Recently I saw an article about what you should or shouldn’t say to a person who is trying to get pregnant. It didn’t even specifically mention “infertility” but it was pretty clear that those with more extended “trying” periods were considered the experts in this field. I had a lot of issue with this article. For one thing, I’m not a fan of sweeping generalizations. In the case of this particular article (and several others I have seen) there are several key points that I disagree with strongly. I’m going to own all of this as my own thoughts/feelings and I make no generalizations about how this may or may not apply to others. So rather than critiquing the opinions of others, I’d rather just offer my perspective on how you can best care for and relate to me.
Be real with me. Life is hard. Not having kids is hard, but so is having kids. Not being pregnant is hard, but so is being pregnant. Being stuck in the house all day is hard, but so is going to work every day. While I appreciate being on the receiving end of care, and I crave it more than most people probably know, I also can’t live there. That’s just not who I am or how I’m wired, and I assume that if you know me well enough to care about how you relate to me, you know this about me already. If you need to complain about home or work or kids or anything, go for it. If I can’t deal with it at that point, I’ll be real with you, too, and tell you.
Don’t exclude me. Like I said before, life is hard. It’s full of sad, difficult things. I probably see more than my share in my line of work. I soak up joy and happiness and celebration wherever I can. Children are living, breathing miracles of joy to me. If you’ve got something to celebrate, let me celebrate with you. I don’t have to be all up in your business, but you don’t have to walk on egg shells around me. I’m not saying you should go out of your way to include me in things you wouldn’t otherwise, but don’t feel that because it’s happy or baby/child related that it’s something to be avoided around me. This whole journey has been and continues to be an incredibly lonely one for me. Please don’t build any more walls to remind me of how different I am.
Give me permission to grieve. I will admit that there have been times when I prayed “God, if you’re not going to give me a baby, can I at least have a miscarriage?” Not because I think the loss of a child is something to be desired, but because that is a much more tangible loss that is more easily understood. There is a lot more sympathy and support for that kind of loss. I absolutely believe that all these things that exist should and they are very valuable. Pregnancy loss is a terrible thing. But it is something that can be grieved publicly. Trying and trying and there just being … nothing… is not something you can publicly grieve. How can you miss something you never had? It’s easier than you think. I often don’t feel that I have permission to grieve publicly, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving. This is often where I feel the loneliest.
Let me be real with you. Ask what’s been going on in my life and in my head and in my heart and really listen to what I have to say. If you know me well enough to recognize when I’m feeding you a load of crap then be willing to call me on it and give me permission to share with you. Don’t try to force it out of me, but give me some safe space to talk about whatever it might be. No guilt or shame, no “should” or “ought”, no mocking or ridicule. It may take a while before I act on it, but simply the knowledge that the space is there and that it is occupied by someone who loves and cares about me is a tremendous gift.
Tell me your story. No, I may not relate to all of it. Heck, I may not relate to most of it. But if there is one thing I have learned through my life and my work it’s that, in pretty much every case, there is SOME point of connection between two souls. Remind me of some of these. Help me remember that there is a community who loves and supports me and there are people who understand. And don’t be afraid of happy endings. Those have always been my favorites!
Thank you for caring. Please don't stop. It makes a difference.