If you were infertile, who would you tell? Would you trust anyone with a secret so delicate? That’s a dilemma faced by every infertile couple, who are probably struggling to communicate their feelings to each other, never mind anyone else. Unfortunately, the older you get, the more people start asking about babies: “When are you having them? Why haven’t you had them already?”
The theory that sex and fertility are private matters barely seems to apply. I was asked when I would be having babies on my wedding day! The topic came up many times after that too, with family and friends blissfully unaware that I’d already been diagnosed with fertility problems.
It seemed cruel and unnecessary, but really, they didn’t know any better. They hadn’t been through it, it didn’t cross their mind.
When I recently announced my pregnancy, I ignored the few tactless Facebook messages of “about time, too,” but that’s not to say it didn’t hurt, or fan a few flames of anger.
No matter why you’re facing infertility, it can be incredibly difficult to talk about it. That’s why infertility counsellors, like Dara Roth Edney of InformFertility, are worth their weight in gold.
Guilt, grief and isolation are just are few of the feelings experienced by someone going through something as intense and devastating as infertility, says Dara.
“As with anything you’re going through that’s really difficult, it’s easy to feel quite alone,” she shares. “If don’t have anybody to talk to, to get these feelings out. If you’re talking to your partner, that’s great, you should be talking to them, but also you should be aware of how it’s impacting them. A counsellor is just there for you, you don’t have to worry about their feelings, they’re just there for you. They have good suggestions and strategies of how to cope with family events, how to tell people, getting around decision making, information on treatments. Sometimes it’s hard to see another perspective.”
When faced with questions from loved ones, it can be tempting to share everything. But Dara urges caution.
“When you do tell family and friends, then people have all sorts of reactions. Some people are positive and supportive, some people are not. Some people might say, ‘Why don’t you adopt?’ The longer it takes, the harder it is. People around you are starting to have children, then it becomes incredibly difficult to put on a brave face through all the baby showers and family dinners and be happy and supportive. There becomes a disconnect between how these people are living and how you’re living. They don’t really have a sense of how devastating it is.”
Dara encourages people to think carefully about who in your lives would be supportive. Who can you count on? Make a list with your partner and discuss it. But before you share it with anybody else, you have to talk to each other, try and understand what each of you are going through and what you want to do about it.
Perhaps you’ll end up trying for a baby sooner than you’d like, simply because you don’t know how hard it would be. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with it, but there’s no shame in needing a bit of help to work it through.
Infertility changes your perspective: from how you want babies to when you want them and what you’ll go through to get them. But there is so much hope, from cutting edge medical treatment to traditional Chinese medicine and infertility counsellors to share your frustrations with.
This time last year, I never thought I’d be writing this column with a little person growing inside me – which just goes to show how much hope there can be.
~ Charlotte Percival-Gonzalez is writing a four-part series on infertility for She Does The City. Charlotte explores some common symptoms that might suggest fertility problems, and what you can do as well as facing possible problems with pregnancy, and exploring solutions and what to expect on your first visit to the doctor, and exploring Chinese medicine.