The "I" in Infertility
The dream of a family starts at a young age. We see our family and innocently dream of our own. A mommy, a daddy and babies. The white picket fence and all. We are gifted babies for our birthday and have the best play mommy sessions. I can already hear my daughter taking on her "mommy" role and watching everything I do with her younger brother to later imitate on her own. “Baby! Are you not listening? You have to go to time out!”
We enter puberty and start being told about hormones, sex before marriage and this dialogue of how easy it is to get pregnant. My mother was never shy about telling me of the teen pregnancy case she assisted and how much this poor girl's life will be forever changed after having sex one time. Holy cow! Teenage me was aware of her motivation behind the story but the message was still reinforced. Sex equals baby. That simple.
And you know the famous question after you walk down the aisle and begin life as newlyweds…
“When do you think you will have a baby?” “How many kids do you want?” “You better start soon – you aren’t getting any younger.” Babies are assumed and expected.
In my typical type A personality, I had the baby timeline all mapped out. Yes – this is going to be perfect. We will bond as a couple and travel the world for the first year. Then, we will start trying in the perfect month so baby will be born at the most convenient time in our lives. Sounds great, right? I am feeling in control and confident about our plan. So, we start trying… month after month after month after month after month. All the tricks. All the suggestions.
I went to my OBGYN and was encouraged to try for another full year. Jesus! Another YEAR. In true impatient fashion, we tried one additional month and then I began calling the doctor’s office to request labs and testing for my husband and I which they graciously agreed. It helped me feel productive… at least I was doing something. Results continued to come back clear. Minor recommendations were made to boost sperm counts, endometriosis surgery, etc. But none of it seemed to make a difference. We made the decision to call a local fertility clinic and seek alternative options. Another chance for hope and heartache.
Time was my enemy. I noticed everything in the fertility world took what felt like forever. Make this change... try for a few months. Follow this diet… try for a few months. The emotional toll was rarely acknowledged. My doctors were lovely, but the referrals were typically made to the next specialist but not therapist. I cannot remember a moment when someone looked at me and simply asked, how are YOU doing? Are YOU okay? No one encouraged me to get emotional support during this process. I felt such loneliness with my pain.
For many couples fighting for their babies, self-esteem becomes a secondary complication. It’s the “I” in infertility… What is wrong with us? Why is my body failing me? I think my spouse is resentful because of my issues. How do I fit in when everyone around me is doing baby-related activities and bonding over the latest sippy cup?
People did not know how to help me, and I often did not know what I needed. One day I wanted to talk and the next I dreaded being asked a question. We often expect people to know what to say while they fear offending us and, therefore, say the wrong thing or nothing at all. Let’s talk about some common dos and don’ts.
· “Have you considered adoption?”
· “You are young. You have plenty of time.”
· “God had a different plan. “
· “Girl, you can have my kids for a day.”
· “You just need to relax.”
· “When you stop trying, it will happen on its own.”
· Let them know you care.
· Ask them what they need.
· Try saying… “I don’t know exactly what you are going through but what is the best way for me to be there for you?”
· Tell them you are here to listen while also understanding days when you might not want to talk.
· Remember them on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
· Let them know about your pregnancy (allowing them to handle the news in private).