This week is National Infertility Awareness week. Resolve is a website, dedicated to advocacy and awareness about infertility, that spearheads this week’s campaign to enlighten others about infertility and it’s struggles. Their slogan this year is #startasking, but when I saw this I began thinking they should add #starttelling to their campaign.
I think all of us already navigating the infertility world would appreciate support during this difficult time in our lives. But how do we go about getting support when those closest to us aren’t aware of your situation and struggle? First, I think it’s important that we, as diagnosed infertility patients, #startasking others about their trying to conceive journey.
That’s a bold conversation to have, you might say. Exactly! That’s exactly my point! Start asking others so that you can then #starttelling them your story! So we can finally feel less alone, embarrassed and isolated. Infertility does not need to be a taboo topic. We just need to #startasking and #starttelling our own stories to make this a more accepted topic that individuals feel comfortable asking for support with.
How can I expect my readers to be inspired to share their stories with others, if I haven’t even given you an example of my own “coming out” story.
B and I had been trying for months, around 9 or 10 to be exact when the emotional toll of everything was weighing on my heart so hard. I was crying at the drop of a hat and my husband had absolutely no idea how to fix me. (When I say crying at the drop of a hat, I literally mean, crying when the hat fell off the couch.) You don’t realize how simultaneously emotionally invested and drained you are when you begin to realize that this journey is going to be longer and harder than you thought. I felt so ashamed, embarrassed, nervous and like I would be judged by someone if I told them what was really going on in my life. So I bottled it all up inside and pretended nothing was wrong, while really pushing everyone I needed away from me. My friends and family knew that I wasn’t myself and suspected marital problems. They also quit inviting me to go places and do things with them because I was so…blah. At the time I needed them most, I felt pushed away and abandoned.
After one particularly huge meltdown on my kitchen bar stool, my husband suggested we tell at least my mom in an effort to get some kind of support system going for me. I was nervous, but agreed to try it, hoping that my mom would know all the comforting things to say and do to make me feel better.
So one day I asked her to go to dinner with me. Mid-salad I just blurted out, “B and I have been trying to have a baby since April and it’s not working. I’m having XY and Z problems and I’m scared. I want to see a doctor, but am nervous for what they will tell me.” My mom just sat and looked at me, listening. Tears streamed down my face as I told her everything I had tried, how all my hopes of telling them we were expecting in a surprising way were shattered and how helpless I felt. She replied with, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was with your marriage. How can I help you?”
The reassurance I felt from her that night was unmatched by anyone else at this point. Even my own husband was still in denial of our real problem in the conception department. At last, I felt like I could talk to someone. Open up about what I was having to go through and how difficult it was.
The next month we were beginning testing (due to irregular spotting during my cycle, we began the testing process a little earlier than the 1 year timeline typically given to diagnose infertility). The complete work up for infertility includes a semen analysis, progesterone blood draw, blood work to determine your AMH levels (Anti-Mularian Hormone which shows egg reserve), and an HSG (hysterosonopingogram) which is pretty invasive and painful. A week after my HSG I was making Christmas candies with my sister-in-law and opened up to her about what was really going on. She was shocked, but listened and she began to tell me about ovulation predictor kits (OPKs). I told her I had already tried those things and that I was ovulating and we had good timing, but it didn’t work. This was my first experience with telling someone my diagnosis and them suggesting a solution. I knew she was just trying to be helpful, but it did hurt. I felt like I already had tried everything and was already failing. It was just another unintentional reminder of my failure.
Give grace to those in which you confide in. Seriously, they mean well they just may not have had to walk this road before. They don’t know what exactly hurts and what doesn’t, and to be honest do you? Some days it’s easier for me personally to take those comments, and others I just want to sob. How can we expect the people we confide in to know our every emotion and how to handle it in that moment? Just remember, they mean well, they love you, and don’t be afraid to tell them what you need in that moment.
After telling my sister-in-law I waited a month or so to tell anyone else. Slowly I told my brother, friend, sister, and two other sister-in-laws. My husband opened up to a few of his close friends, and the conversation just got easier. We went from being scared and nervous to talk about this part of our lives to it being just another conversation topic with our friends and family. I have felt more open to share my life and have been given some slack when it comes to my emotional rollercoaster of moods.
I will say that one of the most dreaded people to tell was my boss. I realize that not everyone will or needs to do this by any means. At my workplace though we are a tight knit group. There are about 15 of us that work here in the elementary and we know each other to the core. I just wan’t ready for them to know yet. I wasn’t ready for work to not be my distraction. However, the reality of inconsistent, repetitive and frequent doctors appointments was hitting home. I was going to need to drive 2 hours away 3-4 times within the next 2 weeks alone. We had no subs and I knew that people would start to wonder what was going on. Last month I decided to confide in my principal what was going on. She was super understanding, didn’t ask a ton of questions, and respected my wishes when I said, “I need work to be my distraction right now.” I felt like a burden was lifted off my chest when she said, “If there are no subs, I will personally cover your class for you!” No words can describe the overwhelming feeling of love I received from her just in that sentence.
I still haven’t told the rest of my co-workers, but they are curious as to what is going on. If (fingers are crossed that I would get pregnant this cycle, but that may not happen) I have to go in for another round of treatment next cycle I think I will tell the rest of my co-workers so they can support me as well. I know that they would be more than willing to cover my class, help me with paperwork, etc. if I need to be gone in a hurry. I just need to open up and start telling them so I can get that support.
I know that everyone’s journey will be different and not all of you will be ready to start asking others or start telling about your journey. I just hope you can find reassurance in confiding in one person other than your spouse. Your relationship is going through the wringer right now and your feet are unstable. While it’s good to talk out your feelings with your spouse, sometimes it’s good to gain a fresh perspective by talking with someone who is a “clean slate” for this.
#StartAsking and #StartTelling.
**If you or anyone you know would like to talk about opening up with others, infertility in general, or needs encouragement, support, or just a shoulder to lean on I am always willing to chat. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org**