Featured Guest Post: A Journey Through Infertility: What Infertility Really Feels Like and How to Support Someone Going Through It
Featured Guest Post: A Journey Through Infertility: What Infertility Really Feels Like and How to Support Someone Going Through It BySarah Meduna April 13, 2023 This special guest post is written by a dear friend, Sarah, about her infertility journey. Growing up, the thing I wanted most in my life was to be a mom. Of course, I had many other goals and dreams that were completely unrelated along the way, but having a baby and being a mother was the one thing I really wanted to accomplish and was always looking forward to. That I am still looking forward to. Life is a funny thing… we tend to go through a lot of our lives with this pre-conceived notion or expectation of what it is going to be like. We have this plan of action that is fed to us from a very young age: go to college, get a job, get married, and have a baby. Simple, right? I wish, more than anything, that was the case. I have found that people struggle most with situations that are unexpected and beyond their control. And let me tell you, infertility is absolutely unexpected for 99% of people, and it is most certainly beyond anyone’s control. I never dreamed in a million years that I would have a hard time getting pregnant. After my husband and I got married, we started trying right away, and, to be honest, I was surprised when it didn’t happen after the first month. Then the second. Then the third… and now, it’s been two and a half long, heartbreaking years. Infertility is a journey that no one expects to take. It’s a path that no one chooses or deserves, and yet, around one in five couples are forced to. Throughout the last couple of years, I have done all that I can to remain positive and keep my head up through every twist and turn. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by my incredible husband, a great family, and some really supportive friends. However, like many women, I have mostly suffered in silence. It’s not that I didn’t trust anyone or that I didn’t think they would be there for me. It’s just that infertility is a deeply personal battle. One that messes with your mind far more than it messes with your body. In a way, I felt as though I had to be strong on the outside so that I could remain strong on the inside. “Fake it ’til you make it,” I thought. But no one should have to fake it through such a horrific experience. No one who goes through infertility is really okay, and there is not a single thing wrong with that. It has taken me two and a half years to talk about my struggle with infertility, but now, I’m ready. If you are reading this, silently struggling with the darkness of infertility, allow me to shine some light into your heart. Allow me to be the one to tell you you are not alone. It is not your fault. Maybe you haven’t had to struggle to get pregnant, but you know someone who has. I would love to help you better understand and support that person, and I thank you for taking an interest in a topic that affects nearly 20% of couples. Infertility is a difficult conversation, and every story is different. But this is my story, and I hope that it blesses someone out there. If you have any questions or need a space to talk, please don’t hesitate to message me on Instagram. My goal is to help as many people as I can and to be a safe space to ask questions, have tough conversations, etc. And if you are looking for a positive, welcoming community of other women walking through infertility, I invite you to join our Facebook group, the Future Mamas Club! Unless you have gone through it yourself, it is impossible to understand what it’s like to go through infertility. Heck, even those of us who have gone through it have a tough time wrapping our minds around it. The emotions involved are so big, and the pendulum swings incredibly high on either side. There’s a reason that people say going through infertility is an emotional roller coaster, but if I’m being honest, I don’t think that even comes close to describing it. If I had to put it into words, though, here is what I would say. Infertility Feels Like a Loss of Self. Infertility is typically unexpected, so in a matter of moments, you are forced to realize that your life will not work out the way you thought it would. You are not going to get pregnant when you want to, or how you want to, for that matter. You are not going to have a “normal” experience of conception, pregnancy, or motherhood. You have lost the person that you thought you would be. Infertility steals your innocence and naivety — it truly is a loss that you have to grieve. Infertility Feels Like a Constant Cycle of Hope and Despair. Hope is both your best friend and your greatest enemy. You need hope in order to keep going, but month after month, it is the very thing that stabs you in the back when you get that negative pregnancy test. Your period becomes nothing more than a horrible reminder of what you don’t have. And then, shortly after it’s finished, you have to gear up to try all o
Featured Guest Post: A Journey Through Infertility: What Infertility Really Feels Like and How to Support Someone Going Through It
This special guest post is written by a dear friend, Sarah, about her infertility journey.
Growing up, the thing I wanted most in my life was to be a mom. Of course, I had many other goals and dreams that were completely unrelated along the way, but having a baby and being a mother was the one thing I really wanted to accomplish and was always looking forward to. That I am still looking forward to. Life is a funny thing… we tend to go through a lot of our lives with this pre-conceived notion or expectation of what it is going to be like. We have this plan of action that is fed to us from a very young age: go to college, get a job, get married, and have a baby. Simple, right? I wish, more than anything, that was the case.
I have found that people struggle most with situations that are unexpected and beyond their control. And let me tell you, infertility is absolutely unexpected for 99% of people, and it is most certainly beyond anyone’s control. I never dreamed in a million years that I would have a hard time getting pregnant. After my husband and I got married, we started trying right away, and, to be honest, I was surprised when it didn’t happen after the first month. Then the second. Then the third… and now, it’s been two and a half long, heartbreaking years. Infertility is a journey that no one expects to take. It’s a path that no one chooses or deserves, and yet, around one in five couples are forced to.
Throughout the last couple of years, I have done all that I can to remain positive and keep my head up through every twist and turn. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by my incredible husband, a great family, and some really supportive friends. However, like many women, I have mostly suffered in silence. It’s not that I didn’t trust anyone or that I didn’t think they would be there for me. It’s just that infertility is a deeply personal battle. One that messes with your mind far more than it messes with your body. In a way, I felt as though I had to be strong on the outside so that I could remain strong on the inside. “Fake it ’til you make it,” I thought. But no one should have to fake it through such a horrific experience. No one who goes through infertility is really okay, and there is not a single thing wrong with that.
It has taken me two and a half years to talk about my struggle with infertility, but now, I’m ready. If you are reading this, silently struggling with the darkness of infertility, allow me to shine some light into your heart. Allow me to be the one to tell you you are not alone. It is not your fault.
Maybe you haven’t had to struggle to get pregnant, but you know someone who has. I would love to help you better understand and support that person, and I thank you for taking an interest in a topic that affects nearly 20% of couples. Infertility is a difficult conversation, and every story is different. But this is my story, and I hope that it blesses someone out there. If you have any questions or need a space to talk, please don’t hesitate to message me on Instagram. My goal is to help as many people as I can and to be a safe space to ask questions, have tough conversations, etc. And if you are looking for a positive, welcoming community of other women walking through infertility, I invite you to join our Facebook group, the Future Mamas Club!
Unless you have gone through it yourself, it is impossible to understand what it’s like to go through infertility. Heck, even those of us who have gone through it have a tough time wrapping our minds around it. The emotions involved are so big, and the pendulum swings incredibly high on either side. There’s a reason that people say going through infertility is an emotional roller coaster, but if I’m being honest, I don’t think that even comes close to describing it. If I had to put it into words, though, here is what I would say.
Infertility Feels Like a Loss of Self.
Infertility is typically unexpected, so in a matter of moments, you are forced to realize that your life will not work out the way you thought it would. You are not going to get pregnant when you want to, or how you want to, for that matter. You are not going to have a “normal” experience of conception, pregnancy, or motherhood. You have lost the person that you thought you would be. Infertility steals your innocence and naivety — it truly is a loss that you have to grieve.
Infertility Feels Like a Constant Cycle of Hope and Despair.
Hope is both your best friend and your greatest enemy. You need hope in order to keep going, but month after month, it is the very thing that stabs you in the back when you get that negative pregnancy test. Your period becomes nothing more than a horrible reminder of what you don’t have. And then, shortly after it’s finished, you have to gear up to try all over again. I have heard infertility is like going through the stages of grief every single month, and I can absolutely confirm that. The battle is constant, and you don’t have the luxury of bowing out.
Infertility Feels Incredibly Lonely and Isolating.
Even those with the most close-knit friend group and solid family unit struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation when going through infertility. Most people around you have not had to struggle with getting pregnant, and even if they have, their journey will be different from yours. As adults, our conversations typically revolve around two things: work and kids. For women specifically, children tend to be the #1 topic of discussion in almost any situation. I can’t tell you how many times I have been the only one in the room without a child. The only one at the table who can’t contribute a fun little anecdote about how my toddler got into my makeup and smeared it all over the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m unbelievably happy for everyone around me who has been blessed with a child, and I love talking about and seeing their kiddos. But over time… you can’t help but feel left out (and left behind).
Infertility Feels Like a Failure.
Your body is supposed to do this. You were made to carry a child. To nurse a child. To nurture and care for it. But you can’t. And that feels like a major failure… it feels like you are a failure. When you can’t get pregnant, you feel as though you aren’t just failing yourself, but you are also failing the people you love most in the world. You can’t make your husband a father. You are unable to make your parents grandparents. You feel so much guilt and shame from this, even though you know you can’t help it.
Infertility Feels Like a Race in Which You Cannot See the Finish Line.
Imagine starting a race without knowing how far you’ll be running. You could run 10 miles, you could run thousands. And you have no idea when you’ve crossed the finish line until after it is already over. Sometimes, you can see the finish line off in the distance… but then, just when you feel like you have won, infertility pulls the rug out from under you, and the finish line moves.
I think the worst part is that you don’t really truly know that the finish line even exists. Some people go through a few years of infertility, do a handful of rounds of IUI or IVF, and are finally rewarded with a baby. Others give it absolutely everything they’ve got and still end up empty-handed. There is no way to know what will and won’t work (and in what time frame) with 100% certainty. So you could be doing all of this… and never get what your heart desires most in the world. At the end of the day, this is a tough and unfortunate reality for a lot of people.
Infertility Feels Incredibly Unfair.
I have never been more sure that life is not fair. I did nothing to deserve this, and I cannot control it no matter how hard I try. My husband and I did everything “right” – we set ourselves up for a life of success. We are ready to be parents. And yet, we are being passed by people who aren’t ready or didn’t even want kids to begin with. Is it fair to judge other people from the outside and to say that we “deserve it” more than them? Of course not. But feelings aren’t always facts – they come to us unannounced and, at times, without an open-shut case to back them up.
Infertility Feels Debilitating.
Some days, you feel so down and the darkness is so all-encompassing that you can’t see a single shred of light. Personally, I went from being extremely motivated all the time to having to push myself out of bed to stay on track some days. I went from being the world’s most social butterfly to hiding away and shrinking back into a cocoon that I never used to have. Infertility has changed me in ways I never imagined it could… I have heard people say that infertility is a form of trauma. I think I would have to agree. And this doesn’t happen all at once, either. Infertility steals your soul one tiny piece at a time, and one day, you wake up, look in the mirror, and no longer recognize the person looking back at you.
Infertility Feels Like Whiplash.
You’re ovulating! It’s time to try! Your boobs get sore, you get a little nauseous, and you feel a little crampy (could it be implantation cramping?!). You look up your symptoms online, and Google says you could be pregnant (!!!). You grab a test and excitedly wait to see what it says. It’s negative… but did you test too early? Are you sure there isn’t something wrong with the test? Maybe you should just test again in a couple of days. Maybe you should just grab that test out of the trash really quick to double-check that you read it right. In the meantime, you start to allow yourself to hope and dream a little. You dream about the theme of your nursery and who you will ask to host your baby shower. You start to look up names and keep a list on your phone to share with your spouse. Then you get your period. And you have to grieve the loss of something you never had. And the cycle repeats itself. Over. And over. And over.
There is a lot to learn about infertility. It’s a topic that is very daunting to research and difficult to even begin to understand. If you are at the start of your journey (or if you don’t know much about infertility), here are some hard truths that I had to learn. Every single one of them is a gut punch, but knowledge is power, so it’s better to know what to expect than to be surprised at every turn.
1. Age and health do not always matter.
A lot of people assume that those who struggle with infertility are in their late thirties or forties. They assume that it is the struggle of those who are unhealthy, overweight, do not take care of themselves, etc. But infertility has no rules. It doesn’t care who you are, how old you are, or what your health is like. Personally, I started my infertility journey at 24. All things considered, that is incredibly young to be going through this, but it is the story of so many other women, too.
2. The emotional toll of infertility is far worse than the physical one.
I’m sure there is someone out there who would disagree with me, but I can honestly say that I would take the physical pain of the poking, prodding, and procedures a thousand times if I could just wipe away the emotional pain. Experts have compared the emotional state of women going through fertility treatments such as IVF to patients going through cancer treatments. Infertility feels incredibly isolating and hopeless, and the treatments take over your entire life while you are going through them. IVF seems like an easy process from the outside, but in reality, it is long and grueling.
3. Your happy ending may never come.
You may do everything in your power – take every pill, go through every treatment and procedure – and still end up exactly where you are now. And, unfortunately, you have to be okay with that. You can’t give up because no one else can do this but you. No one can take your place. No one can fix it. No one can promise you that your efforts will be rewarded. But you HAVE to keep going because, if you do end up on the other side, it will be worth every pain and every penny.
4. Physical intimacy with your partner may feel transactional and, at times, will be taken away completely.
Infertility is one of the most difficult tests that any marriage can be put through. I am unbelievably lucky and can honestly say that our journey through infertility has brought my husband and me closer together. But for others, it tears them apart, little by little, until there is no visible love left between them. In a normal marriage, you get to “do the deed” whenever you feel like it. And if you aren’t in the mood, it’s no big deal. When you are going through infertility, everything is meticulously timed. You have to have sex when you are ovulating. Sometimes, you need to do it multiple days in a row to give yourself the best chance possible. If you think that sounds fun, it isn’t. Making love because you have to doesn’t feel like making love. It feels like a business transaction. On the flip side, if you are going through something like IVF, there will be times when you are not allowed to have sex at all. During my first round of IVF, my husband and I had to abstain for a month. Then we got about a week and a half of freedom, then back to abstaining again. When you can’t connect on this level, it can be challenging.
5. There is not nearly enough support from healthcare professionals.
I get it, doctors are busy. And I know that every fertility clinic is different. But for the most part, healthcare professionals just don’t have time to explain every detail and support you in the way that you probably need it. There is also a huge gap in mental health support. When you go through IVF, you are sent thousands of dollars worth of drugs to inject into your body daily, sometimes for months on end. I never thought I would give myself injections – that seems like something a doctor should do, right? Through the process of injections, your hormones rise to astronomical amounts (my estrogen level got up to 6,000 before my egg retrieval, and for reference, the normal level for premenopausal women is 30 to 400).
Every other day (at minimum), you have to go into your doctor’s office for a sonogram and blood draw so that they can monitor your progress and switch up your protocol accordingly. You have to take your shots at exactly the same time every morning and every night. You cannot miss them. You cannot mess up. Some of your meds are refrigerated, so you always have to be close to home. IVF takes over your entire life – your time, your energy, your emotions… but no one tells you how to get through that. My doctor never asked me how I was doing emotionally. No one ever gave me any resources to help with the mental part of IVF. I absolutely could have found them if I wanted to, but sometimes, asking for help (or even admitting to yourself that you need it) feels impossible.
6. You are going to spend tens of thousands of dollars with no guarantee that you will get what you paid for.
My husband and I paid for our IVF treatment out of pocket because our insurance does not cover it. Some people are lucky enough to have infertility treatments partially or fully covered, but we were not the lucky ones. We paid over $30,000 for a chance. Let me be clear – I feel incredibly grateful that this was something we were able to do! I know there are a lot of people out there who cannot afford IVF, so it isn’t even an option for them. Others take out a second mortgage on their home, sell their belongings, or pick up a second or third job to afford treatment. They say kids are expensive, and they are… but it’s crazy how much it costs just to give yourself the chance to have one at all if you are cursed with infertility.
7. Secondary infertility exists, and no one can say it is less painful than primary infertility.
Just because you got pregnant with ease the first time does not mean that you won’t struggle in the future. I don’t know much about this personally, but my heart goes out to the mamas looking at their babies, wishing they could give them a sibling. Having one (or more) kid(s) does not take away from the grief and loss of any other children.
8. IUI, IVF, and other fertility treatments are not one-size-fits-all.
Some people go through one round of IVF, some go through six. Some never try it at all because it won’t fix the problem they have within their body. These treatments aren’t just bandaids that you can slap on and say “all better!” Many people start with medications such as Myoinosotol, Clomid, Letrozole, etc. Others try IUI before jumping to IVF, which is much less expensive and far less invasive. Personally, I didn’t get the opportunity to try any of those things. Because of my condition and the diagnosis that I was faced with, I had to jump straight to IVF. Had I not done this, my chances of ever conceiving naturally would have been less than 1%. Talk about a tough pill to swallow.
9. A positive pregnancy test does not always equal a baby in your arms.
You may finally get the second line, finally have an answer to your prayers, finally be able to share the good news with your family and friends… just to turn around and have to tell them that you lost your miracle baby. A “win” in infertility is never that simple. Now, let me be clear: there are millions of women who experience the heartbreak of a miscarriage and have no issues with their fertility. After all, the chances of miscarriage in healthy, fertile women are still a whopping 15%. But for those who struggle with infertility, that number rises to 50%. So, even if you think you got your happy ending, many women are holding their breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is just another example of the whiplash you get from the roller coaster ride of infertility.
10. You will probably lose friends.
Some people will say some really shitty things, and you may not be able to look at your friendship the same afterward. Some people will judge you for the decisions you are making and will choose not to be friends with you because of it. One of the reasons I have kept my infertility journey a secret is that I have been terrified of what other people are going to think. What will they think when they see me, a Catholic woman, pursuing a family through IVF? While some people see nothing wrong with IVF and understand that it is a way to medically intervene in order to fix a problem (just like every other treatment or procedure out there), others believe that those who conceive a child through IVF will go to hell. Everyone has their opinion, and whether they said it to your face or behind your back, there will be a lot of people who will have no problem making their opinions known.
All of these truths are difficult to come to terms with, however, I believe that there is power in knowledge. Knowing and understanding what you are going through can help you better manage your emotions and potentially make your journey through infertility a little bit easier.
When you are going through something that feels so dark, it can be challenging to look on the bright side and find the silver linings. But I am a firm believer that we are in control of our own thoughts and mental well-being despite our circumstances, so for me, it is important to find the positive through the pain that I am experiencing. Trust me – this is a million times easier said than done. But it is so important. You have to be able to find the flicker of light in the darkness.
Silver Lining #1: Infertility will make you stronger than you ever thought you could be.
In terms of mental toughness, infertility is like training for the Olympics. So many things that used to seem difficult or taxing in my daily life are now minuscule because of what I have had to go through. Infertility has forced me to be strong and to fight even when I feel as though I can’t take another step forward. I can’t really speak for those who make it to the other side, but I have a feeling they are some of the toughest people in this world.
Silver Lining #2: Infertility will make you more grateful for everything you have.
It’s challenging to appreciate something that feels opposite to what your goal is (for example, having more one-on-one time with my husband since we have yet to have kids), but I do find that infertility has made me more grateful for what I currently have. Maybe that’s just a coping mechanism of mine to get me through this time and distract me from the giant gaping hole in my heart, but hey, I see it as a positive!
Silver Lining #3: Once you cross the finish line, you won’t take being a parent for granted.
I can’t really speak to this just yet, but I highly doubt that I will ever be able to take being a mom for granted. I don’t think that my mind would allow me to. I’ve been through so much, and there is still a lot left for me to go through on this journey. But it is ALL WORTH IT. I will always remember what it took to be able to hold my baby in my arms, and because of that, I will be infinitely more grateful to be a parent than the average person.
Silver Lining #4: If you allow them to, your friends and family will be there for you in ways they never have been before.
This isn’t true for everyone because, unfortunately, not everyone has a solid support system in their lives. But for those who do, you will find that your friends and family will be more supportive, kind, understanding, and loving than you thought they could be in a situation like this. Personally, I have strengthened so many of my friendships by allowing my friends to be there for me through my infertility journey. They have really stepped up and gotten me through some dark times. The same is true for my husband and me – we have picked each other up, leaned on one another, and grown so much closer through this experience.
Be there for her, and understand when she can’t be there for you.
Just because she carries it well doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy. Although your friend may be very positive and upbeat, there is a war waging inside of her that she is constantly fighting. Know that, even if you can’t tell on the outside, this burden weighs very heavily on her on the inside. Always be gentle with your words, and do your best to look out for her in certain situations when she may not think to look out for herself. This doesn’t mean that you should exclude her from a situation or conversation – in fact, you should be careful not to do this at all if you can. Your friend going through infertility wants to talk about your pregnancy and your kids. She wants to celebrate your big moments with you. She wants to attend your baby shower and help you choose a nursery theme. Just don’t let that be all that you talk about with her, even if it’s all you want to talk about right now (which is totally understandable!). Communication is key. Check in with her and have an honest conversation about what she does and doesn’t want to talk about/be involved with. And if she isn’t in the best place to talk about your very happy situation, don’t take it personally. Trust me, she hates that she doesn’t have the energy to be the happiest and most supportive friend 100x more than you do.
Ask questions and learn about what she is going through.
As she is going through treatments and receiving diagnoses, ask her questions and take an interest in the process. Do your own research on the side so that she doesn’t always have to go over every painful detail (both physically and emotionally) with you. When she lets you know about a doctors appointment or date of a procedure, write it down on your calendar so that you can text her the day it’s happening and let her know you’re thinking of her, you’re there for her, and that you’d love to hear how everything went if and when she is comfortable sharing. Just be there for her – you’d be surprised how far that goes and how much it helps. Infertility is incredibly isolating, so having a friend who takes it upon themselves to continuously show up for you is a lifesaver.
Surprise her with her favorite things.
If you are able to, bring your friend a treat or gift that she would appreciate after a big procedure or after she receives big news (good or bad). This could be something as small as her favorite Starbucks coffee or as big as a gift basket with items to make her recovery a bit easier (check out the list below for some ideas). Try to go visit her when she is recovering if she is up for visitors! She likely won’t feel the best for the first several days and may even be on bed rest, so some company during her involuntary couch time would be appreciated.
Here are some gift ideas for your friend going through infertility treatments:
- Mini ice packs. If your friend is going through IVF, she will want to ice the injection spot before and after her shots. It makes the pain much duller!
- Fuzzy socks and a warm blanket. She’ll be lounging for several days after a procedure, so make sure she is comfy with some fuzzy socks and a warm blanket.
- A journal. Your friend probably has a million thoughts and feelings running through her mind at any given moment. Sometimes, it’s incredibly helpful to get those thoughts on paper by journaling. This IVF journal is a best-seller on Amazon!
- Her favorite wine. After two weeks (or more) of not drinking, she will be ready for a glass of wine after her egg retrieval! Just be sure to check with her first to see if her doctor is allowing her to drink after surgery. Some people can consume alcohol 24 hours after a procedure, and others have to wait a few additional weeks depending on their situation.
- Heating pad. Make sure that she has a nice heating pad because it is going to be her BFF after her procedures (and when it’s time for progesterone shots)!
- Liquid IV. It is extremely important to stay hydrated after any fertility procedures. The medications and surgeries cause major dehydration, so help her stay ahead of the game with some Liquid IV.
- Shower steamers. She won’t be able to take a bath for a couple of weeks, so get her some shower steamers to help her relax in the shower in the meantime.
- You Got This bandaids. Sure, she could use regular old bandaids. But if she has to stick herself with needles multiple times per day, she may as well get to have a little fun with the bandaids!
- Barefoot Dreams sweatpants and sweatshirt set. If you really want to spoil her, get her a cozy new sweatpants and sweatshirt set. She will be living in comfy, stretchy clothes post-egg retrieval (and post-transfer), so she will loooove you for this!
The best thing that you can do to support your friend going through infertility is simply to be present and there for her. Those “good luck!” and “thinking of you!” texts will make her day when she’s facing what feels like a never-ending mountain.
This is probably the most important section to read if you have never experienced infertility yourself (or even if you have). It is important to remember that, no matter how much research you do, you’ll never be able to fully understand how she feels because each situation is so different. Two people can go through infertility but have completely different diagnoses, protocols, experiences, and results. Words hurt, even when they are said with the best of intentions. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone who is opening up to you about their struggle to conceive, please do not say these things.
“It will happen at the perfect time. God has a plan!”
This is absolutely true, but it doesn’t change the situation or take away the pain. We hear this sooooo often, and eventually, it becomes a source of pain for us more than anything as it is a constant reminder that it is still not our time despite our best efforts.
“Maybe it just isn’t God’s will for you to have a baby.”
I’ll be honest, this one makes my blood boil a bit. No one knows what God’s will is other than Him, and to speak as though you do is just wrong. This is incredibly hurtful because, trust me, this thought has crossed our minds. We have had those dark thoughts about never being a parent. That it isn’t in the cards for us. That God’s answer will always be “no.” But in order to keep going and keep fighting, we have to have hope, and we have to believe that it is God’s will to fulfill the wishes of our hearts.
“Why don’t you just adopt?”
Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it isn’t the right choice for everyone (and, to be honest, adoption is usually a last resort for someone struggling with infertility). Many people, myself included, have always dreamt of having their own children. I’ve pictured myself with a pregnant belly a thousand times and thought about what it will feel like to carry a child, to feel him or her kick, and to bond with him or her throughout the pregnancy. Despite what you might think, some women, like me, are actually looking forward to the experience of childbirth. Call me crazy, but I literally cannot wait. If the time comes and it is my best or only option, I would certainly consider adoption. But when you are trying so hard to beat infertility, this feels like it would be a loss.
“Just relax/go on vacation, and it will happen!”
Telling someone who is struggling with their fertility to relax is like telling someone who is on fire not to panic. I don’t think it’s possible for me to relax anymore. I’m constantly doing everything I can to put myself in the best position possible to get pregnant. It’s an all-consuming battle that takes over every aspect of your life. Plus, this comment makes it feel like stress is what is causing infertility and that it’s the woman’s fault because she “isn’t relaxed,” which isn’t the case at all.
“Trying is the fun part!”
Sex with your spouse is absolutely beautiful. But when you’re going through infertility, it becomes timed and transactional. You go through periods where you HAVE to have sex on these specific days no matter what’s going on or what you feel like. Then you have weeks (sometimes even a month or more) where you, under no circumstances, are allowed to have sex at all. Essentially, you are being told by your doctors when to have sex, and let me tell you, that really takes the fun right out of it for both parties.
“Have you tried ________ (insert medication, treatment, diet, exercise routine, etc.)?”
I know you’re trying to be helpful, but with all due respect, you are not my doctor. You don’t know my diagnosis, and you have no idea what I’ve already gone through or tried. Infertility is not one-size-fits-all – different people have different protocols. Some respond well to a certain medication while others are unfazed by it completely. Trust me, I am trying everything I can, and I am following every order my doctor gives me based on my situation.
“My friend’s mom’s cousin’s brother’s aunt _________.”
Maybe that sounds a little dramatic, but I swear everyone and their mother has a story about someone they know who struggled with infertility but was able to conceive after x, y, or z. Their story is great, but it isn’t my story. And it isn’t really encouraging. Because maybe they went through just one year of infertility and got pregnant after their first round of IVF – that’s great, but what if that isn’t the case for me? Now I feel like a failure, and I am reminded of the difficulty of my situation. Or maybe they struggled for seven years to get pregnant, and when they least expected it, BAM! They got pregnant. That’s amazing, but it makes me wonder if I will have to go through four and a half more years of this pain (or more). Even if you yourself have gone through infertility, it’s best to just let them know you’re there for them and allow them to ask questions/start conversations in their own time rather than offering suggestions and advice.
“Enjoy this time you have just with your husband because once you have kids, you’ll never be able to go back!”
I am constantly grateful for the time that I get with my husband. I realize that some things in my life are easier without children. But I can confidently say that, once I am out of the woods, I will never ever ever have the desire to go back.
“You can have one of my kids if you want, they’re wild and drive me nuts!”
Oof… that one hurts. And yes, people have actually said this to me (multiple times). I would gladly take your kids and everyone else’s. But at the same time, I wouldn’t, because I want mine. I am desperate for it to be my time. And I would die to have a house riddled with toys and diapers and dishes piled up sky high. I would do anything to be woken up every hour by my baby who needs me. Plus, this comment definitely has a negative connotation, and there’s nothing those of us struggling with infertility hate more than people who don’t know how lucky they are to have kids (no matter how crazy they are).
“We got pregnant again without even trying, but gosh, we don’t want another one right now.”
Talking about your pregnancy (or your desire not to conceive) in a negative way, whether it is planned or unplanned, is incredibly hurtful to someone who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. I had a friend who sent me a Snapchat of her buying Plan B because she and her husband have an 11-month-old and had unprotected sex while she was ovulating, but they didn’t want to get pregnant. I know she didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but receiving that Snapchat was hard for me. It’s none of my business what she and her husband choose to do, and at the core, I really don’t care what decisions she makes. I just wish she would have considered my situation and my feelings before sending the Snapchat to me. Please be cautious of how your words (and actions) may affect the person in front of you. Whatever situation you are in is 100% valid and okay, but sometimes it’s best just to know your audience and share accordingly.
After reading this, you may be wondering, “Okay, so if I can’t say any of that… what can I say if I want to be supportive?” Here are some of the best things my friends and family have said to me.
“I am so sorry.”
This is as simple as simple gets, but it means the world!! You can’t “fix” our situation, so simply saying that you’re sorry we are having to go through it means everything to us.
“I am available any day, any time, whenever you need me.”
The pain of infertility sneaks up on you sometimes. There may be days when your friend just needs to cry it out or when she needs a distraction. Letting her know you are there for her any time is so kind and helpful!
“I can’t imagine what you are going through.”
I love this because it is acknowledging that what I am going through is really tough and that the other person doesn’t understand it. For some reason, this is really meaningful to me because it means that my friend can recognize how big the mountain in front of me truly is.
“How can I pray for you?” or “I am praying for ________.”
Asking your friend how you can pray for her (if she is religious) is so kind and does a lot more than the simple statement “I am praying for you.” If you know her and her situation really well, you can be specific with what you are praying for (i.e. “I am praying that your appointment today goes well and that your doctor can see at least six follicles!” — this shows that you have taken it upon yourself to research and truly understand the process she is going through.).
“How are you doing today?”
Every day is different. Some days are better than others, and we never know how we are going to feel when we wake up. Sometimes, a pulse check on our emotional state is the best thing for us!
“How can I support you through this time?”
Maybe your friend needs something specific from you during this season in her life. Asking her what she needs and how you can best support her is one of the best things you can do for her. This gives her the space to be honest and ask for help when she needs it.