Tag Archives: Support

Expecting & Parenting after IF and how to support others 

My intention for this post is to hope it helps the community as a whole to support each other and avoid unintentional hurt feelings. Recently I’ve noticed a few members of the community who recently became pregnant or who gave birth ignoring me not responding to me or interacting with me. Though we all start in the same place and some end in the same place how we get there is different and not everyone ends in the same place. Also there are times we’ll be in the same place and others we aren’t. You get the point, it’s complicated.
The hardest thing for us to navigate at times is when a member of the infertility community becomes pregnant or gives birth while others are either still TTC, taking a break, pursuing adopting, a parent via adoption or living childless/free. It’s awkward and no one knows exactly how to interact and support the other. For the expecting parent/parent they may want to protect themselves by avoiding the trauma of being in the trenches and fearing going back to that place. On the other side those in the trenches may avoid those who are expecting or are parents because it hurts them. None of us intend to hurt one another we just don’t know how to navigate this crap.  It takes a village to get through it.

Below I’ve put together some tips/things a to keep in mind for expecting parents and parents on how to support and maintain relationships with those still in the trenches, taking a break, pursuing adopting, parent via adoption or living childless/free. Please don’t hesitate to provide your feedback no matter where you’re at. Dialogue is so important to achieve progress.  Above all communicating and being honest with each other is the best we can do.

1) Please don’t tell us to give up or that miracles can happen. Nothing makes us feel worse when we are told to keep trying when we maybe at our wits end or feel like we may have stopped too soon. We already blame ourselves as it is and think we’re doing something wrong.

2) Your pregnancy/birth has nothing to do with our situation. What worked for you won’t work for everyone or even another person. Our bodies are all different and add in our partners or donors and it’s even more complex to achieve conception.

3) Don’t forget about us. We understand you may need to take a break and enjoy the next chapter of your lives and not live in the community all the time. We understand you have new responsibilities and your life has changed. But we are still here and value our friendship. We aren’t lepors either. Talking to us won’t bring bad luck upon you. When you forget about us it can feel like being left to go hang out with the cool kids.

4) We aren’t upset with you for getting pregnant or becoming a parent. Going back to #2 you getting pregnant or becoming a parent has nothing to do with our situation. It maybe a reminder of what we aren’t able to achieve but it’s not preventing us from achieving what you were able to. There isn’t a baby quota the infertility gods have where only so many babies are born and you having your baby prevents us from having one.

5) Be with us instead of trying to fix things for us. We know you mean well. We know you’re rooting for us. But we aren’t looking for you to tell us that it will all work out or that we’ll become parents. Unfortunately no one knows that. If you want to help and we’re hurting tell us you are there to listen.  

6) Celebrate our non TTC accomplishments. If we have something great in our lives that’s non TTC related celebrate with us but realize it doesn’t fill the void.

7) We can talk about non TTC topics. We all have and had lives outside of having kids before all this. We may have even shared common interests. If you’re uncomfortable talking about babies or treatments go that route to stay in touch.

8) If we move on to adopting, donor conception or childless/free life respect our decision to move on. Please don’t judge us. Not all of our journeys are going to end the same way. Also, it’s not going to feel the same way it felt for you becoming a parent. There is a whole level of complexity added even if we become parents. Though there are some common themes of parenting. If we don’t there’s a child void in our life that will never be filled. Also don’t assume that a person can be happy without children if you have children. Yes, those without children can be happy but please don’t assume something you don’t have personal experience with. It’s like us assuming you are happy as a parent and never hurt.

9) We are happy for you and your family. Even if we mute you on Social Media, keep our distance or disappear for a bit it’s just us protecting ourselves. It’s not you or us just the situation.

10) We care for you and are here for you too. We recognize being pregnant or a parent isn’t easy especially if it comes after previous losses. We know you are grateful. We know you wouldn’t trade places with us. Heck we wouldn’t trade if roles were reversed. So don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you have morning sickness, a baby who won’t sleep or a spouse who isn’t supporting you. If we were in your shoes we’d feel the same way and need support.

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“Hope” and “Not Giving Up” in the Infertility Community

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.

It’s not the same

Before I start my rant, let me make it clear this is not directed at any one person. This is just a general post directed more at an attitude than it is one person. Please do not take offense to this rant as it is not meant to be an attack on anyone.

The infertility community is great for those in need of support. We all root for each other to succeed in all walks of life. Though some do leave once they have their child there are those who stick around. What makes it special is that when someone falls everyone is there to help pick that person up. You can’t find a better group of selfless people that look out for one another. They all have the best of intentions.

With that being said there is this feeling that those who aren’t so lucky who don’t end up with children that are encouraged that other things in life can fill the void that that their childlessness has left. It’s implied that certain things that would be passed down to children can be passed down to other people’s children either who are relatives or children they contact through volunteer work. With me it was implied from my Father’s Day post yesterday that I could pass certain things on through my volunteer work.

The reality is that I can’t, others can’t. It’s not the same. That void can never be filled the way you have filled the void with the only thing that will fill the void. Being a mentor, uncle, aunt or babysitter for your friend’s kid does not fill the void left by Childlesness.

At the end of the day when I go home there is still an empty bedroom in my house. On Christmas morning my house is quiet. At night instead of helping our child with their homework, I am playing on my IPad watching TV. On the weekends, I’m going to the gym in the morning rather than soccer or baseball/softball practice. My life is still the same as your was before children. Only difference is your life changed mine didn’t and likely won’t. And your children will remember you once you pass the children I contact through volunteer work will forget about me within a few years if not sooner.

These people should ask themselves if volunteer work or being an aunt/uncle is the same as having children or fills that void why didn’t they choose that instead of having kids? Maybe because it isn’t.

I volunteered for Big Brother because I had the free time to do so and because I like to help people who need someone to believe in themselves. I didn’t volunteer to fill the childless void. It would have been selfish of me to do so. It would have been very unfair to my little who needs and deserves better than that. I’m not supposed to be my little’s parent anyway. He has parents. I’m supposed to be a friend/big brother. I’m supposed to set examples for him not tell him what he should do.

Like I said people who say this to others have the best of intentions. They want to help lift others up. I can’t fault them for that. My advice for them is to the best way you can lift that person up is tell them you’re sorry that they hurt and that you’re there to listen. You can’t fix that person’s problem that’s up to them to address themselves. Recognize that your situation and theirs are not the same nor will the resolution to your infertility journey.

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Tips for Wives with Infertile Husbands

I recently connected with a woman on the resolve message boards whose husband is dealing with infertility. Like anyone dealing with infertility he has not dealt with it well. She has had a hard time connecting with him, which is natural given the circumstances. Just as men are going to have a hard time understanding what their infertile wives are going through, it’s going to be the same situation when roles are reversed. So I thought it might be helpful to put together a piece for women who have husbands who are infertile. Below are some tips for these women:

1) Be patient. As a couple you’ve likely been trying to have children for at least a year, it’s natural to want to rush into third-party reproduction or adoption so you can become parents ASAP. But the grieving your husband is going through is a process and he might not be prepared to go through those processes right away. In my case, I actually wanted to rush into these processes because I wanted to become a dad so bad. I’m actually glad we’ve waited because I wasn’t ready to parent a child that wasn’t biologically mine. It wouldn’t have been fair to the child.

2) Your husband’s anger has nothing to do with you.  People are angry for a reason.  It isn’t because they want to be angry.  It’s because a person is going through some type of hurt, anxiety or frustration.  Anger is a reaction to those feelings.  In the case of a man who is dealing with infertility the anger that he is feeling is not necessarily because of his wife.  It’s because there is a lot of hurt inside of him.  Some men may feel that because they are unable to get their wives pregnant that they are less of a man.  I didn’t identify with these feelings but there are a lot of men out there that do.  Feelings of disappointment and frustration of being the reason his wife is unable to get pregnant can drive that anger infertile men come out with.  It’s important for women to recognize that they have nothing to do with why their husband hurts.

3) Ensure your husband that it’s ok to feel the way he does.  The worst thing a wife can do to their husband is tell them they are wrong and that they aren’t less of a man or that they shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to get their wives pregnant.  All that does is tell the husband that he is crazy and that he shouldn’t feel that way.  It makes a bad situation worse by him questioning himself.  The best thing a wife can do is console their infertile husband and tell them that it’s ok to have those feelings.  No matter how crazy it may sound to you on your end, never tell your infertile husband that he is wrong.  He may say some stupid things that don’t make any sense (I’ve been guilty of this many times).  While you may think you are just encouraging your husband to feel down, in reality you are helping him work through his grief.

4) Don’t force your husband to express his feelings.  Not every man is going to be as open with their infertility as I am.  Everyone processes things differently and just because I am open with my infertility doesn’t mean it’s correct that every man should be open.  How I’ve dealt with my infertility is not how every man should.  In fact I’ve made so many mistakes in dealing with my infertility over the last year that I am the last one to tell another man how to deal with his infertility.  It may take your husband some time to express his feelings about his infertility.  But never assume just because he isn’t being open that he doesn’t hurt.  You should ask him about it on occasion but never press him too hard where he becomes like a cornered animal and snaps.  Going back to my first point, wives need to be patient with their infertile husband’s grieving.  He may never come out and openly talk about it.  You can suggest he go and see a therapist to talk about it but don’t force it on him either.  Let it come naturally rather than force it.  Forcing him to come out about it is short-term thinking when you both should be in it for the long haul.

5) Include him in every decision you make.  The natural tendency is for women to jump the gun and come out to friends and family about their struggles to have a child.  I know it’s hard to not say anything when depending upon how old you are and how long you’ve been married for friends and family to ask you when you are having kids.  You want to tell them what you are going through just so they stop asking (though coming out could open up the door to unwanted annoying advice).  But you need to keep in mind that your couples infertility story not only impacts you it impacts your husband as well.  If you tell someone who your husband is not comfortable with them knowing then you could open the door to many issues.  The other natural tendency is for a wife to pursue a treatment or pursue adopting when their husband isn’t completely on board because they want a baby so bad.  I understand especially on the treatment end that your body is going to be going through the bulk of the work.  But you need your husband there with you every step of the way.  Remember the goal and the reason you married your husband is because you love him, wanted to spend the rest of your life with him and wanted to start a family with him.  If a wife pushes a husband into something he isn’t comfortable with and it leads to issues that end up in a separation and divorce then instead of your dreams of becoming a married couple with children turns into a reality of being a single parent.  That’s not what you want.

It’s so easy for any woman with an infertile husband to make unintentional mistakes in working through their infertility.  Infertility messes with couples heads and relationships.  Couples will become disconnected at times.  There are couples that never survive it because of how powerful a blow infertility is.  It’s important to remember that you are a team and have to work through it together.  There are times you will need to check your ego at the door and put your couple’s best interest ahead of yours (as any strong marriage does).

I hope the women that read this piece find these tips helpful, the men who read this piece can identify with these things and hope that they make a difference in your relationship.  I am interested to see your feedback and if you have any stories you’d like to share.

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