Welcome to the weekly advice column where each week I answer your burning questions about your journey with infertility, life after pregnancy loss, and how to best support someone on their journey. Recently I asked what advice you're looking for when it comes to infertility on Instagram, and oh boy, did you guys share some awesome questions that I think will be helpful for many people out there. Each week I'll be selecting one question to give my honest, raw, and personal advice on after experiencing nearly 8 years of infertility and multiple losses myself. Always remember that I am not a medical professional or licensed therapist. This advice is for educational and entertainment purposes only to use at your own discretion.
How Do You Know When It's Time To Open Up About Youre Struggle With Infertility?
This week on the blog, we're answering how to know when it's time to open up about your struggle with infertility. This is an inner battle we all face while walking down the road of infertility. Should I share my struggle? Who can I trust with this information? Is it too soon to share? Will I be constantly judged? What if no one understands me? What if I make the wrong decision? Is it possible to overshare? Will anyone care? Will it make me feel worse or better by sharing? The list goes on. Today, I'm sharing my personal checklist for what ultimately led me to decide it was time to share my story.
1. I was tired of lying and making excuses for why we didn't have kids yet.
I think we can all relate to the familiar anxiety of family gatherings, nights out with friends, and the casual conversations with our parents that comes from the dreaded question of when are you and your partner finally going to have kids? I always made sure to have a pre-determined excuse queued up in my head. "We're waiting until my husband graduates college," "We're waiting until the dog out-grows the puppy stage," and even "We're waiting until we buy a house," to then "There's so much house work that needs done before we even think of trying." It's so exhausting, and eventually you feel like you're running out of excuses instead of just shouting, "We've been trying for years and its just not happening for us, and yes, we know what the problem is, and no, your advice isn't helpful!" Sometimes it feels like it's much easier to hold it all in for the sake of being bombarded with questions.
For me, all of these excuses I had to come up with in my head felt heavier than our infertility diagnosis itself. I was tired of lying and I wanted so badly to live my truth. I felt like once people knew that we were actually trying and we needed medical intervention, the questions would stop and we would no longer be burdended by the "when are you going to have kids" question. Though that question will still come up time and time again with someone you're meeting for the first time, it's a breath of fresh air to straight out say, "we struggle with infertiltiy, and it hasn't come easily to us, but we're trying."
2. I Needed More Support Than I Was Willing To Admit.
Infertility is an extremely lonely path to walk down, especially when you're keeping it between you and your partner. Fertility treatments are a whole other can of worms. If you've gone through IVF or another version of fertility treatments, you'll know how incredibly draining, time consuming, and exhausting they can be. You know what's even more exhausting than fertility treatments? Doing fertility treatments and attempting to hide them from every one around you. Hiding a big chunk of your life is really draining.
I felt really lonely and isolated the first few years of trying, but I thought that it was easier to keep it between us and then maybe once we were pregnant I could do a big reveal. I watched as others around me announced their pregnancies one by one, I broke down with every baby shower invite, and I felt like I was the only person this was happening to. As we began our first round of IVF, there were days where I wished I had others along side of you to celebrate the small wins, and then there were the days that I wished I had an extra shoulder to cry on during the defeats. I knew I wasn't getting the full support that I needed and began to realize that maybe having support when I really needed it far exceeded my need to keep it inside for the possible big reveal of a pregnancy after infertility.
I'm so glad that I did that, because the minute I did, I was flooded with others around me whom I had no idea were going through similar struggles, and even some who had children who I had no idea they struggled as well. It was really eye opening seeing how many people I knew were struggling. That day, and from then on, I felt a little less alone.
Since then, I've been able to connect with more fertility warriors and mamas who've also experienced pregnancy loss. I've found this community is incredibly supportive and large! If I had never opened up, I may have never found my community. I am forever grateful for the infertility community.
3. I Felt Like I Was Carrying A Huge Weight.
The thing that pushed me to finally open up about our struggle with infertility was the heavy weight that I felt I was carrying. I felt like I wasn't allowed to be my authentic self. I felt as though I could share anything about my life, except our infertility. When people asked, "what's new, what do you have going on?" I'd force myself to say, "Oh, nothing much." When really all I wanted to say was, "We're struggling with infertility and currently in the middle of IVF. It's so much harder than I ever thought. I'm an emotional mess, there are so many ups and downs, and I'm currently feeling emotionally, physically, and mentally depleated." Sigh. Of course I never said any of that then.
There was an evening shortly after our first IVF round failed. I was in a deep stage of grief. I didn't feel like myself, and I felt like there was a huge weight sitting on my shoulders. I decided to open my notes app on my phone and write out how I was feeling and what we had been through the last few months, and you know what? It felt really good. I got to process some of my emotions and mentally walk through everything. Then I thought, what if I shared this on social media? It felt kind of scary thinking of clicking post, but there was something about it that told me this would be really good for me and my healing process. So, I asked my husband if he was ok with me sharing our story, and as soon as I was given the green light, I clicked post. The weight was finally lifted. I felt free in a sense.
4. My Partner Was On Board With Sharing.
Remember when I mentioned that I asked my partner before sharing our story on social media? I felt it was important that my husband had a say in how open we are. Before telling each parent, sibling, or friend, I made sure it was ok with my partner. That obviously goes with sharing it with the entire world as well. You see, I've always looked at infertility as our struggle. However, I know that sharing our story could possibly come with questions that I needed to be sure he was open with sharing. Being that he was diagnosed with male factor infertility, and that is where our need for IVF comes into play, I knew I needed his opinion on sharing. Though we look at it as our infertility, ultimately this is private medical information about his body that he needs to be comfortable with me sharing. Depending on his level of comfort was how open we would decide to be, and thankfully he was on board with being as open as possible.
I'm forever grateful that he was open to sharing our struggle and breaking the stigma, because without this, I would never have had the chance to create Infertile Millennial and connect with so many people experiencing this with us.
There is something really therapeutic in sharing your journey with others and freely living your truth. Gone are the days of making excuses, feeling unsupported, and feeling like I'm carrying too much on my shoulders. I believe that the stigma that comes with infertility and pregnancy loss needs to be broken. I believe that your story matters. I also believe that you are never truly alone. Since sharing our story, I've connected with many men and women daily who have bravely shared their stories with me, and it has truly made me feel less alone. Of course, you don't have to share your story with the entire world to feel supported, but finding someone who will listen, support you, and truly root you on is a great place to start when you're ready.