to tell or not to tell

The topic even fits NIAW, but it’s been on my mind for a while. I would like to be open about our infertility. In part simply because I’m not a good liar, so pretending I don’t want to have kids (yet) wouldn’t really work, but in part also because I’ve always found it encouraging, or at least less isolating, when someone else admitted to having struggled with building their family.
Except the reactions I’ve received haven’t necessarily been encouraging:
* Close friend from college, a year after I told her that we’d been trying unsuccessfully and that the SA didn’t exactly come back great: “So, have you already been trying?”
* My mother in law, who has known for a long time, regularly points out how much she’d love to have a grandchild. When we told her we’d do IVF this summer, she replied “oh, well, we’ve just heard the opposite from cousin P — his wife is pregnant, they’re expecting a baby in the summer”.

Not all responses are like this, thankfully. I do have thoughtful friends that understand how painful this experience is at times, and that nevertheless I’m still the same person they can laugh with and cry with. And I’m very grateful to know those people.

Yet many people don’t seem to grasp the magnitude of the issue, and that makes me hesitate. But it’s such a big part of our life that it is difficult to share much of that without also touching on IF. I’m not sure if this is complicated by living abroad — we often communicate with friends via long emails or skype calls, letting the other know what has happened in the last few weeks or even months. So it’s not quite like the casual catching up over coffee where you can mention or skip difficult issues, depending on how the conversation evolves, knowing that you could just talk again tomorrow or next week.

This is going to be an open-ended post as I’m not sure what to do. Experiences welcome, including good answers for not-so-sensitive people (see above).

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6 thoughts on “to tell or not to tell

  1. I tend to be a bit of a sharer, so it went against my nature to hide our struggles from everyone. Most of the time I received decent responses, but occasionally I would receive not so sensitive ones. I just tried to blow them off, or depending upon the situation I would explain why that response was not very helpful. I encourage you to tell, simply because it’s good to have people in your corner for support!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Alex! I should probably learn to explain why a response wasn’t helpful — I know that many people do mean well but are just clueless on how tough this is. I guess I just have a hard time admitting to them how hard it is on me…

  2. “Oh, well, we’ve just heard the opposite”…. WHAT?!?! That is so gross. SO GROSS.

    The only thing that sometimes works for me (and this may be tailor suited to my personality so I’m not sure how helpful it is for anybody else) as far as gross responses go is to have an arsenal of… come backs.

    Example: “You’ve been married 7 years? Do you not want kids?” “Nope, just free time and money”.

    Childish yes but I have to admit there’s an instant of feeling a wee bit better because I’ve made them equally uncomfortable.

    I think people who aren’t going through it/haven’t gone through it are just… kind of clueless. I have a girlfriend who is the SWEETEST person on the planet, and I am 110% confident that she would never say anything to me that she thought would hurt me for a second, but when I told her of our woes, her first response was “I wish we had that problem! But we just seem to keep popping out babies!”

    ::blink blink blink::

    The only other thing I do, is before I tell people about it I say something along the lines of “I’m going to tell you something, and I need you to really think about your words before you respond, and in choosing those words I need you to keep in mind that what we’re talking about here is the greatest heartbreak I’ll ever have in my life”.

  3. Maybe I should do a preface like you do… I think, as I said above, part of the issue is that I don’t really like admitting how hard this is on me, but perhaps that doesn’t help in making anyone more sensitive. And then you’re also right that some people are just clueless. I’ve gotten wonderful support from friends who are childless (some by choice, others not) or who get pregnant without even trying, so at least in my experience it isn’t just whether they know this dreadful feeling…

  4. I tended to tell people that we were having problems, when possible. I guess I wanted to spread the word, knowing how ignorant and insensitive I was before I had some personal experience… But I do think if you say something you have to expect a stupid response. I hope you won’t get one, but as you say, not everyone is good at empathy, regardless of their experience.

  5. I kept it all very very close to the chest. My immediate family knew because they ended up visiting right the same weekend as our Sofia-IUIs. But beyond that I didn’t tell anyone. And I’m not telling anyone this time around either… for now. If IVF happens then maybe I will, but I, too, fear the wrong response…

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