Being in your thirties is a wonderful time in life. We are still young enough to be engaged in pretty well any activity we choose, but old enough to know when to bypass people and activities that are not in our best interest. Lots of women choose to become mothers in their thirties when their careers are established and they have the financial, emotional and relationship security they desire.
Unfortunately for many women, this is also a time in their lives when they discover that becoming pregnant might not be as easy as they thought it would be. In my early twenties, I was adamant about using the right birth control methods because the timing for a baby wasn’t right for me just yet. Luckily when my husband and I decided to try for our first baby, I was able to get pregnant in under a year. It still felt like forever for me, but we were able to do it without any medical intervention. I was 25.
When we decided to try for another baby in my early thirties, things didn’t go so smoothly. I suffered three heartbreaking miscarriages in a row. After each miscarriage, it took seemingly forever to get pregnant again and then when I finally did get a positive pregnancy test, I was on pins and needles waiting to see if this time, maybe this time, it would work out.
It was a horrifying, stressful, painful time in my life and most of the time, I felt like I had nobody to relate to. If I talked to my friends or family about it, I would get the standard responses like, “You just need to relax!” or “If you stop thinking about it, then it will happen!” or even worse, “At least you know you can get pregnant!” Although well meaning, many of my friends just didn’t know what to say to me. They had never experienced what I was experiencing and didn’t understand the hurt that it caused.
If you have a friend or family member dealing with issues of infertility, here are a few tips to help you understand how to help them.
1 – Ask if it is ok to talk about it. For me, talking about the issues I was dealing with was therapeutic, and I was grateful that my friends asked. But for some people, it is very internal and having someone ask questions all the time (namely, “Are you pregnant yet?”) is frustrating, invasive and difficult.
2 – Don’t give unsolicited advice. A person that is going through infertility issues is most likely seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), which is a highly trained medical doctor that they pay lots and lots of money to for his expert opinion. Hearing that the cousin of so-and-so got pregnant by eating only mangoes and sprouts is not helpful advice. Also, it is proven that relaxing, taking a vacation, not thinking about it, or deciding to adopt does NOT actually get you pregnant. Only sex or some high tech medical intervention can do this, so please, for the love of God, do not tell an infertile woman to relax. Also, don’t tell her how easy it is for you to get pregnant. She might smile and nod, but on the inside she wants to cry.
3 – If you are pregnant… If you find out that you are pregnant, don’t be afraid to tell your friend, but try to do it sensitively. If this is a friend you would normally tell about your pregnancy, do it delicately and personally. There is nothing worse than finding out a dear friend is pregnant on Facebook because they are too afraid to tell you in fear that it will make you sad. It probably will make her sad, but keep in mind that it is about her, not you. Eventually she will be happy for you and will almost definitely stand in line to babysit. Next, and most importantly, do not complain about your pregnancy to her! Your feet will swell, you will vomit, you will feel fat. There are plenty of other people that you can call to complain to about that. Your infertile friend would die to feel those symptoms and she will most certainly be agitated and hurt that you feel the need to call and complain about those things to her.
4 – Be supportive. Maybe your friend has called you for the 48th time to tell you that her pregnancy test is negative. Maybe you are sick of hearing about it. If that’s true, be honest and say something like, “I know this is a difficult time for you, but I’m having a hard time relating to you about it.” Then suggest supportive places she can go to get help. There are countless resources online. One of the most helpful things I have found are other women’s blogs. I can read their stories and relate 100%. I started my own blog just to get my feelings out and found that people would comment and say they knew exactly what I was talking about. It was refreshing and comfortable and very soothing at a difficult time in my life.
Most importantly, realize that this difficult time for your friend will pass. The odds are pretty good that she will eventually achieve pregnancy. If she doesn’t, she will need time to mourn that loss and consider other plans such as adoption or even deciding not to have children after all. If she decides to pursue adoption, keep in mind that it is a time consuming, expensive and painful process as well. Many people assume that adoption is the cure all for infertility, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Being sensitive to your friend in her time of need is critical to your friendship. After all, you’ve had over 30 years of experience learning how to be a good friend. It will come in handy during this time and she will love and remember it forever.
Due to the sensitive nature of her blog, this guest blogger writes anonymously as BU, or Bummed Uterus. You can find more of her story at www.bumuterus.blogspot.com. There are also many other links to other infertile bloggers and blog rolls on her site. Fortunately for her, BU was able to overcome her fertility issues and now has a beautiful 9 month old son.
If you or someone you know is suffering from infertility, please seek help at www.resolve.org.