Note: This article originally appeared on mom.me on October 7, 2o14. Read the original article here.
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 experienced infertility.”
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 tomorrow instead.”
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 to 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 placeSome 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.
I’ve been 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.
Here’s 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 through the same thing.
But you are important, too. We still need you.