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Telling Others About Your Infertility
Questions like, “Do you have children yet?” or “Do you have a family?” are not only uncomfortable, but also cause you to re-evaluate how much of the infertility journey you care to share with others around you. The pros of telling others are that you may get support, feel less alone, or come to find that other friends, family, or colleagues are traveling down the same road; the cons are that you may get lots of unsolicited (well-intentioned) advice, judgment, or perhaps an overwhelming or suffocating support system. You can't predict when someone will ask about your latest injections or ultrasound and you certainly don't want holiday dinners and work meetings to focus on such a sensitive topic. The anxiety of others finding out may cause you to live in constant worry of who is in on your fertility secret.
Talking about Infertility in the Workplace
Deciding whether and whom to tell in your workplace is tricky. You may be concerned that sharing the fact that you are trying to have a family may impact a promotion. On the other hand, trying to fit in fertility doctor appointments without telling others why you will be out of the office can definitely add to your stress level.
If you don’t want your employer or supervisor to know you are undergoing fertility treatment, consider telling them that you are having medical treatments for a non-life-threatening medical issue. Including the phrase “non-life-threatening” is important, so they don’t jump to any incorrect conclusions.
Make a Plan
Before telling others about your struggle to have a baby:
- Decide what details you (and your partner) want to share and what you want to keep private. This is important if you feel you might be judged because you are doing high-tech fertility treatment such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or using donor eggs or donor sperm. Men may feel uncomfortable sharing details about the cause of male-factor infertility. Both partners need to be comfortable with what and how much information is shared and with whom.
- Decide who specifically you want to tell and determine if there are certain people you do not want to tell.
- Think about what you want from the people you tell. Be specific. Do you want them to check in with you and ask how things are going? Or, do you want to say, “We will keep you posted, just keep us in your thoughts.” In other words, take control — don’t let others be in control.
- If you get unsolicited advice or “words of wisdom” that are upsetting and insensitive, consider saying, “That is not helpful to hear right now.”
- If you are waiting for the results from a fertility treatment cycle and don’t want to have to answer a lot of calls and inquiries, consider having a point person who will give your friends and family the latest news. This person could also be the one to inform you via email or in person about new pregnancies in your family or social circle.
- If you have suffered miscarriages, and now have a positive pregnancy test, consider only telling those who can really be emotionally available for you, in case you have another loss.
The fertile word is all around you. One area you can take control of is deciding whom to tell what you are going through and asking what you need from them. In most cases, friends and family are trying to understand and support you.
For other advice on sharing your infertility journey with friends and family, visit our fertility social network on FertileThoughts.com. Each of the women there has been in your shoes. Some are infertility veterans while others are new to the journey. Either way, it is helpful to hear from others' experiences before telling others about your infertility.