You may be wondering why I am writing about infertility for a mom’s blog? The first reason is that April 23-29 is Infertility Awareness week. Secondly, If you haven’t experienced infertility I can almost assure you that you know someone who has. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 6-19% of women struggle with infertility. I share these statistics about women as they are ones who become pregnant, but it is important to keep in mind that either (or both) partners can have issues that result in infertility.
Roughly 19% (or 1:5) of women with no previous births are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. Secondary infertility (the inability to conceive again after a birth) impacts approximately 6% of women. You can read about my secondary infertility journey here.
There are a million frustrating things that come with an infertility diagnosis. There is determining the cause of infertility (if it can be determined), the very invasive testing for both partners, and the medical interventions that need to be attempted. Not to mention you are almost completely at the mercy of doctors and nurses. When my husband and I received our infertility diagnosis it consumed our thoughts. For us, each month would pass with no luck. It was a repeated series of losing something you never had but wanted so much.
// RELATED CONTENT: Infertility Awareness //
Parenthood is one of the most universal experiences so it seems logical to ask people of a certain age or relationship status about their plans for parenthood. In my infertility journey well meaning comments and questions were often the ones that cut me to the core. Since I have been down the infertility road I wanted to share some helpful reminders.
Someone else’s family planning is really none of your business.
I know that seems blunt. Maybe even rude to just come out and say. Before I experienced infertility I was guilty of asking friends and relatives when they were having kids. Especially newly married couples. I have since tried my best not to ask anyone, even people in my own family, what their plans are for having children.
Ask people with kids about the ones they have, not the ones they don’t
Some people decide to have one child while others decide to have ten. No decision is different or better than the other. I was told by people that we should really have another child, if not for us then for our daughter. How could we not give her a sibling? Doesn’t she want a brother or a sister? Wouldn’t she just be the best big sister? Every comment and question like that was like a knife in my heart. Little did they know that was all we wanted for a very long time. During the time I was undergoing invasive procedures to try to become pregnant and I was asked questions like this I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs at the person who was asking out of genuine curiosity. I never did because I knew they were asking from a good place.
If you have a friend or family member with only one child, ask about that child. We all know parents love to talk endlessly about their child’s most recent milestones or achievements. Leave the conversation there. Trust me, you telling someone they should have another child isn’t going to make them rethink their family plan. And again, it really isn’t any of your business.
Infertility is a personal journey.
When an individual or a couple is struggling with infertility they often do so in private. There are several reasons why this could be the case: embarrassment, sadness, or the simple fact that it is a deeply personal struggle. When my husband and I were going through our myriad of appointments, tests, and procedures, we leaned on each other for support.
We decided to keep our infertility journey mostly private. It was a very difficult and sad time for us. The comments and questions we received from well-meaning family and friends did nothing but add to the stress of an already stressful situation. I would often shrug or laugh off the questions, while feeling sad and ashamed.
If someone trusts you enough to share their infertility journey with you, support them. Be the person at the birthday party or happy hour to diffuse conversations or questions about having more kids. Change the subject, or make up a reason to remove someone from the conversation.
Not everyone wants children
Stepping away from the topic of infertility for a moment, not everyone wants kids. And guess what? That is fine. People who chose not to have children do not deserve to be asked why or why not. They especially don’t deserve to be judged because they made a decision that may be different from the one that you made. Again, a person’s family planning decisions are private ones.
If you have struggled with infertility, I see you. I acknowledge you.
What tips do you have for well-meaning family and friends?