Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Through the Eyes of Infertility


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"Do you have any kids yet?"

Hard swallow. Fast blink. Forced smile. "No, not yet."

For two years I tried to dodge this question, or else answer it without the awkward second half of the answer jumping out of my mouth. "But I want them!" 

Infertility was not something I expected to deal with. When I heard the word I pictured a couple well advanced in years, or someone who had some other major health conditions. Yet here we were, my husband and I, in our early twenties, not able to conceive.  The two years we tried for a baby were the hardest, most discouraging, and isolating of my entire life.  And now that we're on the other side of it my entire perspective on pregnancy, parenting, family size, even life itself, has changed. 

There's so much I could say to those who are affected by infertility. Whether primary or secondary, multiple miscarriages or no conceptions at all, whether you suffered for a year or 10 years, infertility an incredibly difficult cross to bear. I want you to know your frustrations are valid, that you have cause for grief, and most of all, that you are not alone or forgotten. 

What about those who do not struggle with infertility? You may know someone who does, or you may have never thought about it before. Either way, here are some thoughts that will give you a glimpse into the world of infertility.

Don't assume. Just because a couple doesn't have kids doesn't mean they don't want kids. Or just because a family has only one or two doesn't mean they don't want more. These are assumption I used to make about people all the time, until my own desire to have a baby was not met. The fact of the matter is, you just don't know what's going on with a person, or with a couple, or with a family. And honestly, it's none of your business. Instead of making an assumption, make a choice to extend compassion.



What can I say? A lot of people have asked me, when a friend is experiencing miscarriage or infertility, "what can I say to help them feel better?" The truth is, there's probably nothing you can say to make them feel better.  There's a few things I wouldn't say.

I can image how you feel. Because unless you've been through it, you really can't. 

I'm sure you'll have children one day. Really? Because I'm not sure, and my doctor isn't sure. So how can you be sure?

At least you have one baby. Yes, and I love my baby, and there is some consolation in that, but it doesn't take away the heartache of wanting to grow a family. 

Just enjoy this time with your husband. It is true that dealing infertility can be a very unifying experience for a couple. My husband and I grew a lot in our marriage during our two years of infertility. But trying for a baby for a long period of time can be a source of tension in a marriage. Something that is supposed to be full of joy and love becomes something that is calculated and agonized over. Needless to say, it's not always very romantic.  

There were a few things people said to me after our miscarriage that did make me feel a little better. One was acknowledging our loss and letting us know we had a legitimate reason for grief. The second was receiving kind words and flowers from a friend on Mother's Day. 

Don't ask if they have tried (fill in the blank). Because they probably have tried it, along with a whole litany of other things, like going off gluten, dairy, sugar. trying to lose weight. taking scores of vitamins, supplements, and medications. Not to mention the  the invasive exams and ultrasounds, and the weekly blood draws and shots in the rear end in attempts to balance the ever imbalanced hormones. 

Your friends who struggle with infertility may not want to be around you when you're pregnant. Please don't be offended by this. It's just really hard to be around pregnant people when you've been trying for a long time to get pregnant. If it seems like they're pulling away, try waiting for them to get in touch with you. They still love you, they just need a little space. 

Social media can kill. I had to un-friend a lot of people on Facebook while we trying for a baby, because if I heard one more birth announcement, or saw one more bump shot... This doesn't mean you shouldn't celebrate your own good news with family and friends on social media. But maybe think twice before publicly complaining about the unpleasant side affects of pregnancy, or the baby who never seems to sleep. Now that I have a baby of my own I do plenty of complaining about his bad naps (like today!), but I try to keep this in check. I remember well the days when I longed to deal with this sort of problem.

Let them know you care. If you know someone struggling with infertility let them know you care, and let them know they can talk to you about it. Sometimes a good conversation or venting session can be the best therapy. It's such a relief not to carry the burden of infertility alone.  And a good community of friends heals much heartache.


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3 comments:

  1. Yes to everything! I hated getting the question about kids too - always making sure to say "yet" to imply that we wanted kids! :)

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  2. Anna, this is so beautifully written. Even though I'm on the other side of fertility I felt I could relate with so much of what you said.
    I'm a mom of 4 grown, our youngest is 16 and flown the nest early, and our first grand turns one mid May.
    Our 1st born daughter, married for a few years, is thinking about children...May God bless their journey. Thank you for your heartfelt reflection.

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