Hey witches, I’m sure you know this by now, but it is National Infertility Awareness Week and there is a lot of communications going on right now about infertility. It is everywhere, which I think guess a good thing because we can’t end the stigma of infertility without talking about it. It’s the best tool that we have. And as we have all of these really important conversations with each other over here and on social media this week, you may be having them in your personal life between family and friends.
And a lot of women struggle to talk to their friends about their infertility for a host of reasons. Infertility, as you already know, comes with a lot of that stigma that really shouldn’t exist, comes with complex feelings that can include guilt and shame, feeling like a failure of a woman. But infertility is not your fault and it does not make you any less of a woman. We all learn to speak to ourselves harshly and to put ourselves down. And even when in reality, infertility is not your fault. I know that those feelings that come up are very real. So maybe you avoid talking to your friends about it. Maybe you don’t want anyone to know. Or maybe it seems like your friends just don’t understand how it’s affecting you or why it’s so important or a big deal to you. They know there are treatment options like IVF, but they don’t realize that less than 5% of women with infertility use IVF and then IVF is not a miracle cure.
Maybe they say insensitive things that they don’t realize are causing you harm, so you stop talking about it altogether. Or maybe your friends are all getting pregnant and that’s really hard to deal with too. Whatever situation you find yourself in, one thing is clear. You’re not getting the support that you need. Remember last week we talked about community care and how important it is to have a social network and support from your own village. We need friends, especially females. Female friendships are so important in our entire lives and also really important to our overall well-being, infertility can be a really tough subject for both sides to talk about and can make a friendship sometimes feel tenuous. But today we’re going to talk about four steps that you can take to improve communication with your friends in a way that can help and be really positive for you.
Create Your Trusted Circle
The first step is to decide who you’re going to tell and how much you want to share. Now, maybe you’re past this point, or maybe you’re re analyzing this point, but it’s important to decide. Who do you want to trust with the details of your fertility journey? Who is that person or group of friends who are going to be there to support you and lift you up and listen to you throughout your journey? And make sure you’re also on the same page as your partner about who you’re going to tell and what you want to share. It’s a journey that you will be taking together. And I don’t believe a partner should ever prevent you from talking to your friends and family because that’s more controlling and potentially mentally abusive. I’m only suggesting being considerate and cognizant of your partner’s feelings about sharing details of your fertility journey as a couple.
Say What You Need
The next step is to say what you need. I am a big believer in clearly communicating your needs to others. The people who love us do want to help us, but so often they don’t know how. And it ends up coming out in ways that are not helpful for anyone, unfortunately. But there’s a way to help them help us. They want to fix our problems. In this case, they can’t literally fix anything. We can’t expect our friends to read our minds either. It would be awesome if they looked up what not to say to their friends struggling with infertility, but that still doesn’t mean that they’re going to know exactly how to help you. So say what you need. What do you need right now? Because your needs can and will change on a daily or weekly monthly basis. Do you need space? Do you just need them to listen and let you vent without them trying to fix your problem? Do you just need a night out without talking about any infertility issues at all? Or your baby journey or your relationship you just want to fund out? Let them know a friend’s reaction could entail making lots of different suggestions for you in your fertility journey. Oh, so and so got pregnant doing this or this treatment worked for X, Y, and Z. Have you tried this? Have you tried that? Ultimately, a lot of these suggestions, while meaning again, are not very helpful.
And I have a confession to make. I kind of used to be that friend that wanted to fix all of my friends problems until one day my friend texted me saying, I’m sending this very long text because I need to vent and I just need someone to listen. I just need someone to listen. Then it clicked. She didn’t need unsolicited advice. She didn’t need more information. She had all the information. She knew all of her options. She needed a supportive ear, not a life coach. Coach is now my job. I help my clients with that. But that’s not my role or anyone else’s role to do as a friend. Right? I then knew how to direct my well meaning energy in a way that would be of better use for her. And to me too. To your friends, for example, you could say infertility is different for everyone. We are working with our care team on a plan that will work for us. I appreciate how much you care, but right now what I need most is to vent to a friend and see how that works. Tell them what you need a friend that actively listens to what you’re communicating and follows through with what you’re asking them for is a good friend. That’s a keeper.
Reset The Conversation
The third step is to calmly reset the conversation when insensitive remarks come up. You’ve probably been in the situation before. You’re reaching out to a friend or having a chat with a group of people and someone says something insensitive. You’ve heard them all before. Just relax. It’ll happen. Don’t stress about it. If it’s meant to be, it’ll meant to be. Blah, blah, blah. At least it was early, which is horrible. All this bullshit, really, when someone says things like this to someone struggling with infertility. What I see is a person who is deeply uncomfortable with engaging with the topic of infertility, with grief, with sadness. Now, that discomfort does not justify the impact that their comments have on you, because well -intentioned or not, the damage is the same a Pang in your heart and a possible strain on your friendship. Maybe this person is trying to avoid the topic because yes, it does make them feel uncomfortable. Or maybe it brings up something painful in their own history or past. It’s hard to say, but I believe in trying to be compassionate even in situations like this. I also believe in saying something and advocating for yourself. I don’t believe in letting these comments pass in silence. I think they should be calmly addressed to open up a dialogue that can be more productive and make the conversation more comfortable for both of you.
One strategy to reset the conversation and give your friends a better framework of understanding of where you’re coming from and to make you feel more heard is to use some I feel statements. For example, if a friend says if it’s meant to be, it’ll be you can calmly reply, I know you’re trying to help, but when you say blank, I feel blank. If your friend is empathetic and understanding, that’s wonderful. If not, if she or he retaliates or retreats or views the conversation like a criticism on themselves, you may want to reanalyze that friendship and decide if it’s a positive one or a toxic one for you right now, especially where you are in your journey. Which leads me into our fourth strategy, and one that shouldn’t really be surprising.
Set Your Boundaries
But our fourth tip on trying to communicate better with your friends about your infertility journey is to set clear boundaries between you and your friends. They never need to know what those boundaries actually are, but let’s say you’re not having a very good week or maybe a very good night. Maybe you’re just feeling really down. You just need some time to be alone, to be by yourself. There are times when we do need to push ourselves to get out of the house and times when we really need to prioritize rest. You have to decide what’s right for you at that moment, but don’t stay isolated all the time, because then that’s not healthy either, and it will perpetuate a larger gap between you and the people that you love. But it’s okay to say no is such a powerful word. No is one of my favorite words. I love that word. I didn’t really use that word as much as I need to until very recently, and I’m in my thirties, and I feel like so many of us really need to take on the power of no even more. Sometimes we’re so afraid to say no to people, even our best friends.
But if you need to say no to something, it’s okay. And there’s strength in saying no. A good reason to say no. A good reason to sometimes stay in or avoid social outing is to avoid triggering events and situations. Maybe an event would just be too painful or triggering for you right now. Maybe there’s a friend or family member who’s having a baby shower or something like that. And man, your heart is just not in the place to be there with them to help celebrate right now and then that’s okay. And that’s not something that you need to feel guilty about or feel bad about. You are not a bad person for not wanting to go. It’s okay to feel happy for your friend, but also feel all those emotions about your own journey, too. And I think it’s okay to say to your friend that you love her and you’re happy for her, but it’s too triggering for you. I think that’s completely understandable. Let’s imagine a different scenario. Perhaps you’ve told your friends that you are experiencing infertility maybe that you’re going for treatments, but maybe they’re asking for too many details and they’re asking questions all the time and they’re trying to check up on you, and maybe they’re being a little bit too Proactive in that way, but bringing it up over and over again every time you talk to them is maybe not helping your mental well being. One strategy is to say, I wanted to let you know what’s going on with our fertility journey, but please don’t ask for more details. If anything changes, I will let you know. Or you can say, we’re working with our healthcare team right now. I appreciate your concern, but I don’t want to talk about blank right now.
If you’re finding that certain people in your life are not respectful of your boundaries and your feelings, then it may be time to find a new, supportive group of friends. Friendships can become toxic, and there’s no point in keeping a toxic friend in your life if this relationship is only going to bring you pain. There are ways to create a more supportive space for yourself. There are wellness centers, yoga classes, dance studios.
Find The Right Fertility Support
There are lots of things going on where you can find another group of women who could be very supportive for you in your journey, like even joining our new private Facebook group the Fertility Support Coven. You just go to thefertilitywitch.com/support and it will bring you right over to our Facebook group. Most importantly, you need to protect your mental space in your conversations with friends. This is the room in which you have to operate and keeping yourself mentally well is a top priority throughout your journey. These conversations can be tough but the only way to end the stigma of infertility is again to talk about it either privately or publicly. Whatever chats you’re having about it this week during national infertility awareness week, please know that I see you that you are beautiful and you are not alone.
All right, witches I will see you next week when we kick off our three part series to reclaim your life while trying to conceive. Until then, don’t forget to like, subscribe and don’t forget to join our private Facebook group again at thefertilitywitch.com/support.
See you next week.