Most of us grow up hearing how easy it is to get pregnant. “It can happen your first time,” we hear, and a lot of us know people for whom this is the case.
So imagine my surprise when more than a year of unprotected sex passed with no conception. In fact, it took five years and a lot of science to conceive our son. I had no idea how painful the journey would be or how alone I would feel. Even more surprising was how hurtful the comments of well-meaning people (who knew we were struggling) could be, making me feel even more isolated.
“At least it’s fun to keep trying!”
Nope. No. Not even a little. When you are having difficulty conceiving, sex becomes mechanical. Everything revolves around science and your “ovulation calendar.” There’s so much pressure to perform that sometimes one or both partners can’t.
“If it’s meant to be, it will happen. / It will happen when it’s meant to be.”
Thanks for adding to all the self-doubt I’m already experiencing about whether or not I’m “meant” to be a parent. Women who are struggling with infertility often find themselves asking, “Why me?” We wonder if we’re paying the ultimate price for something we’ve done in the past or if somehow the universe knows we’ll be a bad parent. The “meant to be” comments don’t help the negative self-talk and sometimes even makes us question whether you think deep down we don’t deserve to be a parent.
“I bet you’ll get pregnant as soon as you stop trying so hard. / Just relax.”
We are already feeling a lot of stress about getting pregnant. Now we’re stressed out about the stress we’re feeling. You see the problem here.
Any and all comments having to do with God.
Even if you’re a woman of faith, your relationship with God can become mighty complicated when you’re struggling to conceive. It’s hard to comprehend being born into a body with a reproductive system that is failing its one job, while others are accidentally conceiving unwanted pregnancies and abusive, neglectful women are having their third or fourth child. So please, I welcome and am grateful for your prayers for me, but don’t talk to me about God’s plans.
So what should a friend supporting a woman with infertility say?
“I’m sorry. That sucks. How can I be here for you?”
Sometimes silence is golden. Give a hug. Hold a hand.
My sister-in-law saying, “It’s not fair,” was one of the kindest things I heard.
Another invaluable gift was when a friend introduced me to someone who had struggled with infertility in the past so that I could talk to someone who had been in my shoes.
What do you do if your well-meaning friends say the wrong thing?
First of all, it’s okay to feel angry or hurt or however the comment makes you feel. Give yourself time, space, and permission to feel your emotions.
As hard as it may be in the moment, remember that your friend is trying to be there for you. S/he probably doesn’t know what to say at all and is doing the best s/he can.
It’s okay to say, “Thanks, but I don’t really feel like talking about it.”
It’s also okay to say, “I appreciate you trying to support me, but…” and politely address the comment that hurt you. Remember that a lot of people still aren’t educated about infertility.
Treasure the friends who do say the right thing, and spend time with the people who provide the appropriate support for you.
One in eight women struggle with infertility. I am one of them. If you, too, have struggled with infertility, I urge you to break the silence and be a support for those going through it. I didn’t talk about my infertility issues for quite a while – I never would have written a public post like this a few years ago! – but then I started seeing friends having similar struggles, and I didn’t want them to feel as isolated as I did. If you’re currently struggling with infertility, know you’re not alone.