Are You Hesitant to Talk with Friends and Family about Your Fertility?
Infertility hurts on many different levels. Indeed, it is a physical challenge, with the sometimes-invasive procedures and medications that can impact your life quality. The mental and emotional toll on infertility patients can be painful and can affect self-esteem, social connections, and vital relationships. Many infertility patients report that the pain of infertility is more significant because it is so tempting to hide the infertility struggle from others in their lives.
Why do people hide their infertility?
One survey found that six in ten couples (61 percent) hide fertility troubles from family and friends. Over fifty percent of all couples in the study told the researchers that it was easier to say they were not planning to have children rather than admit they were struggling with infertility.
These findings are not surprising since we hear similar thoughts from our community of patients. It is sad to think of all those who are suffering in silence. Are you keeping your struggle to yourself? Should you hide your infertility from family and friends?
Why do people hide their struggles with infertility?
1. “I Feel Inadequate”
Often, people do not share this struggle with family and friends because infertility makes them feel inadequate. Who wants to advertise their inadequacy? Yes, they likely know on a logical level that infertility is a disease and is not a reflection of who they are or their value as a person. Still, on the subconscious level, many feel embarrassed or ashamed.
You may have heard things like this or even said them yourself:
- “I feel like my body failed me and us as a woman. It couldn’t do the main thing that a woman’s body is supposed to do – make a baby.”
- “Infertility has been hard on me, but it has really done a number on my husband. He feels less like a man.”
2. It’s All About Sex
Talking about infertility means talking about sex. And let’s face it– it can be very daunting to talk about reproduction without talking about the act that makes reproduction possible. In most circles in our culture, talking about sex is something that most people prefer to avoid with all but our very best friends.
3. “Helpful” Advice
The people in your life want to help. Honest, they do. Unfortunately, when it comes to infertility, too often, what they perceive as "help" is not all that helpful. Too often, the advice is ill-informed, and sometimes it is flat out wrong. Have you heard some variation of these “helpful” tidbits?
- “Just relax and stop trying.”
- “Put your legs up in the air for 30 minutes after sex.”
- "Don't do IVF because your baby will have disabilities, or cancer, or ____ (fill in the blank)."
- “Eat lots of avocados (or grapefruit or broccoli or ___ (again, fill in the blank).”
- "Adopt, and you're sure to get pregnant!"
Additionally, much of this sort of help is unsolicited. Sometimes (too many times?) it comes when you are least expecting it and haven’t had a chance to buffer yourself against the pain it can inflict.
To avoid this “help,” it is tempting to keep your struggles to yourself.
With Whom Do You Share Your Infertility?
Find your village
It will help to have a community of trustworthy, supportive people around you for the journey through infertility. Look for people with whom you can share the frustration and sadness of infertility, as well as your hopes for success and your family.
Bringing a village around you does not mean that you should share your infertility struggles with the world. All the reasons people hide their infertility are valid, and you should consider carefully with whom to share. However, it would be best not to hide all of your struggles from everyone in your life.
Share the struggle with your partner
One of these "someones” should be your partner. After all, he or she is in this struggle with you, and you share the powerful bond of hope for your future family. Sadly though, plenty of infertility patients try to protect their partner from the full intensity of their feelings. The survey referenced earlier found that over half (53%) of the infertility patients surveyed tried to shield their partners.
Are your friends and family in your village?
We advise that you share the good, the bad, and the ugly with your partner. It’s also worth considering that your partner is not the only one in whom you confide. Sometimes they need a break from stress and loss, and you need this break as well.
Find at least a couple of folks in your circle of support with whom you can honestly share. In an ideal world, these people will be within both your family and your friend circle. It's perfectly acceptable to have different degrees of openness within the various
spheres of your life.
Where do you start?
When finding someone to support you during your infertility struggle, start the conversation by sharing a little about your journey. Talk about what you have tried so far and what research you've done about the process. Laying the groundwork that you have done your research and are seeking the right professionals can help stem the tide of unhelpful advice.
Once you have found your someone, it will help to tell her what you want. Specifically, let her know that you do not expect her to solve your infertility; you want someone to understand your pain and listen when you share.
Join a Support Group
In addition to finding at least one person outside of your partner in your real life, consider joining an in-person or online support group. Outside of major metropolitan areas, you might struggle to find in-person support groups. Fortunately, online support groups are available to everyone at any time of the day. You can easily find others who will understand what you are experiencing and share their stories as well.
Our website offers a wide variety of resources for patients, including a listing of our Community Partners who provide online and in-person support groups, like Resolve. When you look it over, you will see that you are not alone, and you do not have to struggle in silence.
Special blog feature provided by Creating a Family. Creating a Family is a national infertility, adoption, & foster care education and support nonprofit with a mission to strengthen families through unbiased education and support for infertility patients, adoptive parents, foster parents, and allied professionals.