Finding Support for Your Infertility

How do you find the support you need for your infertility?  Regardless of how you came to be infertile or what your goal, it can be a challenge to find someone who not only empathizes with your situation, but also is prepared to be there for you on either an emotional or practical level. You may wonder why, for something so fundamental to your happiness, someone wouldn’t want to be counted in your support network. 

Why You May Not Be Getting the Support You Need from Logical Sources

  1. They believe that you must be responsible for your infertility somehow.
  2. Your partner is ambivalent about becoming a father or mother.
  3. You want to be a single parent.
  4. You are not married to your partner.
  5. You are in a gay relationship and they believe every child needs a father
  6. They are infertile also and worry they will lose you to a baby and mom-friends.
  7. It’s your boss. Doctor appointments and maternity leave will inconvenience them.
  8. People think you should be grateful that you already have one child.
  9. They are jealous of the attention and sympathy you get for your infertility.
  10. They are too wrapped up in their own life to realize you need them.

Those people may not realize they are being unsupportive. What is obvious to you may not occur to them.  An example:  your mother phoning you daily with details of her friend’s daughter’s pregnancy.  “What do you mean? I thought you would be happy for her.” Or, someone may think if you needed them you would ask and you haven’t.

They may be judgmental.  “Well if she hadn’t (pick one) a) taken such a stressful job, b) had that abortion years ago, c) waited so long or d) gained so much weight, she wouldn’t be in this situation now.” In fact, almost the entire list comes from people judging you and your condition by their own values, rather than stepping into your shoes to think what it must be like to be you.  However, you may be able to turn their attitude around.

First, look at your own responsibility for the situation and take ownership of it.  In that way, you will be less likely to assign blame, feel resentment and put other people on the defensive.

  1. Have you failed to let people know about your infertility? (Most can’t read minds.)
  2. Have you made it so much a part of your identity that you sound like a broken record?
  3. Have you not been there for them when they needed your support?
  4. Have you isolated yourself from all your friends who have children?
  5. Have you held back on congratulations toward a sister-in-law, cousin or colleague who has had a baby?
  6. Did you previously fail to show empathy toward someone else who was infertile?
  7. Do you whine too much?
  8. Have you lost your perspective?
  9. Have you made sex seem like a chore, obliterating the romance and passion in the bedroom?

If you don’t keep up your work, friendships, social or sport activities, you may become “out of sight, out of mind.” If you no longer accept invitations, people may assume you no longer want or need their company.  Though it may seem logical to you and very unfair to compare the situations, a friend who has had a difficult pregnancy or birth, postnatal depression, has a colicky baby or has had a miscarriage, may feel that you have not supported her when she needed you.  It isn’t your friend’s fault that you haven’t yet had a baby of your own.  Messages can be misconstrued and feelings hurt on both sides.  All relationships need to be nurtured in order to thrive, so give to get.

How to Find The Right Kind of Support

The trick to getting support is to first list the type of support you need, and then identify who can provide it.  For example:

  • Someone who will listen and keep it confidential
  • Go with me to the doctor
  • Someone who’s also infertile and knows what it’s like
  • Friends I can go out with, to forget my problems
  • Cover my workload when I need time off
  • Friend(s) who won’t need an explanation or take it personally when I opt out of get-togethers and baby showers
  • Give me my injections  
  • Pass the word so that I don’t have to get into it 10 times a day
  • Friend who will rescue me from upsetting conversations
  • Help me with my food and fitness plans

Now, split your list of needs into two, under the headings: emotional support and practical support. Connect the tasks with the names of people you know. Then ask yourself a very important question: “Is it reasonable for me to expect this person to provide this support.”  Consider:

1.     your relationship

2.     their nature (sensitivity, generosity, etc…)

3.     their availability

4.     their reliability

Next, look at acquaintances in an outer layer of your life.  A colleague at work may also be trying to conceive.  You may click with a nurse at the clinic.  That other woman you always see in the RE’s waiting room may be happy to go for a coffee. A friend of a friend may have had the treatment you are considering and be happy to answer your questions. Reach out when you feel strong enough or the need is big enough. Infertility seems like a personal or sensitive subject that people may wait for you to bring up the conversation. So go for it; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

When No One Close at Hand Will Do – Infertility forums are wonderful resources for information, camaraderie and supportive conversations.  They all have a “personality” of their own, so cruise them for a few days to figure out which one is a good fit for you.  There are also hundreds of blogs written by infertile women (and a few by men) to which you can subscribe.  Again, cruise the blogs until you find an appropriate few, keeping in mind that they are the product of someone else’s personal experiences, attitude and knowledge level.  After a little while, if you keep reading and commenting on the forum(s) or blog(s) of your choice, you will feel a part of that community.  Be careful though not to take someone else’s experience or opinion as valid medical advice unless they are medically qualified.  Always check with the doctor treating you before trying anything that may interfere with or delay your chances of treatment.

Professional Support – Last, but not least, there is an advantage in having a specialist fertility coach if you are not coping well with your infertility.  The criteria to look for in a coach include training, rapport between the two of you and their ability to teach and motivate you to achieve the positive changes you are after. While coaches don’t absolutely need to have personal experience with a client’s issues to be effective, I believe that it is a genuine advantage in the area of fertility coaching. A fertility coach who has herself had difficulty conceiving, will have an authentic understanding of the emotional, physical, financial and social aspects of the fertility rollercoaster ride.

There is plenty of evidence that your state of mind can affect your fertility.  If you are overly stressed, feeling negative, comfort-eating, arguing with your partner or not sleeping, you are not creating the best possible state of wellbeing for conception, pregnancy and childbirth.  A fertility coach will look at the whole person to determine which small changes in your attitudes, actions and lifestyle will make a difference to your overall wellbeing.  From that better place, you will work together to find the best way to create and build your family. By aligning your goals with your value system, your coach may also be able to help you determine whether to undergo or continue fertility treatment, if and when to stop trying to conceive, end fertility treatment or consider an alternative path to parenting, such as egg or sperm donation, surrogacy or adoption.

In the end, it’s your choice of how open or private you will be about your infertility and that will directly affect what kind of support you receive.  Just remember support comes in many forms and from many places and sometimes must be earned. Be understanding; over time, supporters can be more or less active in your life as their own circumstances change.  Giving support is not a job description; it’s a gift.

Lisa Marsh is the fertility coach  and owner of Your Great Life in Stanmore, North London.  For more information about her, go to http://yourgreatlife.co.uk. Subscribe to her blog at http://yourgreatlife.typepad.com or to arrange a coaching session, in person or via telephone, please contact her at 020 8954 2897 or lisa@yourgreatlife.co.uk

You can also follow Lisa at http://twitter.com/yourgreatlife for helpful Fertility and Miscarriage Support Tips, as well as other information about news in the field of women’s reproductive health.

5 thoughts on “Finding Support for Your Infertility”

  1. Wow Lisa this is a great article. Very thought provoking & helpful. What a great blog post to start 2010 with.

  2. I found your article very helpful. I have been going through a difficult time and have not known who to confide in. I have been bottling it all up inside as I felt embaressed and did not want to confide in someone who would then tell everyone else.
    Reading your article made me realise I do need to talk to someone. After reading the article I decided to confide in a close friend, who I have sworn to secrecy. After I had opened up to her I felt much better, and since then have in fact talked to other people about my fertility problems. Once I started to open up I was amazed to find that some of my friends also had similar problems.
    Thank you so much for writing this article. It really helped me to realise I needed more support & not to let my embaressment or fear stop me from getting the support I so crave.

  3. Hi Louise,

    You took a brave step forward and look how it rewarded you! It sounds like when you made the first move, you did your friends a favour, allowing them to open up too. Infertile women have enough on their minds without having to keep a secret like that. I’m so glad I could help.

  4. great comprehensive article that opens the door to allowing yourself to express all these emotions that otherwise just are just kept in. I also found speaking to a womens group who were on the same journey as me very helpful. We cried together, told each other our dreams and we supported each other unconditionally.

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