Last week, I had a woman contact me who was an acquaintance from an old
job. "Thank you for putting your blog out there for all of us to read. I
love hearing what you have to say, but I never know what to say to you, or if
it's even appropriate to say something, being that I have never
Infertility is messy. What can be a deep, dark secret for some is
matter-of-fact for someone else. It can be controversial, it can be emotionally
driven. Some people think it's an awkward situation that shouldn't be discussed
publicly. Infertility has one of those issues that have been discussed
countless times: Can you truly relate to someone with infertility, if you
haven't gone through it yourself?
When we decided to seek help at a fertility clinic, the first few months
were difficult. I had already talked with my mom on several occasions leading
up to seeking treatment. But no one else really knew the story. My first IUI
unfortunately was going to fall on Christmas Day, but the clinic called me at
my parent's house Christmas Eve, letting me know my blood tests showed I was
ovulating early, and to "go ahead and have intercourse tonight and
Infertility has one of those issues that have been discussed countless times: Can you truly relate to someone with infertility, if you haven't gone through it yourself?
Understandably, I was upset, and I quickly went to another room to cry and
let Chris hug me. I didn't want to ruin Christmas for my parents and two
sisters, especially with this awkward thing no one would talk to me about.
Later, when I had to give myself my first shot in the stomach, I asked one of
my sisters in a joking voice if she wanted to come into the bathroom with
me for moral support. "Ew, no thanks," she said
and walked off.
And I know my sisters are reading this. I don't want to make them feel bad.
They now talk about it with me, after we had some heart-to-heart discussions for
how much I need their support. But one of them told me a couple weeks ago that
as much as she loved me, prayed for me, thought about me, she still had no idea if it
was OK to bring up. "I'm just not sure what to say to you, because I
don't want to say anything stupid."
Can I be real with you guys? Can this article just lay it all out there?
These may not be true for everyone going through this, but here is what I
think. This is what I want you to understand about infertility. And if there
are people reading this who feel like the above people do, that you want to be
there, you want to support your friend/sister/co-worker, but damn it, you just
don't know what to say ...
This is what you have to know about infertility:
It can be isolating. One of the most ironic things I have experienced
through this journey is this: You can be incredibly public with your story,
connected with dozens of other bloggers, other women going through the same
thing, and still feel like you're all alone. I can spend all afternoon with the
incredible group of ladies of my infertility small group through church
relating to one another, and then go home to see a pregnancy announcement
on Facebook and completely fall apart. When discussions of children come up at
work or family functions, suddenly I find myself having to go get a drink of
water, or make a call. Because how do I participate in that? Yes, infertility
can be a very lonely experience. You find yourself wanting to avoid baby
showers and kid birthdays, but then are crushed when you aren't invited for
future events because everyone thinks it's too hard for you to deal with.
Here's the thing: We want to still be included. We want to receive the
invitation in the mail, and then decide for ourselves if we can emotionally
handle going. We don't want you to forget about us.
We have no money. Especially if we have already gone through
treatment after treatment. One round of IVF is about $10,000. Some people have
insurance, but many others are tediously saving every spare cent. At mentions
of all-day shopping sprees, vacations, expensive dinners out celebrating
birthdays, our knees go rubbery and we may grin weakly, uttering, "Sure,
sounds like fun!" while all the while racking our brains trying to justify
if we will have enough money for next month's IVF cycle. Also hearing that
children are expensive is nothing compared to the boatload of money we spend
trying to create them. It stirs up a lot of emotion when we hear how expensive
your children are. Here's the thing: You
have a group of women going tens of thousands of dollars into debt for the
possibility of a baby. Please refrain from reminding us how expensive children
are. We know.
Our emotions are all over the place. Some days, we can handle seeing
twenty-five pictures of your kid eating cake in the high-chair, sighing and awww-ing at the computer screen. Some days those same pictures
will show up in our Facebook feed and we will slam the laptop closed and utter
a scream. There may be days when my infertility doesn't seem so huge. Babies?
I would think to myself, Meh. They poop too much. And I like to sleep. And
then there are days where the ache for a child becomes a physical pain in my
chest, and I start panicking, wondering if I will be childless forever. We can
be angry. We can be bitter. We can laugh about it. We can feel at peace some
days, and other days make us feel all ragey inside. Here's the
thing: Forgive us.
There are no magic words. Yes, you can say stupid things, such as the
age-old classic, "Maybe you just aren't meant to have kids." Or,
"Maybe you just need to relax." But really, you can't make our
situation worse. The thing is, we don't want, or need advice. You don't need to
come up with some eloquent speech about how this will all get better.
"I'm thinking about you. Know that I'm here for you."
"Anytime you want to eat cake and watch 'Aladdin,' I'm there."
(Note: This usually works for me.)
Even if I don't confide in you, it doesn't mean I don't need you. For almost
eighteen years, Mel and I have been best friends. She has made me slump onto
the floor from laughing so hard. We have the best conversations and she is my
favorite shopping buddy. But I know my infertility is hard for her to relate
to. So I've told her that just because I can't really talk too much about
the infertility with her doesn't mean I don't desperately need her. I need her
to distract me, to take me out for ice cream, to go buy new shoes, to paint my
nails with. Because sometimes you just need a break from thinking.
involved with a group of four women from church for almost a year now. From the
moment I met them, I loved them like sisters. I can confess my deepest darkest
fears to them, because they will all nod their heads and tell me they understand
completely. I've met some amazing women, in person and online, that were strangers
to me, and now we are connected on a level no one else can compare to.
the thing: Please don't be hurt, offended or angry if you are the
sister/best friend/mother of someone going through infertility who doesn't want
to get into it with you. While I understand there are some who are not
comfortable sharing their experience with anyone, for most of us going through
this, please know we're being taken care of.
I have always preferred talking to
someone who has gone through the same thing. Back when I worked for a clinic, I
was told of someone who worked there who was going through treatment herself.
And I felt this wave of emotion of wanting to cry, knowing I must connect with
this girl, that I needed to connect with this girl. And after reaching
out in an overly personal Facebook message, the rest is history, and she is one
of the closest people in my life, because we share this same shitty bond. So
please know that for some of us, we may only be able to talk with someone who
is going though the same thing.