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 THREE OF FOUR: UNSOLICATED ADVICE
“My best friend’s cousin’s mother’s aunt’s daughter got pregnant after she ate nothing but boiled beets for a month and drank fresh pine sap every morning after climbing Mount Everest.” Okay, I am obviously making a joke, but the point is clear. Everyone has advice and has heard a success story they are quick to share. To be completely honest, this is not only annoying, but can also serve to drive home the hurtful narrative that, “my body is broken”. I have enough trouble overcoming this false mindset without being reminded at every turn of another possible fix for my damaged parts.
My mother has often reminded my siblings and me that we were given two ears and one mouth. Unfortunately, I am often guilty of listening to respond rather than listening to understand. During a conversation with my husband, this thought came to me, and I interrupted him to ask, “are you looking for me to listen or to help?” In other words, I asked him to clarify whether he needed my advice or a shoulder to cry on. This mindset has greatly impacted the way I interact with others and served as a helpful reminder that sometimes, listening is all that’s needed!
Springs in the Desert. I know it sounds like a shameless plug here, but in all seriousness this ministry was part of the solution for me. Everyone needs community and a place to share their heart and be understood. I can remember the first conversation I had with Ann, Allie, and Stacey. Hearing their stories and seeing their joy despite the pain I knew was there – the only word that fits is life-changing. For the first time I felt like I didn’t need to have a “let’s fix it” mentality. This ministry is about something deeper and more permanent than the “top ten treatments to consider for infertility.” Having a safe place to rest and a community of women ready to cry with you or hold your hand and walk alongside you…I truly have no words for the gift that this is. There is no judgment, only love and understanding, and a sense of belonging that transcends the physical cause of our suffering.
What Friends & Family Should Know:
Once again, the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” applies. The frustration of unsolicited advice is not limited to infertility. While in most cases it comes from a place of love, just be aware of the context for your advice. Put yourself into the situation, stop, and think whether it is helpful and necessary.
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.