OK, so I’m just going to come out with it…
I am jealous of you! (parent/soon to be parent) Well to be more precise, I’m jealous of your ability to conceive easily (within 12 months of trying) and naturally. Sometimes without even really trying or by ‘accident’.
I also feel guilty about feeling like this. I have never been the ‘jealous type’, so it makes it harder to deal with. It makes me question who I am. Infertility changes you as a person.
I am excited/happy for you but want I really want is; and what infertility denies me (besides the obvious) … is the ability and strength to be excited with you. There is a big difference.
*I would never expect anyone who hasn’t been through the grief and mental torture of infertility to understand what it feels like. In fact, even though it may help people like me cope better if more people did [understand]. Deep down I truly hope they never understand because I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy (well, sometimes I do wish it on child abusers & horrible people who would be/are bad parents etc. if I’m being completely honest).
So, there you have it. Jealousy. Envy. Guilt. …Anger (towards child abusers and sometimes the universe).
I know you are probably thinking, ‘why can’t you just be happy for them/me’. Well, I am [happy for them/you]. Trust me! If you don’t believe me, please read paragraph 3 again*. I am happy that you get to experience the joy parenting brings. I am even more happy that you have been spared the same fate as me. That you never have to deal with or experience the heartbreak of mourning/grieving a child that has only ever existed in your hopes and dreams. That you never had to deal with the disappointment and feeling like you are a failure month after month. That you never have to deal with, needles, tests, surgeries, having your Dr be a part of your sex life and then having other people tell you to just have fun ‘in the bed room’ and ‘enjoy it’.
Disclaimer… Just to clarify, I do not/will not ever compare the grief experienced from not conceiving a child, to the grief of a parent losing a child through death. There is nothing worse than a parent losing a child that lived. I can’t even begin to imagine what that is like.
So many times, I have been made to feel silly and people respond to me like I’m exaggerating or it’s not that bad, when I open-up and talk about it (by the way, it takes immense strength and bravery to talk about it with anyone, even family and close friends).
I wish I were exaggerating about it.
Some comments I’ve received have implied that it’s my fault because I haven’t tried this or that therapy/treatment/considered adoption/some miracle Chinese treatment/standing on my head or simply if only I could ‘just relax’ or ‘stop trying’ and ‘it will happen when you least expect it’. Yep, you can say that again, because I least expected it to have taken this long. So, I guess in some ways it will happen when I least expect it, because I expected it to happen within one year of trying like normal people, and it didn’t.
Then there’s the ‘well at least you’ comments. Such as; ‘at least you have lots of time to do things for yourself’, ‘at least you can control your emotions because you can’t when you’ve got pregnancy hormones’, ‘at least you can sleep at night because you don’t have a crying baby to breastfeed’, ‘at least you got lots of other things to be thank-full for’ etc.
Now I know that some of you may be reading this and thinking…
“oh god. I’ve said those things to her or to someone else going through in fertility.”
Well, I’m not going to lie to you… YES those comments are hurtful and always annoying. However, we [infertile people] don’t blame you because… read paragraph 3* again. We don’t blame you because you don’t know what else to say and most of the time you just want to help us somehow. Also, nearly everyone (except those who have been through it themselves) who knows about my infertility has said at least one of more of the above to me at some stage, so you are not alone in your well-meant comments. Even a Dr once told me to ‘just relax’ after a year of trying. Needless to say, he’s not my Dr any more. Which is a good thing because I ended up needing surgery and it might’ve not been diagnosed if I didn’t go to a different Dr for a second opinion!
Hence why I am writing this blog, to educate (not blame/shame) people. (Well, except for that useless Dr!)
The truth is…
If I had just ‘stopped trying’ and listened to the uneducated advice/opinions, I would’ve 100% had ZERO chance of ever getting pregnant because infertility is a diagnosed medical disease. Which, in almost ALL cases will need some form of medical treatment after 1 year (for women under 35) of unsuccessfully trying to conceive (6 months for women over 35).
The truth is…
Nope, I don’t have any control over my emotions and hormones, if I did this journey would be so much easier. I have learn’t some ways to help me get through but that is not the same as having control. In fact, many infertile women who are having treatment and drugs are dealing with hormone side effects too because they are having extra hormones pumped into them on top of their natural hormones. Even if they are not at the stage of having hormone treatment to help them conceive, they will still have to deal with the normal hormones around ovulation time and their monthly bleed. On top of dealing with hormones around their period, they will also be trying to hold it together and deal with the grief of another month without their dreams and hopes being fulfilled, despite all the hard work they put into it again that month.
The truth is…
Many nights I don’t sleep. Not because a hungry/unsettled baby is keeping me awake by crying. I don’t sleep at night because I am keeping myself awake crying because I don’t have a baby.
Disclaimer… I’m not saying that a crying baby who doesn’t sleep isn’t hard work, exhausting, frustrating, upsetting and probably worrying at times. I get it, it’s difficult and you have every right to seek advice or support. All I’m trying to say is, infertile people would give anything to be in your shoes, no matter how hard parenting can be at times. So, comments such as, ‘at least you aren’t sleep deprived’ are incredibly insensitive towards people going through infertility. Please don’t mistake my comments to imply that you are not grateful for your children, just because you open up about how difficult parenting is. If you weren’t grateful for your children, you would be one of those bad parents who probably neglect or abuse them. Seeking support/advice for ‘normal parenting struggles’ and more serious parenting struggles, is always a good (and brave) thing to do. You should never be made to feel anything less than a good parent for seeking help/support. Just perhaps be considerate of who you are talking to about it. If your infertile friend is the only or best person you’ve got to talk to, then explain that to them. Tell them you are finding things difficult and ask if you can talk about it with them, they will support you the best way they can. If they can’t, they may help you find someone who can support you.
And finally… I can’t believe I actually have to clarify this one, because it shocks me every time someone says ‘at least you have other things to be thankful for’
YES, yes I do have many things in my life which, I am more grateful for than you can possibly imagine. However, does that mean I should be denied the right to want to have a baby?? Does that mean, if I don’t end up having a family, that when I’m old and become a widow (because my partner is a few years older, so chances are I will) I should have just been grateful for everything else I had in my life and not regret growing old and lonely without any kids/grand-kids? Um … NO it does not.
Yes, I am grateful for every little thing in my life that is good. In fact, probably more than most people… because I truly understand how fragile life is. I understand how it is a complete miracle that any of us are here and how one day (without warning) anyone could face the possibility of never achieving their biggest dream in life or losing something close to their heart, through no fault of their own. Even though it was something they had always assumed would just happen in their future without any issues.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, you never expect that it will happen to you, until it does and you can’t imagine what it’s like until it happens [to you].
So, if you want to help and support a friend going through infertility because you care about that person/couple… All you need to do is:
- Listen to them, hug them, tell them you are sorry, tell them it sucks, tell them you are praying for them, that you hope one day they will be able to share the happy, nervous and exciting news that they too are ‘expecting’ a baby.
- Please, unless you’ve been through infertility or you are a fertility specialist/expert, STOP with the advice.
- STOP with the insensitive comments (no matter how well-meant they are).
- Never tell them to ‘just relax’ EVER!!! This just makes them less relaxed and you are basically insinuating that their feelings aren’t valid and that it’s their fault they haven’t conceived yet. Just don’t say it. Trust me.
- Be considerate when announcing your pregnancy. For example, tell them in private or one to one if you can. So they don’t have to put on a brave face in front of everyone for too long. Don’t get upset if they don’t jump for joy initially, because it doesn’t mean they aren’t happy for you, they are just incredibly sad for themselves. The best way to announce it to them is by (a kind) phone call or message, because they won’t have to try and hold back their tears in front of you. It will just be another reminder to them that everyone else, except them, is getting pregnant. They will make it up to you when they are ready and have processed your news. Just give them time and space.
- PLEASE be MINDFUL of who you are talking to when complaining about normal side-affects/challenges with pregnancy and raising a child/baby. Because just as we will get better advice from a specialist or someone who has experienced infertility… You will also get better advice and support from other parents who are going through/been through your struggles. They understand it better than we do and they probably aren’t sitting there wishing to have even just one day in your shoes, whilst listening to you complain about it.
- NEVER EVER try to purposely rub your pregnancy in their face by going on and on and on about how utterly, amazingly, excited and happy you are and showing off every, single, thing to do with being pregnant and constantly rubbing your bump with your hands in front of them non-stop (this drives us insane with envy). We do want to see you happy and excited because it’s much better than hearing you complain, but just please don’t overdo it on purpose, at least not in front of us. Also, remember that 1 in 4 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. So, when you are obsessively rubbing your bump in public please consider, that it is quite possible, there is someone nearby who has lost a pregnancy. In private you can go to town on your bump, rub it, sing to it, paint it, eat your dinner on it, kiss it (if you can reach haha). It’s ok to show off a bit (hell, I certainly will when it’s my turn) just try to tone it down slightly in public. By the way, this is exactly why baby showers can be painful for some infertile women. Which leads me nicely onto the next point…
- Don’t exclude them!! They are already feeling lonely and isolated, because they are probably one of the only/few childless couples in their circle of friends. Don’t treat them any differently by not inviting them to events such as baby showers/kid’s birthdays etc. Yes, they might make an excuse not to come, or they may be honest with you about how they feel, or they may just come and have a great time. However, if you assume it will be too difficult for them if you invite them… it will hurt their feelings and make them feel even more isolated. Just respect their choice whether they attend or not and don’t be offended if they decline, it’s nothing personal against you.
One last thing… You may or may not realize this but your infertile friend is most likely one of the toughest, strongest, most resilient and determined warrior you will ever meet. However, that doesn’t mean their heart isn’t breaking into a million pieces. They still need and want your love and support now more than ever and love can make miracles happen!
Thanks for reading! Please share this and spread the word. If it makes one person feel less alone or stop one person from saying the wrong thing or prevent even just one sleepless night in tears. Then it is worth sharing, don’t you think?