Guest blog by the lovely Sheila Lamb:
All our infertility stories are different. Some stories last for a year and others last for many years. Some stories end with a natural pregnancy, whilst others end with a pregnancy through fertility treatment, such as IVF. Although all of our trying to conceive stories are different, the emotions and feelings we experience are pretty much the same, regardless as to our age, where we live in the world and if we’re famous, or not.
If you decide to tell others who haven’t experienced infertility, you may use words such as anger, shame, hard, frustrating, depressing, stressful, ugly, shitty, grieving – it’s a long list. I’m sure you’ve come across the person who, despite you using some of the above words to describe how you’re feeling, still responds with ‘Just relax,’ or ‘Everything happens for a reason’. This isn’t good enough. If you’re sharing something this personal with someone in your family or a close friend, you deserve so much more than a crass, flippant remark.
Most people, regardless as to how well you know them, don’t mean to invalidate your feelings. They’re probably surprised and/or shocked at what you’ve just shared with them, and have been caught unawares, so they just say the first thing that pops into their head, for the sake of saying something. Because of these reactions, we decide it’s not worth telling anyone else. So we don’t. It then becomes a Catch-22 situation – we don’t talk about it because people don’t understand… because we’re not talking about it. And this isn’t fair to us, to them, or to our future children.
I’ve included below a handful of contributions from the TTC community who have shared their experiences for the first book in my ‘This is’ series, called This is Trying To Conceive. They believe, as I do, that those outside this community NEED to understand what infertility is really, really like.
Now that I’m telling you I’m dealing with infertility, please don’t try and ‘fix it’ for me. You can’t. Trust me. Please, don’t say ‘I read an article about … Or ‘My neighbours boss’s sister-in-law’s best friend tried for ten years then went on holiday…’ because that makes me feel worse. Please, don’t pity me or look at me with sad eyes. Please, don’t tell me about a celebrity who’s just had a baby and start talking about them – this won’t take my mind off the fact that I don’t have a baby.
You could, instead, ask me ‘How are you?’ and wait to hear my answer. You could say ‘I’m here for you’. Take my lead – if I’m not talking about it, then at that moment I’m fine, so please don’t remind me by asking me questions. If I start talking about how unfair it is, then it would really help me if you just listened.
“Everything happens for a reason”
No. Just no. This is not helpful if someone is grieving a failed cycle or a miscarriage. Try to respect what that person is going through and understand that they need validation, not throw away comments, however well intentioned. #humourandcompassion
Alice Rose @thisisalicerose
The key to discussing fertility is for the other person to have a willingness to listen and an awareness that they can’t solve the problem. When discussing our fertility issues with friends and family, I never wanted their advice on what decision we should make next, or assertions that we’d be successful in time. I just wanted them to allow me to explain what was happening and how that was making me feel. Men often don’t have many opportunities to express their feelings, so being given an opportunity to do that is really important. That’s not solely in relation to fertility either.
After nine months of trying we decided that we would tell family and close friends what the doctor had told us. Everyone was disappointed and felt sad for us. Nobody really knew what to say, but at least it stopped people asking us about babies regularly and stopped the staring at my tummy with expectancy. It also made people think a bit more carefully about how to break their own pregnancy news to us in a more sensitive way, which was appreciated. We actually wish we had told people sooner to take the pressure off us.
With secondary infertility it wasn’t possible to avoid children and families as I had to take my son to playgroups or to the park. My new fixation was on age gaps, calculating it each month and trying to work out the age difference between other people’s children. Then all my friends were announcing their pregnancies and having their second babies while we were still trying. It definitely impacted those relationships, as I didn’t want to hear how tiring it was to be pregnant and look after a toddler, or how much more stressful it was having two children, compared to one.
Nicola Headly @nicola_freedomfertility
It is not your fault. Stop reflecting on every single life decision you made and wondering what you could have done differently. Watching you beat yourself up about this breaks my heart. We are a team. This isn’t you versus me. As a couple we are infertile, and we will figure this out together.
I am not going to leave you. I would not be better off with someone else. Stop saying that. There is no one else I want to share my life with and build a family with. I chose you for your humor, kind heart and work ethic. I chose you for so much more than your fertility.
I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility, and it would be six years, one IUI, one ICSI/PGS, an ICSI/DE followed by a miscarriage, and a second ICSI/DE, before I welcomed my rainbow daughter into the world. Now I share my, and other strong, determined women and men from the TTC community, emotional and personal experiences, in my This is series of books. The first two: This is Trying To Conceive and This is the Two Week Wait are available now on Amazon via the links below. Perhaps you would consider gifting a copy of This is Trying To Conceive to someone who you would like to tell, but just can’t this Christmas.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all the fertility abbreviations and acronyms, I’ve put together a free ebook The Best Fertility Jargon Buster that you are more than welcome to download from here: www.mfsbooks.co.uk
If you are interested in learning 6 powerful yet simple techniques for not just surviving but thriving during the holidays then download the Embrace Fertility free fertility support pack and the replay of my free masterclass ‘Coping at Christmas’
What strategies do you use to cope with other people’s reactions and did you find the above helpful? Add a comment below or join the conversation in our online support community.
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