the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of questions, kind words and so much love. many thanks to all of you for being so willing to have this conversation. not just for my own therapy, but for every woman out there who feels like they are struggling in silence.
over the last little while i have had a number of people approach me with questions of how to best support their friends or family members who are going through something similar. the question of support is an amazing one and it’s one that i cannot answer with conviction, because it truly is so different for everyone. that being said, i think that it’s an important piece of this conversation and it’s definitely worth exploring.
prior to starting this conversation online, there were a number of women in my life that i felt very comfortable talking with and leaning on – purely because they had gone through something similar before. these women and our conversations continue to be my saving grace; but shared experience is not required to support each other.
in this blog, i have created a bit of a reference guide on understanding and supporting women struggling with fertility. please bear in mind though, that i can only draw from my own experience and the experience of others who have generously shared their stories with me.
***authors note*** it’s not my intention to eliminate men from this conversation because they too, face their own challenges in this department. i do however, want to speak authentically and can best do that as a woman, for women. maybe one day i’ll convince the hubs to pop in as a guest blogger ;).
how to support women struggling with fertility
- don’t worry if you don’t know what to say. we know it can be difficult to talk about because it’s not a conversation we are all comfortable with. we get that it’s a very personal thing and if you haven’t experienced a miscarriage or the struggle to conceive, it can be hard to understand. we don’t expect you to have the perfect words of comfort or the advice we’ve been longing to hear. often we just need an ear and to know we’re not alone.after we miscarried, i opened up to a friend of mine and she wrapped me up in the biggest, warmest hug and said, “i’m so sorry you’re going through this. i don’t know what to say, but i’m here if you need me”. she couldn’t have said anything more perfect in that moment.
- if you are pregnant or if you have a newborn, please don’t judge us too harshly if we aren’t the first ones at your door with balloons and lasagna. please be gentle with us if you don’t see us for a while. we love you and we are so excited for you, but being around babies and pregnancy can be incredibly painful some days. we want to be happy and joyful for you, but sometimes we just can’t. on those days, we may stay away – but be patient, we’ll come around.
- if you are newly pregnant and aren’t sure how to tell your friend who is struggling, the best suggestion that i have, is to call them or send them a text with your news. if you choose to wait until you can tell them in person, you may not get the reaction you want. please trust that whatever response you may get is completely involuntary and we struggle with immense feelings of guilt around this. our insides are screaming at us to smile and celebrate and ask you how you’re feeling, but it is unbearably difficult to watch your friends rejoice in the thing you want so desperately to have. i imagine it’s similar to how leonardo dicaprio felt when year after year someone else’s name was called. if you can give us a little heads up, we will have time to process our emotions in private, so that the next time we see you, we can share our genuine happiness at your exciting news.
- pretty please with a cherry on top, eliminate the word “relax” from your vocabulary. telling a woman who wants to be pregnant to “just relax” is like telling a mountain climber not to look down. for many, it is almost impossible. we know and wholeheartedly appreciate your pure and good intentions by saying this, but anyone who has been trying to conceive for more than three months, is keenly aware of the role that stress can play in the inability to conceive. we have heard story after story of “as soon as we stopped trying, it happened” and while we appreciate the motivation and the hope you are trying to impart, it isn’t always so simple. i can’t just “relax and stop trying”. i can’t unsee all that i’ve googled and i can’t stop wanting a baby with every fiber of my being. with that said, we know that we can get stressed out and wrapped up in the many pieces of advice we receive, or that web md article that scared the crap out of us and every so often we will need to calm the eff down. so, if you feel the urge to tell your friend to relax, try this instead… invite her over for a glass of wine or a relaxing cup of tea, invite her to join you for a yoga or meditation class, teach her how to crochet, lend her a good book that she can get lost in, share an inspiring quote, poem or hilarious meme, send her a text that says “if you ever want to talk, i’m here.” these are all things that will help her to relax and that won’t result in gratitude through gritted teeth.
- if we burst into tears because they made our latte with skim milk instead of 2%, please know that we have not lost our minds. this is an emotional time to begin with and as soon as we start dabbling in fertility drugs and hormone therapies, all bets are off. your best course of action is to have a steady supply of kleenex and chocolate (cake if possible). what chlomid wants, chlomid gets.
- don’t be offended if we compare our dogs and cats to your children. it happens to me so often where a friend will describe the behavior of their child and i will blurt out “oh, my dog does the same thing!” i instantly regret it and want to reel the words right back into my mouth, but alas, i cannot. we so desperately want to be a part of these conversations and want to relate in any way we can and until we have real babies, our pets are our babies. things may be said that can’t be unsaid. sorry…
- try not to cringe when we talk about our tubes, our discharge or our uterine lining. we have become so comfortable with our own bodies and have gotten fairly used to dropping trou in front of anyone in a lab coat that we have genuinely forgotten the meaning of “too much information”.
- keep the advice to a minimum. i wasn’t sure if i should put this one in here, because i’m not totally sure how i feel about it all. there were times when i so appreciated advice, suggestions and positive stories like, “my friend gave up gluten and was pregnant a month later”. this advice may actually be helpful sometimes and we are generally open to trying anything and everything to make this happen. but…here’s the thing that I’m learning…getting pregnant is a crap shoot. most of the advice out there has little scientific backing and what worked for someone, will do absolutely nothing for someone else. It was likely pure coincidence that she got pregnant after she stopped eating gluten, threw her legs in the air, had sex pointing west or gave up coffee. when you fill your brain with so much advice and information, it becomes incredibly overwhelming and counteracts the need to “relax”. also, we spend 96% of our time researching so chances are, we’ve heard it before. my best suggestion is that if you have some advice to impart, pick one to share and leave the rest.
- “sooooo…when are you two gonna have kids!?” this is the most feared question of a couple who is struggling to conceive. when faced with this question, we either feel the need to lie to avoid an uncomfortable conversation – “oh, we’re not in any rush…we just want to enjoy our freedom for a bit longer” – or we feel the need to spill our guts about our struggles and we’re not sure how you’ll react to this honesty and we don’t want you to think that we’re only telling you because we want your sympathy. this question has led many a couple to avoid social situations so they don’t have to deal with that question.here’s the thing though, about two months after we miscarried, i put my dang foot in my mouth and said that exact thing to someone i hadn’t seen in a while. i later found out that she had recently miscarried as well. i felt like a prize idiot because i knew how much i hated that question. it truly has become an acceptable question to ask and it is generally considered to be a socially acceptable conversation. so, my ask with this point is not to stop asking, but my ask is that if you choose to open that can of worms, be prepared for an honest response. it is my hope that opening up about the journey will lead to less fear around the topic and a greater understanding that everyone’s path is unique.
- the last and most important piece of advice i could give would be to create a safe space for each other to ask for and to lend support. asking your friend how you can best support her is one of the best things you can do. if she doesn’t want to talk about it, don’t talk about it. if she wants to share everything, let her share. let’s create some space to walk this road together.
this advice may seem like a whole bunch of little egg-shells that you now feel you have to walk upon when you’re around us; but that is definitely not the intention. this is a collection of things that i hope might make conversations around fertility and family planning a little easier and a lot less awkward for everyone. i would love to hear your thoughts. do you agree or disagree? do you have any other pieces of advice you’d like to add? if you’ve been through this, what was the best thing someone said or did for you? leave your thoughts in the comments below.
love, lust and baby dust | nicole