I stumbled upon “Bust an Infertility Myth Blog Challenge” (sponsored by RESOLVE) a few weeks ago and decided that I really wanted to participate. You can learn more about national infertility awareness week here.
I think in a lot of ways Spencer and I have been really lucky. For the most part we haven’t gotten a lot of rude remarks regarding our situation. I have never been told to “just relax.” So far, we haven’t had anyone tell us we’re “doing it wrong” (knock on wood). To tell you the truth, I have been more hurt by the things that HAVEN’T been said more than the things that have.
Therefore, the myth that I particularly wanted to challenge is this:
It is better to not say anything to couples struggling with infertility than to risk saying something wrong.
I don’t want this to come across the wrong way. I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty. We have so many supportive friends and family members. To all of you, I thank you. Thank you for being there for us. Thank you for offering your love. Thank you for the letters, phone calls, comments, and hugs. Thank you, thank you for letting us know that we are not alone.
My heart aches for those who don’t have the support system we do. Perhaps you know someone who struggles with infertility. Chances are, you know multiple someone's. I know it can be hard to know the proper way to respond. I have been there myself! Many people are afraid of saying the wrong thing. They don’t want to make the situation worse. Some individuals, with children, may feel like they don’t know what to say because they can’t relate to what it is like to struggle with infertility. Because some people don’t know what to say, they don’t say anything.
Silence can be devastating.
I will tell you about the first time we shared our struggles with infertility with our family. I was nervous. No, I was beyond nervous I was terrified. We had talked for months about whether or not we should share our burden with others. Spencer wanted to tell our family our story. He knew that our dear family would pray for us. He knew that they would be there for us. I was hesitant to share the deepest feelings of my heart. I really don’t like asking for help. I was of the opinion that we should deal with the situation on our own.
We eventually decided that before we began aggressive fertility treatments, we would tell our family some of the details. One Monday evening, we sat down at the computer and composed an e-mail. It was a difficult e-mail to write, but even more difficult to send. We actually said a prayer before we sent it off, because I was so scared of their reactions.
After we hit “send” I thought, “Did I really just do that? Did I really just share the most vulnerable part of my heart with all those people?” I felt very exposed, to say the least.
At first people didn’t know what to say. It was a learning process for all of us. Spencer and I had to learn how to humble ourselves and ask for support. We then had to learn how to receive it. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes.
Even though it was the most embarrassing thing I have ever done, I am so grateful that we shared our struggles with infertility and our desire for parenthood. The kindness and that has been shown us has literally carried us through some difficult times. The kind letters of compassion have been lovingly read and re-read. The sweet words of encouragement have been written in our journal to reflect upon during difficult times.
So to those of you who don’t know what to say to help your friend struggling with infertility, I offer this advice: say something. Even if your words aren’t perfect. Even if you feel inadequate to offer your support. Even if you feel like you can’t understand their pain. Heart speaks to heart. However imperfect you may feel your offering of comfort is, the sincerity of your feelings will come shining through.
You don’t have to say a lot. Sometimes all it takes is a hug. Sometimes all it takes is a:
“I’m sorry you have to go through this.”
“We’re thinking about you!”
“We love you.”
“We’re praying for you.”
Just don’t leave them wondering whether or not you care. It took so much courage for them to open up. The fact that they told you they are struggling, is a huge sign of trust.
Infertility is difficult enough as it is; no couple should have to struggle through it alone.
To learn more about infertility, please visit here.