We all know the statistic: one in eight couples struggle to achieve and/or maintain pregnancy. We know firsthand. Looking at the numbers, “one in eight” amounts to an estimated 48 million couples, or 186 million individuals, that are affected globally (World Health Organization). Yet, those of us in that group of 48 million couples tend to experience isolation, and we feel alone in our struggle with the cross of infertility. Why?
In this series of posts leading up to and during National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), I have summarized what, based on my personal experience, are the most common reasons for the isolation that those of us struggling with infertility face. But of course, I couldn’t stop there. Now that the diagnosis is clear, I want to offer a remedy! I want to provide a window into our experience of infertility, and also show how friends and family can help support us through this experience.
PART TWO OF FOUR: UNCOMFORTABILITY
A significant portion of infertility isolation stems from the inability to share the experience of infertility with family and friends. Whether because it is too painful to share, or just an awkward subject to broach, many friends and family members are unaware of the struggle going on behind the scenes. It is, after all, not exactly easy to work into casual conversation. The obvious openings in conversation are not always pain-free either; for example, correcting Aunt Betty after she reminds you of your “closing window” rubs salt into an already open and inflamed wound. In this day and age, there is, unfortunately, also the stigma of contraception to deal with. I can recall a conversation with a woman prior to my own struggles with infertility, and looking back, my heart breaks for her. In this conversation, she opened up about her inability to conceive, and voiced the added hardship she faced from others’ condemnation of her lack of children. In Catholic circles, where contraception is rightly condemned, others assumed that because she had no children after a certain number of years, that she and her husband must be using contraceptives. Correction of others in Christian charity is necessary at times, but you know what they say about assumptions… Isolation, in this case, stems from the uncomfortable difficulty of being understood by others, even those in our own faith community.
Within the last six months, I openly shared about infertility for the first time on my personal social media pages with a little post explaining that my husband and I had been struggling for the past four years. I didn’t write much, just a brief explanation of what the past four years had entailed and asked for prayers for us and for all couples experiencing infertility. I ended the post by writing, “The statistic is that one in eight couples deal with infertility, and in my experience, they suffer in silence, which is why we decided to be vocal about our personal journey through infertility…if nothing else, hopefully our speaking out will let someone else know they’re not alone.” Not only were friends and family members sympathetic, kind, and generous with prayers, but the number of personal messages I received in response to this little post was staggering! I had not realized it, but so many people were in fact suffering in silence and waiting for the opportunity to open their heart. I was initially so scared to post such a personal life update, but it didn’t end up being “about me” at all!
Be brave and open up about your journey. As my own story proves, there are so many people hurting. Perhaps your bravery will start their journey towards healing. Be prepared for uncomfortable conversations. Have a short script prepared so you are not caught completely unawares. Be mindful, too, that if someone asks a painful question, it is likely not with the intent to wound. Be patient with friends and family. They are looking forward to the same outcome you are; praying for the day you hold a child in your arms.
What Friends & Family Should Know:
Never assume – this goes for a whole lot more than infertility! It is perfectly fine to ask questions that stem from a place of charity. As with everything though, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you are not comfortable with questions being asked about your own reproductive health, it is best not to comment on someone else’s fertility either.
There are undoubtedly many more reasons for the isolation of infertility, and I encourage you to share your thoughts below. Know I am praying for you and uniting my sufferings with yours.
Sydnee has been married to her husband Bren for four years and resides in eastern Pennsylvania in a parked RV! Despite the unusually tiny living arrangements, she is a hoarder of both plants and books. To hear more about her journey, go to www.theonewithinfertility.com or you can find her on Instagram @theonewithinfertility.