April 24th-30th of 2016 is National Infertility Awareness Week.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that because I can guarantee you those struggling with infertility hardly need a full week to be aware of it. Kidding! I know the week isn’t for me, but for my friends, family, and possibly even colleagues that don’t understand the struggle. This is a week for me to share some of my story so you’ll know how to talk to me.
I’m supposed to teach you things like:
- 1-8 couples struggle with infertility (chances are you know someone even if they haven’t told you yet)
- If you are under the age of 30 and you’ve been trying for a year unsuccessfully to conceive, then you should seek the help of a doctor.
- If you’re older than 30, you should only wait 6 months of “trying” before seeing a doctor.
- Infertility is costly (financially and emotionally)
There are plenty of blogs that talk about all of the above and plenty that give you the details on what you should and shouldn’t say to your infertile friend. But the truth is, the journey of infertility is so different for every couple that you really do have to ask your friend how to best to talk to her.
I remember when I first realized I’d probably struggle with getting pregnant.
At the time, it seemed so unimportant.
I sat in the office of my gynecologist (who about a month later would be operating on me) and he told me that I would probably struggle to get pregnant. He also told me that my best option was to go through my navel with a laser and carefully destroy all the anti-pregnancy growth that was certainly present but couldn’t be seen with an ultrasound. His best guess was that I had endometriosis. His plan: Go in with the laser and clean off the nasty endometrial cells. If all went well, a simple burning of the tissue was all that would happen. If things were bad in there, he might have to remove an ovary…or more.
I was in my early 20s at the time and in a world of pain. I actually used to beg God to let me die because the pain would be so incredibly severe. And, at the time, I really didn’t feel like I was being overly dramatic. I basically told my doctor to take whatever he needed to. “Who needs ovaries?”
Of course, I was single at the time and not even close to looking for a relationship. I was pretty stuck in the immediate situation and couldn’t begin to see into the future. But, that day’s future has now become the present. And though my doc didn’t remove anything other than the endometrial tissue, I sometimes wonder if my husband and I will ever get the opportunity to hold a baby that we’ve conceived.
So, my fertile friend, here’s my insider look at the infertility issue. First of all, don’t believe everything you read online. There are plenty of sources that will tell you to forgive me if I don’t go to your baby shower or if I’m not excited about talking about your pregnancy. I’ve even seen sites that say not to complain about your pregnancy in front of me because I’ll die a little inside wishing I was in your place.
Here’s the truth.
You really can tell me about the latest cute/funny conversation you had with your little one. I can always use a good laugh. You can also tell me that you feel like you look fat or that you throw up everything you eat and can’t sleep or walk anymore. Because seriously, while I’d love to have a baby, I’m not looking forward to the morning sickness, inability to breathe if I sit down for too long, or peeing when I laugh too hard. I really love to laugh and I kinda feel like it wouldn’t be as fun if I wet myself while I LOL.
Here’s another truth.
Even though websites say to carefully reveal the information that you’re pregnant to me, you really don’t have to. Now, I admit, there may be a twinge of hurt (not jealousy my friend, just a little hurt that I still haven’t conceived) but it does not make me any less happy for you. I truly want you to have an amazing pregnancy and a healthy baby, and you can bet your onesie I’ll be praying just that for you.
I also know that the advice is often, “Don’t ask questions or give me any tips.” That’s only partly true. Don’t ask embarrassing questions like, “Are you having sex at the right time” or “Do you know if there’s a medical reason?” Believe me, by the time we were ready to speak about having a hard time conceiving, there is very little advice you could add and we’ve also examined all the medical possibilities. But, if you want to ask my thoughts on IVF or adoption, I’d be more than happy to share them with you. And, if you want to know how specifically to pray, I’ll let you know that also.
Bottom line, even though infertility is a pretty painful experience, I still want to know about your life and I want you to know about mine. And while not everyone walking through the journey of infertility can say this, I can say without hesitation that I’ll be honest with you. If I just can’t do the baby talks or cheer your little one on at his next peewee game, I’ll tell you. If I say nothing of the sort, know that even if the hurt is there, it doesn’t begin to trump the relationship we have.
I need you during this time. And just being there really is enough.
With love from your childless friend,