Many couples struggling to conceive tend to keep it to themselves. They often dont share with work colleagues, friends and even close family. Many of my clients havent even told their own parents. Times where they found the courage to share some of their fertility challenges, responses from others feel insensitive and in some cases feel downright hurtful. Once bitten twice shy, they quickly realize that telling others about their fertility is not in their best interest. Whether is it for fear of judgment or worry of what others might say, in time, their fertility journey becomes very isolating.
Unless you have had a personal experience with fertility challenges you can never truly understand the depths of this deeply emotional journey. How do you respond in a supportive way when you have never had issues with your own fertility? What can you possibly say to woman that has just had a miscarriage that would feel comforting and supportive? Each week I hear my fertility clients say over and over again that other people in their life just dont get it. People often dismiss their worries or anxiety by responding Just relax and it will happen. What they dont realize is that the psychological distress is high, making it difficult to just relax. A common response is Dont worry you can always adopt. As if adoption was a simple and easy alternative.
Recent research has shown that for many women fertility issues can create levels of anxiety and depression equivalent to women with cancer, HIV status or heart disease. So telling a woman that she can always adopt would be like telling a breast cancer patient, not to worry she can always get another breast. Obviously you would never do that, but to a woman with a deep desire to have a baby, it can feel that insensitive.
I know that people dont intend to be hurtful and I remind my clients of that on a daily basis. I remind them that they are not hurt by what others are saying, they are feeling hurt because of the meaning they are placing on the words that are said.
Here are some of my clients interpretations of the comment about adoption.
Its not going to work anyway I might as well give up.
I am a failure.
No one believes I can get pregnant.
I might as well accept defeat.
What do you Say?
So what can you say or do to be supportive? I have created a list of suggested responses to specific challenges couples face on their journey. Keep in mind that sometimes the best response is no response. Often they just need you to listen.
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