Infertility hurts on so many different levels, and this pain is made greater because it is so tempting to hide your infertility struggle from others.
One survey found that 6 in 10 couples (61 percent) hide their fertility troubles from family and friends. Over 50% of all couples told researchers that it was easier to tell people that they were not planning to have children, rather than admit they were struggling with infertility.
While I’m not at all surprised by these findings since we hear this as well from our community, it makes me so sad to think of all this suffering in silence. Do you hide your infertility?
Infertility Can Make You Feel Inadequate
One reason people don’t want to share with family and friends about their infertility struggle is that research has found that infertility makes them feel inadequate and 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, but on the subconscious level, many feel embarrassed or ashamed.
- 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.
It All About Sex
Another reason you might want to hide your infertility from family and friends is that it involves talking about sex. Let’s face it– it’s hard to talk about reproduction without talking about the act that makes reproduction possible. And talking about sex is something that most of us would prefer to avoid with all but our very best friends.
Infertility Brings “Helpful” Advice
People want to help. They really do. Unfortunately often with infertility what they perceive as “help” is not helpful, often ill-informed, and sometimes flat out wrong.
- 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 birth defects or cancer or … .
- Eat lots of avocados or grapefruit or broccoli or _______(fill in the blank).
- Adopt and you’re sure to get pregnant.
In order to avoid this “help”, it’s tempting to just keep your struggles to yourself.
Find Your Someone
We’re not here to tell you to share your infertility struggles with the world. All the reasons we’ve given to hide your infertility are valid; however, we are suggesting that you need to not hide your infertility from everyone in your life. You need to find your someone with whom you can share your frustration and sadness, as well as your hope.
Obviously one of these “someones” should be your partner. Sadly, plenty of infertility patients try to protect their partner from the full intensity of their feelings. The survey mentioned at the beginning of this blog found that over half (53%) of the infertility patients surveyed tried to hide their feelings from their partner.
While we recommend sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of infertility with your partner, let me suggest that your partner shouldn’t be the only one you confide in because sometimes they need a break. Find at least a couple of folks in your circle of support with whom you can be open. In an ideal world you would find someone within your family and within your friend circle.
When finding your someone to support you in your infertility struggle, it is helpful to start the conversation by sharing a little about your journey and what you have done so far. I find this helpful to stem the tide of unhelpful advice by laying the groundwork that you have done your research and are seeing professionals.
Second, I think it is helpful to tell this person what you would expect from them. Specifically, let them know that you don’t want them to solve your infertility; you simply want someone to understand your pain and to listen.
In addition to finding at least one person outside of your partner in your real life, join an in-person or online support group. There are not a lot of in-person support groups outside of major metropolitan areas, but check the Resolve website to see if there is one near you. Fortunately, online support groups are available to everyone. One of the best is the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. It’s a closed Facebook group so that only those in the group can see the posts. I guarantee that you will find others there who will completely and totally “get” what you are going through.
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy:
- Being Odd Woman Out: The Curse of Infertility
- Dear Pregnant Friend—Why I Won’t be at Your Baby Shower
- Explaining Infertility to Families and Friends
Image credit: avocadogirlfriend