Infertility. It’s not really something you think about until you’re living it, and then it’s about the only thing you can think about. There’s much I’ve learned about this journey in the past 20 months, one of them being how little I understood about it before. If you’ve never lived through it, below are five things you should know about infertility that can help you be a better friend and support system to someone in your life:
We’re not making it up:
Infertility is hella REAL, y’all. This is not something that we are making up. Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest hurdles Alex and I have encountered in our journey. I’ll share more about our struggle with finding a good doctor in the future, but getting a doctor who would just listen to us was incredibly frustrating and difficult- and they are trained to listen to their patients.
I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me to just “chill out” or “stop stressing” and “it’ll happen”. While I do think there is something to mitigating stress when you’re trying to get pregnant, our problems cannot be solved by just “chilling out”. I have stage three endometriosis – there is zero communication between my Fallopian tubes and my ovaries, which means that without a 4+ hour surgery to remove the scarring, we won’t be getting pregnant. These are real health issues. They are not made up.
Hearing that someone is struggling with infertility can be uncomfortable – but so is infertility. So if someone opens up to you, don’t brush them off and tell them to “chill out” or act like it is all in their head, because you are glossing past something very real. Instead, offer them a shoulder to cry on, and don’t feel like you need to offer sage wisdom. Trust me – your emotional support will be plenty.
It’s almost impossible to get answers from doctors:
As I mentioned above, finding a doctor who would even listen to us took months. In fact, I consider it a great stroke of luck that we even found my current doctor. Before seeing her, we were met with doctors who may as well have shrugged their shoulders and said, “Sorry, can’t help ya.” Every question I asked (and I ask a LOT of questions) was met with, “I don’t know.”
In case you were wondering, hearing the words “I don’t know” come out of a doctor’s mouth just once is frustrating enough. Receiving that response to every question you ask is downright infuriating. You begin to think maybe you really ARE crazy and this is all in your head. Why else would people who are supposed to be experts in fertility be lacking the answers you desperately need? As it turns out, in our case it was not so much a lack of answers, but an unwillingness to do the work to find those answers, which is perhaps even more frustrating. You never know the value of a really good doctor until you really need it.
Like, really expensive. Let’s assume for a minute that you, like us, have not ventured into the realm of IVF. Every time I get blood drawn, which is fairly often, I get a bill for anywhere from $200-$500 – and that is after insurance. Then there are the prescriptions and supplements, many of which have to be compounded and are not covered by insurance. Then there are the surgeries – which, to be totally honest, are an unknown price at this point because it takes so long for bills to come through after a procedure. That’s not even getting into IVF territory, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars per round, and it is not uncommon to have to go through multiple rounds.
Maybe you decide to bypass fertility treatments altogether and opt for adoption. In that case, you are looking at upwards of $30,000-$40,000, whether you choose a domestic or international adoption.
Bottom line: When you’re going through an experience that takes such a drastic emotional toll, the added financial burden can feel like one more painful hit.
Your baby’s milestones hurt like hell:
Please don’t get me wrong. I am so happy for you and your pregnancy/new baby/baby’s first words/steps/birthday. Really, I am! I would not wish the hurt of infertility on anyone and am so glad you get to experience the joy of being a parent. But I am still absolutely going to cry when you tell me that you’re pregnant or when you post that baby bump photo. I am going to have to come up with an excuse not to attend your baby shower or baby’s first birthday party because I will spend the whole time holding back giant crocodile tears. I will be acutely, painfully aware every time I walk past the baby aisle at Target and will want to rip my hair out every time someone innocently asks if I have kids. It all hurts like hell. So please do not be hurt if my congratulations doesn’t sound as enthusiastic as it might once have. I am genuinely happy for you – I am just also very sad for myself. And that’s a very hard thing to balance.
No one talks about infertility. It still feels like a taboo to discuss, and that’s very isolating. Add in how often you are told to “chill out” or the fact that you don’t know how to act excited for new parents anymore and it is easy to feel like like you’re in your own impenetrable bubble. I am very blessed to have a supportive, loving husband who is not afraid of my moodiness and dear friends (some of whom have been down this road themselves) who lend a shoulder to cry on. Without them, I would feel completely alone in this journey – and even still, there are days when it feels like no one else really understands what I’m feeling. So I encourage you – offer to be someone’s tribe. If someone you know is walking this road, offer to walk alongside them. If they need cheering, take them out for ice cream or to a funny movie or dancing. If they need to cry, curl up on the couch with them and watch a good tearjerker movie and sob into your popcorn together. They need a friend right now, so don’t be afraid to be a pal.
If you’ve experienced or are experiencing infertility, please share what you wish people around you had known in the comments. Let’s be each other’s tribe.