“So, when are you going to have a baby?” is the question many people struggling with fertility issues dread. Christmas is a time for social events and family get-togethers, increasing the prospect of well-meaning friends and relatives asking awkward questions.
KK Goldberg, author of ‘A Twin Mom’s Post-Infertility Survivor Guilt’, recalls that “We are working on it”, was her husband’s effective stock answer when dealing with such intrusive questions.
In this guest blog, Ms Goldberg looks back over her own fertility journey and offers advice to those suffering from infertility, particularly at this time of year.
We are also using the phrase “We are working on it” as a theme for a number of seasonal posts that aim to show that together we are getting there.
Preparing yourself for the ‘When are you going to have a baby’ and other intrusive questions
I vividly remember how much three years of infertility consumed me — body and spirit. It became a kind of lens through which I viewed the entire world. I look back at pictures of myself at a friend’s wedding, and I recollect not so much of the dancing/food/festivity, but rather trying to endure the multitude of intrusive questions about when my husband and I would have our own children.
Accept infertility is being in limbo – Recognise that infertility puts you in an impossible situation. It’s hard to talk about in the middle of it, because without knowing the end, it’s a roller coaster of uncertainty. You can’t fully grieve, because the outcome is unknown. Nor can you be fully hopeful, for the same reason. It feels like the vision of your future family is on life support, and no one can tell you which way it will go — if it will live and thrive, or slowly pass away.
Don’t stress about being stressed out – There’s so much pressure to be positive, and it flies in the face of how difficult the experience of infertility is, with its myriad invasive treatments and the pained repetitive waiting. Not only did infertility leave me frequently upset, but I also felt a compounded despair that my “negative thinking” was prolonging the problem. Of course it feels better to stay positive, when possible. When it’s not, it means only that you are human. Don’t stress about being stressed out.
Know and honour your limits – There is feeling of pressure to “do everything” on the medical front, and a parallel pressure to adopt a child. All these choices are profoundly personal and no one else can define your path. It’s possible to maintain the power of choosing what you will and will not do, and to change course as you go.
Prepare answers for intrusive questions – Some people are frank about their infertility, but if you are not have some rote answers prepared for nosy questioners. “Only God knows” or, “we’ll see” were brief and worked for me. Everyone has a different degree of comfort with self-exposure. My husband would answer, “We’re working on it,” which satisfied half of the question, but politely limited potential follow-up. Figure out where you stand, and prepare your words.
Soothe your body – For every medical procedure you go through, find a soothing activity for your body. It might be a walk, a nap or a focused chunk of minutes cuddling with your dog, cat or partner. Can enough be said about the healing power of nature? There’s also a massage, a pedicure, a bath, a haircut — though your soothing act doesn’t have to be expensive. There are soft socks, favourite foods and Netflix. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s in the spirit of self-care and self-acknowledgement.
Do whatever you need to do – Take care of your heart. This might mean skipping a baby shower, or assessing your relationship with the Internet. There comes a time when you need to take a break from the stress of it all.
Find someone you can talk to uncensored – This might be a friend, a counsellor, a support group — anyone who can support you unconditionally and isn’t invested in the outcome.
It will be OK – Though your definition of OK will change. Our lives seldom fit into tidy spreadsheets or set schedules. Resolutions come in unexpected ways. People get through it, and you will find peace again.
K.K Goldberg is an author of ‘A Twin Mom’s Post-Infertility Survivor Guilt’. This post is based on one by KK Goldberg that previously appeared in Huffington Post.