#findjoy. When you’re going through a fertility struggle, this is not simply a hashtag. It’s a true goal each and every day. It’s a mission to put the joy back into a situation you never thought it would be missing from.
As I entered my journey to diagnosis and treatment, I initially hid my struggles in an effort to bring back joy. I was riddled with my own infertility questions that had to be addressed before I could possibly address anyone else’s. At first, it was easier to hide from the struggle instead of facing those questions.
Did I do this?
Is there some weird chemical in my carpets? Is it the lipstick brand I use? Did I eat the wrong things? I changed everything right down to our toilet bowl cleaner. I also began cooking 90% of our meals using fertility cookbooks.
What will this look like?
I wondered if my husband would love me. Would I have gotten married if I knew we would have this issue, and that I’d blame myself? I wondered if I was strong enough to do whatever we needed to do. I considered acupuncture and other holistic approaches even though I hate needles.
Although I initially hid my struggle, I have found that being open has improved my mental well-being around my struggle. It also meant I opened myself up to questions from others. I have learned to form gracious and upfront answers to these questions. I do not hide when a question hurts, but I try to remember they are coming from a place of love and aren’t meant to be hurtful. The only way we can expect our loved ones to refrain from dishing out difficult advice is by educating and creating awareness.
These are some of the unintentionally hurtful infertility questions and remarks I heard:
Should you hurry up and have more children?
This question haunts me daily. I ask it. Others ask it. There is no perfect answer. The biggest issue with this question is how personal it is. There are layers to it. Everyone has an opinion here and there is only room for my husband’s and my own. It’s on my mind daily. Reminders aren’t needed.
Are you sure it isn’t your spouse? Well, which one of you is it?
Some individuals remind a woman it may not be them with a fertility issue. Truthfully, this is an effort to get them to stop placing blame on themselves immediately during the discovery phase of infertility. This is a temporary band-aid that can leave a woman with long term pain.
What an infertile person hears though is more like, “don’t worry maybe you aren’t the broken one.” The pain when you learn “it is you” is only worsened by this question.
I thought you were pregnant so many times.
When you say this to an infertile woman, you are forgetting how many times she had the same thought, and the pain she and her partner experienced when it turned out she wasn’t. Some conditions as well as their treatments can lead to weight gain, bloat, or nausea. These symptoms are glaring to any woman. She will not need a reminder.
Can’t you just calm down?
Classic advice and it works for some, but not for those of us truly facing a fertility struggle with an underlying cause. Reducing stress is a piece of the puzzle but it is not a solution.
Will pregnancy fix it?
All of my symptoms vanished during pregnancy. To be fair, the hormones responsible for many of these symptoms were not in my system while pregnant. I tried to be extremely clear but the question never ceased.
The answer of no was solidly confirmed at 2 months postpartum when symptoms returned.
Will treatment harm your child?
Every treatment comes with risks of side effects, and just like with the treatment of any other medical condition, we have to weigh the risks and benefits. Everyone can be a critic here. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Under my set of circumstances, I felt comfortable with our actions. Other routes may have posed more risks which we would have weighed before making any decisions. This question is difficult as our circumstances with this baby may not hold true next time.
Questions about infertility are natural. If you are suffering, try to ask yourself gentle questions that promote overall wellbeing vs. dwelling or suffering. What are my dreams no matter how my little one arrives? How will I announce my baby? What do I need to do for ME today?
If you love someone who is struggling, be available but noninvasive. Ask them how and when they may need support. Listen. Do not judge. If you are struggling and haven’t decided how open you wish to be, start with one person. Be upfront with where you are in your journey and take it from there.