Infertility sucks. I just felt the need to get that out there, since this is National Infertility Awareness Week. In honor of this week, I’m joining the national infertility organization RESOLVE in its goal to bust myths about infertility. So without further ado…
I don’t have the energy to retell the long saga that got my husband and I where we are today, but it took several years of effort and a lot of very miserable and expensive medical intervention to create our two lovely children.
That’s several years of great strain on our marriage and emotions, a hell of a lot of money paid by our insurance companies (lucky us!), and a horrible strain on my body.
(For example: ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Read the bit about “remove fluids that have collected in your body” and reflect on the fact that over two weeks, GIVF removed about 13 liters out of me in seven separate procedures. I cannot begin to tell you how awful OHSS is when it’s severe. Heck, it’s no fun even when it’s minor, I’m told.)
However, despite all of those stressors, one of the most aggravating aspects of infertility turned out not to be the inability to get pregnant, but the inability of people to stop giving me advice, even when they had no idea what I was going through!
And of the annoying and useless bits of advice I received over the course of years of infertility treatments, the absolute worst was “You just need to relax.” (Closely followed by a Certain Person informing my husband that we just needed to “fuck a lot.” Don’t ask.)
Look…I know people meant well. Really, I do. But as RESOLVE points out, “the vast majority of individuals who have infertility have a medical reason, not a stress-related one.” And by telling a person struggling with infertility that they “just need to relax,” you’re saying “it’s your fault you’re not getting pregnant.”
This is less helpful than you might think. Not to mention, it’s not conducive to helping a woman trying to get pregnant to actually RELAX! Because after being told to relax, either you feel that you’re a bad person for not being able to relax and have a baby…or else your blood pressure goes up as you try to convince yourself not to strangle the person who just said it.
But it’s not just the “you need to relax” kind of advice that aggravates the heck out of people struggling with infertility. I’m going to be a little offensive here and say that if you personally have not been through infertility and its associated treatments, the best thing you can do is to shut the hell up and listen.
Don’t tell the story of your cousin’s sister-in-law’s secretary who adopted and then got pregnant. Don’t describe the article you vaguely remember reading about some herb that helped somebody get pregnant. Don’t talk about how they should have had children sooner.
Just. Be. Quiet. Say “I’m very sorry to hear that” and shut up. I can guarantee from personal experience that whoever you’re talking with will be a lot happier as a result and you won’t develop a nasty case of foot-in-mouth disease.
Infertility is stressful. Infertility treatments are doubly so. Don’t tell women to relax, okay? If you want to help, then do something to help her relax. Give her a massage. Take her out to dinner. Buy her some bubble bath. I can guarantee that those will be much better received than “helpful” advice. And the life you save might be your own 😉
Thus closeth my lecture for National Infertility Awareness Week. If you’re a fellow sufferer, then you have my heartfelt sympathy. If you’re just starting down the road, RESOLVE is a good place to learn more about infertility. If you are looking for answers to specific questions, feel free to comment here and I can help you find what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a sympathetic ear, you can comment here for that too. I know how helpful that can be.