Without warning, I cried right there in the baby section of my favorite Target.
And then there was the time my silent tears fell on my niece’s head while I held her in my arms.
I’ve doodled baby names before pregnancies were confirmed and I’ve laid awake at night wondering why I wasn’t yet a mother.
Hi, I’m Kelli and I’m 1 in 8 women who struggle with infertility, specifically Polycycstic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). I had no idea what that meant when I was diagnosed at 18. It wasn’t until I had love, marriage, but no baby in a baby carriage that I realized the effects of PCOS. I wanted to be a mother so badly and it seemed as if everyone else was getting pregnant except for me. Each month for years I hoped, prayed, and sat around waiting for two pink lines.
I won’t ever tell you that you will have a child someday and go on and on about how they are waiting to be loved by you. I’m sorry, but I just can’t. The truth is, I have no idea if you will ever be a mother. And if that sounds forward, you’re right, it is.
I once asked my doctor, the man I was entrusting with my hopes, dreams, and honestly a lot of my money, “Will I ever get pregnant?” He looked right at me and without hesitation said, “I don’t know.” Umm…excuse me? I was upset, he was my last resort and was a doctor after all, how did he not know? I don’t know if it was my desperation to be a mom or the tears in my eyes, but I couldn’t see clearly. He was being honest. He didn’t know. No one did. How could they? I needed to hear that honesty as oppose to the generic comments about how I’d be a great mother one day, and how any child would be lucky to call me mommy.
Throughout my journey to motherhood, I learned that some of the most well-intended people say hurtful things some times. While they want to be considerate, some people just simply don’t know how to support their infertile friends. I’ve come up with a few dos and don’ts for talking with couples who are struggling to have children of their own.
Common Phrases To Avoid Around Someone Struggling with Infertility
1. Just Relax. For me, this was the phrase that seemed to be the hardest to ignore. Trying to conceive is anything but relaxing. It takes a mental, physical, emotional, and financial toll on a relationship. Most women track their ovulation when trying to get pregnant and have a good idea when the best time is to conceive. This takes away the spontaneity of intercourse and can often become more of a chore rather than an intimate moment. Does relaxing help? Absolutely, but they already know that and don’t want to hear it from someone else. Instead schedule a mani/pedi appointment together or whatever it is that would help someone relax instead!
2. “All my husband did was look at me and I got pregnant.” While it sounds funny, and is likely meant to be humorous, it’s a serious subject for couples. And though they may laugh, there isn’t anything funny about their struggles. I suggest avoiding any type of joke at the expense of their infertility.
3. You’re young. You have plenty of time. Unfortunately, our eggs are not like fine wine. They don’t get better with age. There are some things women can do to preserve the youth of their eggs. When I froze embryos (fertilized eggs) they forever stayed the age of what I was at the time.
4. You can just adopt. I’ve never been through the adoption process, but I have heard that it can be a long, stressful process as well. To me, this was just replacing one long journey with another. The phrase, “You can just adopt” alone just sounds as if it is so easy, which I’m sure anyone who has been through the process of adoption would say is it’s far from the truth.
5. “Have you done it this way…..” I’ll admit, this one does make me laugh. As funny as it sounds, I have had people make suggestions on the best way to get pregnant. I’ll save you the time and effort, there is no research that confirms one way is better than the other. (Trust me, I looked into it).
6. Don’t complain about your pregnancy. I understand, there are times in pregnancy that are not fun and less attractive than others. What I mean is, don’t update your status every day talking about how much your back hurts, or that you didn’t get any sleep last night. I agree that none of that sounds fun, but there are women who would love to have pregnancy symptoms.
7. Don’t offer to give us your kids. If you say I can have your kids one more time, I just might take you up on it. But for real, it’s not funny to us. I’m sure they drive you crazy from time to time, but once again….lots of people would do anything to have a wild child if it just meant they had a child.
How To Support Someone Struggling with Infertility
1. Let them know you care. This just comes with being a good friend. Chances are if your friend confided that they are struggling to conceive, they trust you. Value that and be sympathetic during their journey.
2. Be understanding. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to go to your kids’ birthday parties or to baby showers. These are can be triggers for them. They might be joyous occasions for you, but for others, they are just reminders of what they long to have.
3. Don’t be afraid to share your pregnancy news with us. I know this might sound contradictory to my suggestions above, but you can share your news in a respectful way. I promise your friend will be glad that you told her personally than if she had to find out on social media.
4. Show interest in their journey. Just as you would tell us about your prenatal appointments, ask about their doctor visits. This is a great way to show that you care and also a way for you to join them in their journey. Sending a simple, “Thinking of you today.” text on their appointment days can really go a long way.
I don’t know what your future holds, but I do pray that your heart’s desires would be granted in perfect timing.
Are you struggling through an infertility journey? What helps you get through the difficult times?