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How To Not Be A Dick to Your Infertile Friends

When we first got the news that we would likely never be able to conceive on our own, I pretended like I was ready to deal with the fact that I would never be pregnant. I imagined myself being calm and composed, taking what life brought me in stride, and never turning into one of those frantic, infertile women on the internet.

Well, I was full of shit. Taylor and I began the process to adopt from foster care, which we do want to do eventually, but it took months to come to the realization that I want to try and have our own. Is that selfish of me? Now fostering is completely different than adoption, which is completely different than pregnancy. All are wonderful, but different. But more than anything in the world I want to grow a tiny human. Our tiny human.

I never thought that TTC (trying to conceive) would consume our lives. Sometimes when someone asks me what day it is I have to stop myself as I’m about to say “Cycle Day 13… I mean Tuesday”. I never thought that we would have to plan vacations around doctors appointments and potential treatments. But the fact is, we don’t have it as bad as most people battling infertility. We found out fairly early on, and we only have one factor (instead of both male and female factor).

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I’m a rollercoaster of hormones and emotions (hormotions?).. fine one day, and a Gremlin that has been fed after midnight the next. I’ve mastered the art of pretending I’m tired rather than sad. So, how can you expect to deal with me (or others) who are struggling?

First… the don’ts:

“Just relax!”

WHAT? You mean I can get pregnant by having sex? WHO KNEW?

Surely you know not to say this, right? There is no medical proof that relaxing makes people more fertile, and acting like a glass of wine and a few deep breaths will magically result in pregnancy makes light of a serious medical problem. Don’t do that.

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For some of us, close monitoring and medication is probably the best way we can avoid losing a pregnancy – if we can even get pregnant. Letting nature take its course can have devastating results sometimes. For us, when we start treatment we will be closely monitored with ultrasounds throughout.

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Nothing makes sense in this journey, and kicking our feet back won’t change that.

“Everything happens for a reason.”/”It’s God’s will.”

Even for those who have strong faith and truly believe that everything happens for a reason, this is not what anyone needs to hear. We want you to be angry with us, and think that this is unfair, and acknowledge that it doesn’t make sense. We don’t want you to try and convince us that this is all part of some grand plan (even if we believe it might be).

Hopefully you know your friends well enough to temper the God-talk, but do recognize that dealing with any life crisis can drastically change the role of faith in one’s life. The most devout may lose all interest, and vice versa. It’s still a good idea to avoid saying anything that could be translated as,  “You have no power in this.”

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

Adoption might very well be part of our plan, but please don’t equate adoption with pregnancy. For many, the drive to be pregnant and have a biological child is intense. When that doesn’t come easily, though, there is not only the weight of dealing with the crisis of infertility, but there is also the added magnifying glass on all of our choices and actions. Some push for more interventions, some think those interventions are selfish.

And while we know the result of adoption and having a biological child is the same – getting to parent a child — the process is much different. For some of us who have dealt with pregnancy loss, the thought of starting the adoption process and losing a placement is more than we know we can handle right now. Trust us. We know about adoption.

“Have you tried fill-in-the-blank-with-herbal-fad?“

Yeah, We’ve probably tried it. And it didn’t work.

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“At least you know you can get pregnant!” (after an infertile friend has a miscarriage)

I understand this reaction. I had this reaction the first time I knew someone who had a miscarriage.  You can get pregnant, I thought. Focus on that.

But after awhile, those pregnancies, instead of being glimmers of hope, become cruel jokes.

Being a friend to someone who has suffered pregnancy loss is in a category of its own, but the same rules apply – be gentle, follow communication cues and know that people mourn differently every day. Some feel more comfortable talking about losing a “pregnancy,” and some may want to use the language of losing a “baby.”

They’re not interchangeable, and please don’t judge if someone doesn’t want to use the term “baby.”

So what to do? What to say?

Use Google.

Do some basic research about what we’re going through — whether it’s medications we’re taking, IUI, IVF, sperm morphology/motility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies or even simply the fundamentals of the reproductive system, so you know what we’re talking about (and maybe you’ll learn something about your body, too). It’s fascinating how many of us have no concept of how our reproductive systems work until they don’t.

Act interested.

Some women don’t want to talk about infertility. But some of us? Some of us really want to talk about it. We’re going through some shit, and want you to be genuinely interested in the follicles on my ovaries, how it feels to give myself shots, or how hilarious it is when I wake up from Clomid night sweats to two giant round boob-pools of sweat on the sheets.

You might not know what an HSG is, what progesterone is, what IUI entails or how medications work. You wanting to know helps normalize this experience and makes me feel less alone.

Ask me how I am. Mean it.

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You’re pregnant. Now what?

Please know that I can separate my happiness for you from my sadness for myself. Almost always. But also know that I’m terrified of being a bad friend, and don’t want to burst into tears when you announce your pregnancy.

Please call and announce your happy news; I’ll be excited and then we’ll hang up so I can be alone. Please don’t not tell me, or avoid me or act uncomfortable around me. Don’t feel guilty or like you have to overcompensate for my sad sack of a uterus – I’m excited for you, I am! Sometimes, though, I have to wallow in my sadness for us.

One of the hardest parts of infertility is the not knowing. Not knowing if, how or when pregnancy will occur, and then what will happen next when it happens or doesn’t.

While this is a time that we may retreat, be self-involved, sad and frustrated, we still need you, and hope that you need us. Be gentle. Be involved. Be there. Share things with us. We WANT to be involved. If we can’t handle it, we will let you know.

But please… for the love of all that is holy.. do NOT complain about being pregnant to us. Appreciate every damn minute of growing that tiny human. We would do anything to be in your position.

And finally… to my friends who are also struggling with fertility. 

All I can tell you is this:

You are not broken. You are not less-than. You are worthy of love. You are whole. Forgive yourself because you’ve done nothing wrong. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are deserving of acceptance and belonging. Be kind to yourself and love yourself. Know that you are enough. You matter greatly. You are loved. You are not alone.

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