I’ve been stewing on this topic for a while. It’s been bothering me for a while and has been coming up a lot lately within the infertility community. Please know that this is not an attack on any one individual. Please also know that the intention of this piece is to help everyone reflect not to upset. It’s intention is to enlighten.
First let me say that I realize that almost everyone has the best of intentions. We all want to see each other succeed and have our happy endings. But sometimes our own personal situation clouds our judgment when we tell others that they need to “be hopeful” or that they “shouldn’t give up”. Most of the time these words come from people who are either pregnant after infertility or are parents after infertility, though not always it can also come from outsiders.
The misunderstanding is that these people believe if you have “hope” and you “don’t give up” you and your spouse will conceive a child. The reality is that “hope” and “not giving up” is as likely to get you pregnant as “relaxing” will get you pregnant. None of those things has anything to do with a couple going through infertility getting pregnant.
If a couple going through infertility is able to get pregnant it has everything to do with their bodies and the medical intervention that may or may not be utilized. A treatment delivered the pregnancy not hope or not giving up. Any medical professional will agree. All of our bodies and diagnosis are different. A treatment that works for one couple won’t work for other couples because their bodies are different even if the diagnosis is similar. I once heard a Reproductive Endocrinologist say he has seen couples with similar diagnosis have no trouble conceiving after Clomid cycles and others who had to move to IVF. This is all out of the couple’s control or anyone’s control for that matter. Conception isn’t an exact science otherwise infertility wouldn’t exist.
By telling a couple that they need to be “hopeful” and “not give up” you are telling them that if they do those things that they are guaranteed to get the same outcome they did. You are giving them a false sense of hope. You are telling them that if it doesn’t work out for them that it’s their fault they gave up and didn’t try hard enough. People going through infertility have self confidence issues and feelings of inadequacy to begin with. Telling them these things just amplifies these feelings. I don’t think that it’s the intention of the person saying this to make the couple feel this way but this is the reality of what is being said.
I’ve watched a number of people recently told to be hopeful and to not give up who went through IVF cycles and other treatments whose cycles/treatments ended up not working. What was already a painful experience became even more painful because it was expected that the result would be different because they were told to be hopeful. Again the intentions were good but the support was misguided and unrealistic.
For me personally the reason K isn’t able to get pregnant isn’t because we weren’t not hopeful, it’s because I was born with a genetic condition that’s left me unable to produce sperm. Believe me for the 18 months we tried naturally I was hopeful each month. Hope is not going to change that any more so than relaxing. If we stay the course and remain childless it won’t be because we gave up not pursuing third party reproduction or adoption, it will be because we moved on. I already feel like K & I haven’t even tried to have kids since we passed on treatments and third party reproduction. If someone told me to not give up hope it would make me feel like even more a quitter if we moved on childless.
My request to the Infertility community is that we stop telling people to “be hopeful” and to “not give up”. People don’t end up childless because they weren’t hopeful or they gave up. They ended up childless because their bodies wouldn’t allow it and because medicine wasn’t able to induce conception. It lead them to move on from trying to have children not give up on it.
Instead we should be wishing each other the best and root for them no matter what the result. Sending them strength and telling them that they are strong no matter what the result delivers powerful support. We should be mindful that all of our journeys are different and will end different. We need to realize that as much as we blame ourselves the reality is all of this is out of our control. It’s unfair for us to have hope and to give up on things out of our control that we already blame ourselves to begin with.
I hope (no pun intended) that those who are reading this don’t take offense but instead are able to learn from it so we can better support each other. I understand that this might be seen as me being bitter towards those who were able to have kids and I need to get over the fact that I’m unable to have kids with K. But this goes beyond me. I’m not the only one who ended up childless after infertility and I won’t be the last unfortunately.