I have always struggled through my journey with infertility with who to tell, how to tell, and what to tell with friends and family. I am very honest about my infertility in general, if you’ve had a conversation with me in the past 3 years, you probably know that I’m infertile and that I’ve suffered losses before we were lucky enough to have our son, Leopold.
In my journey to Leopold, I felt in my gut that I should be strong enough to share my journey with my family and my husband’s family. I should be able to be open and honest, because without that how will anyone be able to understand what infertile couples go through to have their children? I put a lot of pressure on myself to be able to be an infertility advocate to those close to me.
With each attempt at discussing it, often I come out frustrated, feeling misunderstood, and judged. I usually would receive one of three responses:
- unhelpful comparisons (At least you don’t have cancer or most recently, at least you don’t have to worry about birth control)
- unsolicited and uninformed medical advice (maybe you should take these health supplements I’m trying, have you thought of surrogacy)
- just relax (delivered in many different ways, and I’m sure these will be much worse now that L is here and came along without assistance).
There was the rare wonderful occasion when a friend or family member would just listen. Instead of judging or telling me what to do, they would just say this sucks and I’m sorry. I think so often friends and family want to help you and save you and want to fix it.
Newsflash, IRL friends and family: you can’t fix it. Even my reproductive endocrinologist with a decade of education and years and years of treatment experience can’t magically heal me. We can up the probability of pregnancy with a lot of effort and expense, but there’s no magic wand or cure for us. I will never be able to get pregnant and plan my family with the ease that fertile couples can.
I used to be hurt or take it personally when I got these misinformed comments. It used to frustrate me to no end, was I not explaining myself properly? Why couldn’t they understand how this felt? How could I say it differently to help them understand what this is like?
This time, there are a few big differences in my attitude about all of this. One – I don’t expect anything from people. I don’t expect them to be able to empathize with me on infertility. I expect it even less this time around, if I were to talk about it, I know I would hear a lot of “just be happy with what you have” or “just relax like you did with L.” I know they won’t understand the complexities of our situation or our diagnosis.
Two – I don’t expect to be able to get them to see what infertility is like. It’s too complex. I can try to share my journey and hope they understand, but I can’t help how they interpret it given their own life circumstances. Along that same vein, I don’t feel the need to tell people we’re pursuing treatments at all. I don’t feel that I owe them anything. I felt it was the right thing to do to tell my mom and immediate family the first time around. Now? I’m not so sure. I don’t need their opinions and maybe it’s better / easier for everyone involved if I don’t worry them with it.
If I do share prior to treatment, I’m considering putting it an email or letter so that I’m able to tell our whole story, diagnosis, and decision making process, while outlining appropriate ways to respond. Something like, I know you may not understand or agree with this decision, and that’s ok, but we ask you to be sensitive and supportive of us. I would likely share after we did IVF whether it was successful or not. I’m not ashamed of our infertility, but I am protective of my heart and our journey.
What do you all think? What has worked for you in communication with family and close friends? Do you share when you’re moving forward with treatment?