The other day I was in the pharmacy room at work when my favorite co-worker burst through the door, wrapped her arms around me and exclaimed “So how’s the embryo?!” As I burst out laughing I couldn’t help but think about how far I’ve come on this journey…
A year ago, when I first found out Dan and I were going to have to do IVF I made him promise he wouldn’t tell anyone. We told our parents and our siblings, but that was it. I remember thinking ‘this is our journey and I don’t need anyone else’s opinions or judgement as we go through it.’ The idea of keeping this to ourselves seemed noble (I argued it was better if I didn’t share with people who would worry about me), but it is also completely impractical. When you’re going through IVF it is the biggest part of your life (honestly sometimes if feels as if it is your entire life), it becomes a burden not sharing that with the people around you.
As time passed and this infertility journey began to control our lives I struggled with my decision to stay silent. Slowly, I began distancing myself from the majority of people in my life. I stopped going out with girlfriends, I skipped family parties and I declined invitations to have dinner with co-workers after long shifts. It was exhausting to publicly pretend I was living this perfect life, so instead I avoided the people who could (and eventually would) support me the most.
But, as almost every relationship in my life started to suffer (the few I shared our struggles with felt the burden of being the only people I turned to while those I chose to leave in the dark felt the wrath of my emotions, but had no understanding as to why) I decided enough was enough. If I was going to survive this (and still have a husband who loved me and sisters who wanted to be around me) I needed to start talking.
I started off by telling a few friends and co-workers, then I told my grandmother, after almost a year I told my great aunts, and now I’m here, telling anyone who can read.
And you know what? Nothing bad happened. People didn’t turn in disgust when I told them we were doing IVF. No one forced their opinions or beliefs upon us. I did not get the sense that everyone was ‘walking on eggshells’ around me because they pitied us. The primary reaction we received was one of acceptance and love.
It’s important to let people in on what’s happening with you. It’s important to build a network of individuals you can turn to when you need to cry, laugh or be reminded that you will survive this. I have one friend with whom I have an unspoken rule: I can call her anytime someone we went to high school with announces their pregnancy (even if it’s the only time I call all month) and she will always answer and find a way to make me laugh. I have a co-worker who unlocks our manager’s office for me every single time I need to take a phone call privately and she has never once asked for details when I walk out red-eyed and with tear stained cheeks. My older sister patiently reads every one of these posts before I make them public, even though I know reading these brings up mixed emotions for her. (She’s pregnant and I’m not, it’s a road we’re both still trying to navigate). You need people who support you.
I thought it would annoy me to talk about this with people who could not relate. How was my mother, who never struggled to conceive any of her four children, supposed to comfort me? How could the friend who has always said she would rather be the ‘cool aunt’ than a mom or the friend who is so far away from settling down with one guy, let alone imagine children, sympathize with me? Easy. Because they love me. I do not need to surround myself with a group of women who understand this process (although having a few infertility friends is nice) it’s just good to feel supported and cared for.
So, find some friends. Share your troubles (even if they’re nothing like mine). Tell your story to as many or as few people as you would like. But, do not drown yourself in your own sorrows by failing to realize there are more people than you could ever imagine waiting to toss you a life vest. (And I’ll be honest: on a bad day when I’m beyond hormonal and feeling overwhelmed it’s nice to have a friend give me a hug and ask about our embryo…)