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How to Tell Family and Friends About Your Fertility Troubles

I am terrible at compartmentalizing. You know, keeping one segment of my life in a tidy little box – like one at work and one for home. (That's why I write about whatever I'm doing, whether it be dating, travel or fertility.) And so I never understood people who didn't let trying to have a baby consume their lives.

Recently, a friend told me that her husband didn't want to do any more fertility treatments because she was too invested in it. And I thought, how can you not??

That's why I understand why people decide to share their journeys publicly—or at least with those closest to them. It's too hard to keep so much of your life a secret.

RELATED: Should You Keep Fertility Struggles a Secret?

But how? When is a good time to tell people, and what should you say? Are there things you should be prepared for if they do know?

Make Sure You're on Board

My husband—a terrible liar and therefore a bad secret keeper—wanted to let people know what was going on way before I was ready to. I think I couldn't really admit that—despite two miscarriages—we were having trouble having a baby. So I wasn't ready to tell anyone else about it. I just asked him to let me know who he shared it with and he told them I did not want to talk about it. As I grew to accept where I was at in life, and saw how inconvenient all the scheduling was, I grew more comfortable sharing it with people.

Be Prepared for Questions

When you're trying to get pregnant you suddenly know all about topics that were once hazy: when you ovulate, what's your basal body temperature, how long sperm can live inside of you. (Information which would have been really helpful when you were trying not to get pregnant!) Or if you've moved on to fertility treatments, you suddenly know all about drugs like chlomid and the difference between an embryo transfer and implantation.

But guess what? Most people don't have this knowledge. So when you say that you are trying to get pregnant, they might have a lot of questions. From, "How long have you been trying?" to "Have you seen a fertility specialist yet?" Most questions are coming from a good place—genuine curiosity and a desire to understand where you're at, so react as calmly and factually as possible.

Most people really, really want to help, and the best way is to let them know exactly what you need.

Beware Advice

I can't say I feel the same way about unsolicited advice – that's it's meant from a good place. Although it really is. For those who know something about trying to get pregnant – i.e., anyone who has ever been pregnant before, it seems, thinks themselves a fertility expert—they may offer such helpful advice as "just relax" or "you must try X Y or Z" because they know someone that it worked for. Rather than scoff at their ignorance, or bite their heads off, it's best to just smile and say, "Thanks!"

Say What You Need

The most important part of disclosure is to say to your close friends and family what you need from them—be it financial or emotional support, or even distraction!

"I wanted to let you know that we have been trying to have a baby for the last six months and we're starting IVF next month, and we'd really like it if…"

"We wanted to let you know what's going on in our lives, and to be able to talk to you when we need to, but now's not the right time for questions…"

Most people really, really want to help, and the best way is to let them know exactly what you need.

Feel Free to Keep Certain Parts of Your Life Private

Just because you told people you're doing treatment, doesn't mean they need to know your exact dates or results of your blood tests. I always had one of two friends who knew when I was cycling, but even with them, I wouldn't give exact retrieval dates or when I'd find out if I was pregnant. Because if it didn't work (usually when it didn't work), I'd need a few days to deal with it with my husband; not only to handle the disappointment but decide on next steps.

RELATED: The Craziest TTC Advice I've Ever Received

I also had a few friends I could call in tears anytime, who'd understand even if they weren't up-to-date on my minute-by-minute-schedule.

After a number of years doing fertility treatment—when the entire world knew I was trying to have a baby, thanks to my fertility diary column in The New York Times ­—my go-to phrase was simply, "When we have news to share, we'll let you know."

Image via Twenty20/freemanlafleur

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