- Start small- You don’t need to unload the last umpteen years of your struggles, the plurality of professionals that you have seen, and the boatload of money that you spent on the first unsuspecting person that you work up the courage to talk to. Instead, simply consider answering a question like, “When are you planning are starting your family?” with a truthful response. Maybe, “Actually, we have been working for quite some time and it has been a tough road for us.” You may be surprised with how empowering it can feel to simply answer one of these intimidating questions so truthfully.
- Don’t assume- If there is one thing that is for sure, it is that in general, people have no clue about fertility issues unless they or someone close to them as experienced it. Therefore, when you start talking about your issues with fertility and your audience seems to fumble and stutter, don’t interpret that as them trying to slowly back out of the conversation (backwards-walk style). You may have just started talking a new language or plopped them on a new planet and they are working subconsciously to get their bearings.
- Realize that you have the reins on your story- Just because you open up about your story doesn’t mean that you have to tell ALL of it. There are parts of this journey that Candace and I only talk about to a few people. And that is totally fine. Maybe you are comfortable telling people you have been trying for 3 years but not that you have gone through donor sperm in the latest attempt. Maybe you feel free to share that you and your significant other have decided to go forward with IVF but aren’t inclined to share the causes of your infertility. Then don’t. There is a huge difference between concealing your struggle and deciding to only share what you want. You are in control.
WARNING … this will be a case of turning around and “preaching to the choir.” If you want to find people writing about why “you” should be cognoscente of the struggle that others face regarding family building, there are plenty of examples! This is not one of them. This year, the theme of Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW) is “Listen Up.” It is straightforward (and still absolutely necessary for that matter) to write about, and towards, those around the people facing infertility to improve their awareness of the disease and how it may impact them and the broader community around them. However, I want to do an “about face” and talk to the people WITH fertility issues … and I know who you are. You are the folks that have been trying for TOO long. You have been pestered by your parents about when you will be bringing them grandchildren and you have been ceaselessly asked when you will be ”filling” that extra room in your house. I want to talk to YOU because we, as a community, are quiet. 1 in 8! That is crazy. It is a minority sure but, really … 1 in 8. If you work in an office with 24 people, and are having fertility issues, that means that 2 other people in your office are also struggling. Crazy right! You would NEVER talk about this at work. And yet, more than 1 out of every 10 coworkers is dealing with the same setbacks, shortcomings, and onslaught of self-doubt that you are. Why is it permissible for this to simply continue? The short of it is that, it shouldn’t. And well … that is a difficult transition to make. To transition from the one that always seems to shy away from family-orientated extra-curricular activities to the one that is boldly and truthfully answering the question about why you don’t have kids yet. It seems almost natural, like it is the right thing to do, to be hushed about your struggles with fertility. Almost like, culturally, you are doing the right thing by pressing those emotions down and playing coy with inquiries about your plans for family building. The thing is, this is a disease! You wouldn’t expect people to be nebulous about why they can’t eat that slice of birthday cake for whatever his name is 3 cubicles down because they have diabetes. There doesn’t seem to be this dark cloud over that disease. And it is up to all of us to make sure that the cloud that hangs over those with fertility issues becomes equally absent. Although it seems like something that would leave you so incredibly exposed, that exposure can be such a great source of inspiration to get you through that next round of testing, past that latest failed IUI, or into that next class for adoption. Candace and I never expected that being open about our issues with fertility would be so beneficial to us, our friends and family, and others that are dealt the same cards in life. On that note, here are a few simple ways that you can start to bring that wall down and open up about your struggles: