When a couple makes the huge decision to have a baby, they have so many hopes and dreams.
They think with excitement on the cute outfits to dress their child in. How they may design the nursery with a jungle theme and how Dad will coach his child’s soccer team.
They plan how many children they want, who will stay home with the baby, will Mum go back to work?
But no couple plans infertility and once there, many of us struggle to deal with it.
There is enduring the barrage of tests and procedures after months, sometimes years, of not falling pregnant. Many are highly invasive, painful and all sense of dignity goes out the window. Somehow having a strange guy with his unshaven face 10cm from your private area threading a balloon which is blown up in your uterus, then dye fed through your internal organs, is not endearing. Or empowering.
As a woman it can be frustrating to know your partner’s contribution to the testing process consists of ejaculating in a cup as you fall asleep, while a camera is inserted to your abdomen. A procedure that you are in pain with for weeks sometimes.
Then once there is finally a diagnosis there is the often inevitable feelings of failure and inadequacy, no matter whose ‘fault’ it is. When the issue lies with you, you feel like less of a man or woman. That your sole purpose in life, to procreate, is something you’ve failed at. When it’s your partner there are feelings of helplessness that you can’t do anything to fix it or to make them feel better.
No one tells you how isolating infertility is, and no one can possibly know how devastating it is until they experience it. You feel you don’t want to further burden your friends who have listened supportively to your whinging for months or even years. You don’t want to be that sad sack that ruins every lunch and get together with your tales of woe while they coo babies on their lap and share their holiday plans. However much they want to understand … they don’t. How can they?
And then there comes the inevitable moment when they announce their own pregnancy.
The hole in the pit on your stomach that is already so large becomes so big you could disappear into yourself. You fight back tears while putting a smile on your face and forcing out “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”.
You are happy for them, but hurting so deeply for yourself.
Your friends begin to tiptoe around you, postponing their exciting announcement for fear of hurting you. Which makes them hurt and resentful because you should be happy for them.
The need to be happy for everyone else for fear of being perceived as selfish then becomes foremost in your mind. You can’t let them know how much their gorgeous newborn photos tear at your very soul. That their swelling belly almost brings you to tears.
You find yourself not wanting to pick up your sister’s newborn for fear of unraveling the tightly knit cocoon of protection you have to sought to build around yourself. Because you are told not being happy for them and making a huge deal of it is selfish. After all, it’s not their fault you are defective, right? Thus begins the cycle of guilt; where you are jealous and hurting which then leads to feelings of remorse that you are a horrible selfish person for not experiencing anything but joy for them.
Many couples with infertility suffer multiple losses to pile onto the heartache of no baby in their arms. When you finally see those two pink lines you cry with joy that this hellish journey is over. No more fertility drugs, using ovulation tests and timing intercourse. No more IVF, stabbing yourself with needles and acting like a homicidal banshee from the drugs. But that joy soon turns to anguish and your dream is crushed. Again. You are back on the hamster wheel that is long-term trying to conceive.
For someone who has never dealt with infertility, you have no idea what power your words have. While well meaning, telling your friend to “just stop trying and it will happen”, “maybe the universe is telling you that you aren’t meant to have kids” and “relax and it will happen” are not at all helpful.
I think sometimes we don’t know what to say to someone going through this and their pain makes us feel uncomfortable. So we trivialise it, we brush over it to remove the sense of unease we feel.
But as someone going though this, we don’t want you to solve it. Or minimise or justify it. Just a simple “I’m so very sorry you are going through this, I can’t imagine how hard this is for you” is all that is needed.
So the next time you feel anger at your infertile friend who isn’t excited enough at your surprise pregnancy, or when she breaks down over caramel slice and latte in a packed cafe of 40 people, spare a thought for what she is going through.
Her emotions aren’t selfish, because this isn’t deliberate. She doesn’t mean to spoil your announcement or ruin your girly day out. Instead hug her, empathise with her situation and don’t offer cliches.
Offer her unconditional love and let her know you are there for her. That’s all she wants from you.
– this post was written by a BH forum member. Thank you and all the best x