Dear Fertile Friend,
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and I am participating in RESOLVE’s NIAW blog challenge: mythbusting about infertility!
I thought long and hard about what myth to choose, and I think I came up with a very prevalent one.
Infertility Myth: Advice is Helpful
I have heard a lot of advice over the last year and a half.
"Just relax!" is a popular one. So is "just keep trying—after all, it’s fun!"
I have some friends who are big fans of recommending visualization, as if I could just imagine my stubborn and miserly ovaries into releasing their eggs.
Other people have told me that I could “just adopt,” and that not only will adoption satisfy my passionate longing to bear my husband’s children, to hold a baby in my arms who has his eyes, his curly hair, his particular earlobes, but it will also magically kick my body into gear and I will get pregnant, even though my longing for children will already have been satisfied. They manage to dismiss my longing for a biological child, the individual importance of an adopted child, the effort we’ve already put into conceiving, and the my medical inability to conceive at this time.
Then come the stories. “My niece…”, “My cousin…”, “My friend’s sister-in-law…”, they begin, and they are all stories of hope and promise.
"Just hang in there," say my advice-givers, who love to preface their pronouncements with the word "just," as if I have spent the last year and a half in pain and suffering because I missed some incredibly simple, obvious solution. "Just hang in there. You’re young. It will happen for you."
I have a piece of advice for you, Fertile Friend, and it is this: Just stop giving me advice.
I understand that you want to make me feel better. I understand that you see me suffering and want to give me hope and comfort. But I also understand how ignorant you are, how ill-advised, how misinformed. I understand that when you say these things, you uncover the yawning chasm of naivete that separates us, and that you don’t realize you’re doing it. I understand that when you say “just relax,” you don’t mean to say “it is your fault that you aren’t pregnant,” but you need to understand that in this case, what you meant to say matters a lot less than the actual words that ended up coming out of your mouth.
Don’t give advice. Don’t tell that story of hope and promise, even if it’s true, and then follow it up with an absolutely baseless promise that the same wonderful miracle is guaranteed to happen to me. You can’t promise that and you break my heart when you do, because I know you can’t.
Do you want to help me? Call me on the phone and ask me how I’m doing. Ask me genuinely. Tell me, up-front and bluntly, that I can tell you the gory details if I need to. Give me someone to talk to so that I don’t have to lean solely on my poor husband, who is as heartbroken and exhausted as I am.
Do you want to help me? Stop giving me advice. Have the bravery to acknowledge that you don’t know what it’s like. Have the courage to admit it when words fail you and to deal with it like an adult, by asking me how you can help instead of telling me what I’m doing wrong.
Do you want to help me? Cry with me. Laugh with me. Forgive me for not attending baby showers, but don’t stop inviting me. The only thing worse than having to turn down the invitation is never getting the invitation at all. I don’t feel like you’re looking out for me. I feel like you’re excluding me because I can’t get pregnant.
Do you want to help me? Offer to drive me to a doctor’s appointment sometime when my husband is at work and can’t be there with me when I’m told that once again, I haven’t even ovulated. Take me out for coffee after I fail yet another pregnancy test.
Be my friend, the way you were when we were in high school and my boyfriend dumped me. The way you were when my grandfather died and I was inconsolable. The way you were when I broke my foot and you brought meals over and helped me clean my house and took me to the grocery store.
You wouldn’t have told me to just relax if the problem was a broken bone. I know it’s harder when the thing that’s broken in me is invisible and there’s no cast or bandage to remind you of it.
I know it’s harder when you can’t see how broken I am. But I still need you to love me as if you could.
Your Infertile Friend