One reason you may retreat from sharing your feelings with friends and family is that you are afraid that what they say in response may hurt and make you feel worse. You may have heard comments from friends or family telling you just to relax or adopt, and you’ll get pregnant! Or they may repeat stories to you of people they know who spent years in infertility treatment only to become pregnant years later – spontaneously!
You need to realize that people make these comments not to hurt you, but because they want to make you feel better and simply do not know the right things to say. Rather than worrying that you’ll feel hurt and angry at your friends for what they say, you can take control back by simply educating people about what helps you and what does not. For those who tell you to relax or adopt, you can let them know that most infertility has a medical basis and is not caused by stress (though it causes stress, for sure!), and that statistically most who adopt do not get pregnant, not to mention how this attitude diminishes adoption.
For those who tell you stories of all the people they know who eventually did get pregnant, you can tell them that it really doesn’t help you to hear that because every situation is different and for you the chances of success really feel like 0 or 100% in any given cycle. I once told a friend that when she told me these stories it only increased my feelings of self blame, and needless to say, she stopped telling me them!
Realizing that you can educate and raise awareness in those you care about and who care about you can keep them from making insensitive comments in the future and can give you back feelings of power over your situation. Obviously it is important to be selective about whom you wish to talk to in this way, as you may feel worse if you later think you came across as being too defensive or pedantic. You should carefully select those friends and family members who you wish to enlighten and educate in order to help you receive the support you need.
For others, practicing using humor or simply ignoring comments and letting them roll off your back. If you know you have a good support network in place, you won’t need to look everywhere for it.
Finally, rather than feeling anxious that friends or family may bring up your infertility at times when you don’t want to talk about it, try thinking about what you feel you need, and then letting them know. Someone recently recounted to me that she always felt anxious at family gatherings because she knew she’d be asked the inevitable “Are you pregnant yet?” or “What’s happening?” questions, when the problem was that “nothing” was happening!
If anxiety about these questions deters you from family gatherings, try telling others that you’d certainly let them know if something did happen, but otherwise you’d just appreciate being asked about your feelings, or leaving it to you to bring up the subject. However, you should recognize that if your family has not been there for you on an emotional level in the past, chances are they will not be there now. There is nothing magical about infertility that will change family interaction patterns, and realizing this can help you avoid disappointment.
The important point in all of this is that you can gain support from others in ways that feel good to you if you take the time to figure out what you need and to let others know. You needn’t back away from seeking emotional support just because you’ve experienced some insensitive remarks in the past.