My husband and I tried for four years to conceive. When we finally did get pregnant, I took the opportunity to educate some of the people in our life about how to be supportive of the infertile couple, and what not to say to them no matter how good their intentions. I would like to do the same now.
Firstly, it is no one’s business to ask another person when they are going to have a baby. If they wanted to share this information with you, they would. I suggest to everyone not to tell anyone that they are trying for a baby, lest they be hounded about their ‘success’. If you are aware that someone is ‘trying’, don’t ask them every time you see them how it is going. There are only twelve opportunities a year to get pregnant and they don’t need you reminding them of that, especially if it is taking them time. We kept our difficulties to ourselves for years, until I reached the point where I wanted people to know, as I had realised that struggling to conceive was nothing to be ashamed of. Most of the non-medical advice received was useless for us, although I understand some people do believe that it works. Raise your hips, bonk like made, only bonk every second day, you have to orgasm, eat this food, don’t drink that, take this vitamin, have acupuncture, lose weight, exercise more, don’t exercise so much, pray, just be patient, take a holiday, you get the idea. You try it all though, in the hope that something works.
Secondly, if someone in your life is having trouble conceiving do not offer advice. Automatic phrases like ‘you just need to relax and it will happen’ and ‘it will happen when it’s meant to’ are useless and sometimes offensive. Whilst stress can affect fertility, no infertile couple can ‘just relax’ about it. By implying it’s not meant to happen for the couple yet just trivialises their difficulties. Advice from people who are fertile is especially annoying! Having been there myself, we don’t mean to be so sensitive and strung out, especially when most people are just trying to be helpful, but the repetitive advice just becomes exhausting!
It is best to just offer your support and understanding to the person or couple. Understand that the friend or family member who is struggling with getting pregnant may be upset with news of other pregnancies, and as much as they want to be happy for another, they just can’t be. Let them deal with their feelings and try not to take it personally if it is your own good news. The grief and anger that comes with infertility is incomprehensible unless you have experienced it. Even though I now have a child, I still feel a pull of familiar sadness and jealousy when I hear of an accidental pregnancy, especially in a rocky relationship. Infertility pain, especially if endured for years, is not entirely taken away by the birth of your own child. And neither is the pain of some people’s offhanded remarks who thought they we being helpful. People struggling with fertility don’t need anything from others, except to know that the person that they are thinking of them, they are sorry it is difficult for them, and that they look forward to celebrating news of pregnancy in the future.
Have you dealt with infertility? What did you find helpful and what would you suggest people avoid when talking to people dealing with it?
I’m Zoe. My husband and I were blessed with our daughter Clementine in April 2012, and from conception all the way through our parenting journey, has been an uphill battle. We have seen alot in these past months; from spending five years trying to conceive, having ‘unexplained infertility’ and being successful with our second round of fertility treatment, having a c section due to baby’s unstable positioning, being unable to establish breastfeeding, having a baby diagnosed with reflux, visiting a residential sleep centre at 11 weeks, being told by all manner of health professionals that our daughter is ‘a difficult baby’ and beyond! Whilst I do not profess to be an expert in any particular field, my professional and personal experiences have certainly changed me forever as a person and I look forward to sharing these experiences with you. If I can help even one mum, I have been successful. I am a Midwife and Registered Nurse in the public health system. To see all of Zoe’s articles, click here.