I am struggling with infertility this holiday season. I thought I would be pregnant: everything seemed to be on the up-and-up with this new doctor and, against my better judgement; I let myself get hopeful that this would be our month. I daydreamed about surprising my husband and his family with special ornaments to let them know a baby was joining our family, of telling my co-workers at our annual holiday party, of being able to share the joy with my husband. I got excited about the possibility of a pregnancy as the best Christmas present of all time: one we were just so, so excited about.
Alas, late last week we found out we did not conceive, again. So, here I am, on day 3 of Clomid, trying to dig deep to find some holiday spirit as we prepare for Christmas travel and festivities. I admit: holiday spirit has been hard to find this year. I find myself more anxious than usual for holiday gatherings where, without fail, someone pulls me aside, looks deep into my eyes and asks, for the fortieth time, what’s going on in my uterus. I find the holiday things that brought me joy: driving around to look at lights, sending/receiving holiday cards and shopping for presents, feel hard and overwhelming. It feels like the rest of the world is pregnant and I’m still waiting. Bah humbug.
Today’s post is a little PSA of sorts. Infertility is hard. It’s an intimate, personal and deeply emotional topic for couples who struggle with it. It’s hard to talk about, and there is a lot of shame surrounding how we feel about what’s going on with our bodies. So, this holiday season, I ask you to please be kind to the parents-in-waiting in your life. They may not have shared their story with you yet; maybe they have, but remember that anything they share is deeply personal and, likely, hard to admit. During this time, your words have more of an impact than you realize….partly because of the hormones, partly because many things you say trigger feelings of frustration, brokenness and heartache.
So, with that, the PSA portion of the post. Before I start in, I want to say that you know your friends and family best and know what they would and would not want to hear. I am not an expert, I am only speaking from my experience. I also realize that people ask questions out of love and genuine care, but because people do not often talk about their struggles with infertility it’s hard to know how to respond when someone shares they’re going through it. Infertility is a difficult subject for everyone, so lets respect the fact that none of us know how to talk about it and start the PSA portion of this post.
Things you should NOT say to someone who is struggling with infertility this holiday season:
“When are you and (insert your significant other’s name) going to finally have kids?! You know your parents want grand kids!”
I was just about to tell you that we are struggling with infertility…now it’s awkward! Can you remove that knife you just stuck into my heart so I can get some more punch?
“What’s wrong with you?”
Oh where to begin…I think I’ll start by holding back tears.
“Oh, you are having trouble getting pregnant? Just have more sex!”
Gasp! Is that how I make a baby? Shit, I’ve been doing it wrong this entire time! But really, I’m having more sex than I ever have and still nothing. Trust me; on the topic of sex, we have it covered.
“You know what you need? A vacation. (Insert friend’s name here) went on a two week trip to Europe and came back pregnant!”
Well, all our money is currently tied up in fertility treatments but if you would care to sponsor our trip we really could use the vacay.
“Have you tried (insert essential oils, acupuncture, vitamins, herbal remedies, standing on one’s head for 30 minutes post-coitis, wizard law, books on infertility)? My mailman’s cousin’s sister tried that and it worked for her!”
Trust me when I say, I’ve tried it all and now I’m seeing a doctor so I’m sure he or she is on top of it….figuratively of course.
“You haven’t been trying that long. I once knew a couple who tried for (insert number) years and they got pregnant.”
First of all, this is not a game of “who has it worse” or “who has tried longer”. Every couple’s journey is different and you telling me how long it took another couple doesn’t help: it makes me feel like crap.
“Don’t stress. You need to relax and it will happen.”
I’m peeing on sticks, getting blood drawn, having an ultrasound every other week, doing injections and taking fertility medication like candy. I CANNOT RELAX. THE HORMONES WILL NOT LET ME.
Here are some things I bet anyone struggling with infertility this season would appreciate hearing instead:
“How are you doing?”
Leaving space for the couple to share with you, if they want to makes them feel safe opening up to you if they want to.
“Though I don’t understand exactly what you’re going through, I can tell you that I love you and I’m here for you every step of the way.”
Your empathy goes a long way, trust me.
“I am so sorry. This sucks.”
Yes it does, thank you for acknowledging that.
“How can I pray for you during this time?”
If the couple is religious this will bring them comfort.
“I can’t even imagine how hard this is for you. I am honored you shared this with me, and I’m here for you. I am so sorry.”
A friend actually said this to me and it was exactly what I needed to hear.
“How can I help you during this time?”
Letting the couple tell you what they need: priceless.
For those of us who are in the waiting, this time of year can be hard and a little lonely. So many people suffer in silence and this holiday season, your words could make all the difference. Remember, this is a hard topic for all of us to talk about and being as vulnerable, empathetic and understanding as you can be will make everyone feel more comfortable sharing.