So this week is national infertility awareness week, and it gives us a great opportunity to share our stories and show support for the TTC community. The fact is, infertility is a lot more common than everyone most people are aware of because one in EIGHT couples have struggled with it. That pretty much guarantees that a few couples you know have struggled with this and never even let on... but why don't we talk about it?! I recently experienced some shame regarding my infertility issues and I blame it 100% on the fact that we just don't talk about it enough so the people who DON'T struggle with it can be pretty ignorant. I didn't want to share this story because it hurts, but I definitely believe the more we talk about it the more informed everyone will be and the less misconceptions there will be.
First of all, I understand that it can be difficult to know what to say to someone trying to conceive. That’s why don’t bring it up to people who I am not close to. I’ve found this blog very helpful for this purpose because I can vent all I want and there are no awkward silences, nobody feels like they HAVE to respond or even read it, and the only ones who do respond are usually those who have been through it or are currently going through it – which is very encouraging!
Secondly, I understand that I will get pregnant in God’s time. It’s a big misconception I think some people have, they automatically assume I’m distraught when I tell them how long we’ve been “trying”. Incorrect! Yes, this has been a struggle but it is a God-given struggle and I am GRATEFUL for it. I feel God’s love and I know that He hasn’t given me infertility issues because He is punishing me, or because He has forgotten me. It’s the opposite. This is something that has brought me closer to Him because He is the only one who can calm my fears and I have truly learned how to hand over my worries and trust Him in a way I never have before. It’s terrifying to not know whether this is going to last two more months or ten more years or forever, so I am completely blind and the world just can’t comfort that. Just because I get scared sometimes doesn’t mean I don’t believe His timing is perfect.
That being said, every single day my faith and my fears both struggle to make their voices heard in my head. Most days it’s neck and neck, because apparently I still need more practice. I know that I am the one who is ultimately responsible for choosing faith, but it really does help when somebody says something encouraging…and in the same breath, it’s so easy for fear to win when somebody says something discouraging!
Like I said, there are only a select few that I open up to…Matthew mostly, my mom and dad, my in-laws sometimes, and my close friends are the main ones who I feel comfortable with. I expect them to understand (maybe that’s unfair?) because they’ve supported me from the beginning, and I definitely let my guard down around them. That’s why hurtful words regarding infertility from someone in one of these circles feel so much worse than hurtful words from a casual acquaintance. Here is how a conversation I recently had went:
I said “You know, that’s a great name. I would definitely put that on my list of potential baby names.” My friend’s face got all weird and in my head I thought: Dang…does the name suck?? Then she squirmed in her seat and said something I couldn’t hear, and when I asked her to speak up she said “Well…Maybe you and Matt can adopt one day?” (The first thing was not that many words…)
Now, it may not seem THAT bad, but it hit me that in this persons eyes, Matt and I have zero chance at having babies of our own!! I was so embarrassed by the pity I felt from her and I wondered if she thought of herself as more of a woman than I am because she was able to carry and have babies…for the first time I was embarrassed by my infertility, like it was my fault. My heart honestly broke.
I need to remember that this friend was trying her hardest to be as encouraging as she knew how, but I feel like I was doing really well and this just knocked me back a few steps. It honestly hurt so bad it took me a week or so of healing after it was said and done before I was able to get back to where I was. That recovery took emotional energy that is so valuable for someone struggling with an emotional issue.
For the record, if you are ever in a position to talk with someone who you know is trying to conceive and you struggle with what to say, a safe bet is “You will be such a great mother when your time comes!” That is both encouraging, and a compliment all in one, so it’s the perfect go-to. Or, as in the case above, just say “Yeah that’s a great name” and move on. Because I don’t want to be forced to reevaluate who it’s safe to open up to.