena, then I’m not taking on board your feedback.
    So take heart from speaking for and to so many people who are struggling.
    I thank you so much for standing tall & by doing so you’re making us all a bit braver.
    Lesley x

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Lesley, thank you for such amazing words. I’ve just read that quote – which I’d never seen before – and it so moving and emboldening and brilliant. I feel it’s going to become a mantra. I definitely do feel at times that I’m stumbling through this but as well as the kindness of strangers I’ve also been so touched by the generosity and support of people like yourself who have paved the way. We must keep on paving there’s still so much work to do! Jessica x

  6. Gemma white

    I loved your story ! I hate it when people are so opinionated . I’m 28 and going to a fertility clinic as I can’t seem to have children. Had all my tests done. They said I needed a lot of help with having a child. (Ivf) but I’m not eligible for help on the nhs because my husband had vasectomy 28 years ago 20 years before I met him and he had it done for medical reasons. So it’s game over for me :-(. You carry on doing what your doing . Much love x. G

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Thanks so much for messaging me. And so sorry to hear you’re going through such infertility heartache too. The NHS system at the moment is so unfair, I really hope it will change. I do hope it isn’t game over for you. Do try and get some support if you haven’t had any, maybe through Infertility Network UK? They are a really brilliant service. Much love to you too. Do keep in touch. Jessica x

  7. oliviarocco

    This just made me cry! Only this morning I was distraught at the imminent prospect of another failed month (3 miscarriages and 3 empty months later) I feel broken and that the only word that come close. My husband asked me why I was crying and so upset, that we can keep trying…I told him I can’t answer him as there are no words to describe how I feel just broken.

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      I’m so sorry to make you cry, and to hear about another failed month of trying for you too. I do know exactly how you feel and I think ‘broken’ is such a true and heartbreaking way to describe it. I really hope you can find the strength to continue. As my partner, Peter, always says: whilst there is hope there is hope. Do keep in touch and thank you so much for reaching out. Jessica x

  8. Sienna

    I saw you on This Morning and was really interested in what you had to say. You said everything I related to when I was trying for my second baby. I tried for 3 years, endured a miscarriage and three failed IVF treatments. The fertility doctors said it was unlikely I would conceive due to my age. I was depressed so began to have counselling and took medication. I also left work to make myself stress free and enjoy the life I have. Six months later of that, I was pregnant at the age of 45. I now have a beautiful baby girl. Don’t give up hope and don’t listen to the doctors that say you’re too old. Yes fertility declines with age but its not out of the question, it just takes longer and the pressure and stress the medical world puts on you enforces negative thoughts!

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Thank you Sienna. It’s messages like yours that fulfil me with renewed hope. I really appreciate your taking the trouble to write. Thank you so much. Jessica x

  9. infertilewoman45

    I Jessica,I saw you speak at WOW I’m a GW with Jody….having years ago worked for The Morror Group, a style of journalism that the Mail seems to now to align with. .I can only conclude that to compete with the ever growing “wondrous miracle baby” stories they feel they must by comparison, reduce us to the ‘Shock Horror” category to think that they can get the reader to read the article…but good for you, the truth will out and well done for bravely going to the Frontline of this extra society ignorant”battle” we now find ourselves drawn into.

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      I’m ready for battle! The truth will out in indeed! Thanks so much for reading my post and commenting. Jessica x