April 22nd-28th is Infertility Awareness week. This year, I am incredibly lucky to be marking my 30th week of pregnancy during this time. I didn’t think I would be – I’d been told for many years that I’d never be here without a multitude of interventions that me and The Daddy weren’t ready to try.
I still count myself among the infertile not only because this pregnancy was a post-research trial fluke but because in order to get to where we are today, I prepared for years. I’ve been preparing and preserving my fertility for the past ten years, even during the times when I was actively avoiding becoming pregnant. I live a life of high medical bills, daily prescription medications, frequent monitoring, supplements, too many hands and wands up in my lady parts, constant risk vs reward assessments over the simplest of diet and lifestyle decisions, food monitoring, research, specialists, and appointments at fertility clinics for assessments and options for the future as well as early preservation/prevention strategies. Still though, I’m lucky for two reasons: one, I knew ahead of time and had those ten years to try and make things right and two, I didn’t have to take the next steps.
Many couples aren’t so lucky. Some make the decision to wait and try when their lives are where they want them to be, and they discover that it doesn’t happen how they had planned. Others know going in like I did, but they try for years and years with with no success. Either way, they’re forced into an expensive, stressful, sometimes physically painful, often heartbreaking situation. Even with my background, I can’t fully understand it. People who’ve never lived with the threat or reality of infertility understand even less.
Now that I’m pregnant, I often find myself thinking about my friends dealing with infertility. For those that are open about it, I follow their blogs, Facebook updates, emails, and stories with great interest, empathy, and hope. I find myself almost as excited for their potential pregnancies and/or adoptions as I am about my own pregnancy. I cry for them – even the ones I’m not particularly close to – because I know at least a fraction of their pain. I can’t imagine the full spectrum of their emotions and their struggles though, and I hope that I never have to.
To my friends struggling with infertility: I’m thinking about you, crying with you and hoping that someday you find what makes your life complete whether it be a biological child, an adopted child, or acceptance and closure on this chapter of your lives.
To my friends who have never struggled with infertility: I hope that you will take a moment this week to learn a little bit about the struggles of those around you. I hope that you will also remember that the struggle is often silent, so sometimes the best thing you can do is be aware that that great couple that you know and love and would love to see as parents might be trying and may have been trying for a very long time.
Some things you can do:
- Don’t ask your childless friends when they plan on having kids or why they don’t have them. They might not be ready to share their struggles.
- As hard as it is, refrain from the “so when are you popping them out??” jokes and inquiries immediately after your friends or family get married. They may already know that they will have problems. They might have already been trying before marriage. Also, marriage does not always = desire for children. It’s best to just avoid that altogether unless you are close enough to the couple to know their plans.
- If you have friends that you know are struggling with infertility, be there for them if you can be and they want you to be, but be sensitive in what you say.
- Don’t tell them how lucky they are to be able to sleep in, stay out late, drink, etc. They know what the childless life brings and don’t need a reminder.
- Don’t suggest that “It’s not meant to be.”
- If they decide to stop trying, do be supportive in their next step, whether it be to have no children or to adopt. Adoption is a perfectly valid way to start a family and it’s not “giving up.” Remaining childless is a very difficult decision and should be respected and supported.
- Do educate yourself on infertility etiquette, especially if you have friends or family that you know are struggling. Some things that are seemingly harmless may cause them great pain or at the very least, be platitudes they need a break from after hearing them many times before.