A Journey Out Loud or Comfortably Mum?
As if navigating the reality of infertility wasn’t challenging enough, the question of what to tell family, friends, co-workers, and other inquiring minds when the stork has been conspicuously absent from making a delivery at your house, cruelly adds to the vertiginous heap of anxiety already piling up in your mind. You can’t avoid it. Some well meaning person, who is completely ignorant of your monthly trip to fertility Thunder Dome, is going to ask the nails on a chalkboard question of, “So, when are you going to pop out a couple kids?” As deceptively harmless (and crude) as this question may be, it is riddled with the kind of hand wringing complexity that makes it imperative to ask yourself, “how much do I really want to tell people about my infertility?”
In our incredibly confessional, social media saturated culture, there is intense pressure to share even the most minute details of your life. For better or worse, family, friends, co-workers, and other inquiring minds feel a degree of entitlement when it comes to knowing what is going on. Unlike other aspects of your life however, the unruly horde of emotions traveling in the wake of infertility make the decision far weightier than discussing your vacation plans or how much you hate your job.
I wrestled with this subject. Intensely private when it comes to aspects of my personal life, my inclination was to keep my lips sealed. I didn’t want pity and I refused to be defined by infertility. At times I felt like I was living a shadowy double life. But, the idea of having an audience, no matter how well intentioned, waiting, wondering, and intermittently asking if I “felt anything,” or visually scanning me for tell tale signs, was just too much to bear. We told our tiny immediate family and that was it. This was our journey, on our terms. Our choice isn’t for everyone, but for us it was right.
Whether You Are A Go-Go or Kardashian, The Choice Is Yours Alone
Where you fall on the spectrum of openness when it comes to your fertility journey will be a function of who you (and your partner) are and the structure of your personal relationships. Here are some questions to get you started.
1) How Do You (Honestly) Feel About Your Infertility?
As much as we’d all like to say we were impenetrable fortresses of optimism from the get go, facing the reality of infertility will knock the wind out of you, no matter who you are. You are human. Feeling shame? Confusion? Overwhelm? Grief? Disappointment? Hopelessness? Fear? Acknowledge it.
If you are in a place where it feels about as appealing as an IRS audit to share what you are going through, then end of story. On the other hand, your gut may be telling you that the way you will work through your feelings of confusion and overwhelm is to share what’s happening with the people around you. Get clear about how you feel now. It will put you on track for making the choice that is exactly right for you.
2) Does This Person Make The Cut?
Oooh, I know this one is going to rub some people the wrong way, but when it comes to the 411 about your infertility, you get to be selfish and selective. Think about it. Will your cousin who had 5 kids by the time she was 30, who chided you about pursuing a career, and who loves to say “I told you so,” really have anything productive to add? What about your step-mom who thinks you can never do anything right? Does your ham-fisted, child phobic, employer really need to know anything other than the fact that you have a doctor’s note? What about your slightly self absorbed BFF? Will they “get it” or will cluing them in be more trouble than it’s worth?
Look, this road is hard enough when it is just you (and your partner.) The last thing you need is to be stuck managing everyone else’s issues along the way. Be mindful of your answer to question #1. Choose the people who will walk with you on this journey judiciously. No one has an absolute right to a front row seat, unless you choose to give it.
3) How Comfortable Are You With Others Chiming In?
You’ve got to know that the minute you say the words, the floodgates are going to open. Almost everyone knows someone who has been down this road. You will receive more unsolicited advice, half-cocked theories, and recitations of the dreaded, “just relax and it will happen,” than you bargained for. People may even feel like they have a personal stake in your outcome! Be ready.
It’s not all bad though. You may find that opening yourself up can save you some grief–particularly if the 2 cents you are getting comes from someone who has been there and done that. (Hint Hint) It could mean a referral to an amazing clinic or a fantastic acupuncturist at a reasonable price. Take what’s useful and leave the rest.
4) What’s The Price You Are Going To Pay?
Whether you choose to put what’s going on in your uterus on blast or opt to be as silent as the grave, it will come at a price. Who doesn’t love the surge of collective excitement when there is a happy ending, but what are you going to do if you are disappointed? Will you regret telling everyone under the sun of your troubles, when you have to repeat your heartbreak and disappointment for the 50th time? Will keeping everyone at arm’s length rob you of the support you crave?
No matter what you choose to do, there is the potential for hurt feelings, strained friendships, unsolicited judgments, and run-ins with unscrupulous busy bodies who decide to use your openness against you. I wish there was an easier way, but when you stay true to yourself, there rarely is.
Truth In The Seat Pocket In Front Of You
If I haven’t made it obvious enough, I unapologetically come from the point of view not unlike that preached on the back of an airline Safety Information Card. You must put your oxygen mask on first before you assist anyone else. Yeah, that’s right. Take care of yourself first. Your only obligation to engage in open communication is to yourself (“yourself “includes your partnership.) Everyone else gets an invitation, if and when you see fit. If someone tries to guilt trip you or pile on the pressure, that says more about them than it does about you!
This may take a little getting used to, if you’ve never really exercised the “boundary muscle.” It’s your life, your rules baby! You may find that your position changes over time and with each new circumstance. Great! You can reserve the right to change your mind. Yee-haw!
Are Your Lips Sealed Like A Go-Go or Is Your Infertility Journey On Blast?
How Did You Come To That Decision?
Tell Us All About It In The Comments Below!
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With Love and Respect,
© 2014 From Maybe To Baby