For those of us fluent in the language of infertility, there are few words, so innocuously strung together, that are more likely to elicit a punch in the face as a response. It would be so much easier if the answer was a simple “yes,” or no. Our “maybes,” or “we hope sos,” are answers far more complex and seeped in misery than the vacuous question ever intended. Nine times out of ten, the poor soul asking the question has no idea that you have endured months or years of disappointment, and that you have a cocktail of fertility drugs flowing through your veins. With this in mind, here are some strategies to help keep you out of the county jail when an ignorant acquaintance, co-worker, or relative asks the dreaded question:
1) Take A Deep Breath
Simple enough right? This is oh so critical. The first few times you run into this question while struggling to conceive, will be like taking a hot poker to the eye. Holding your breath will only make it worse. I noticed that I held my breath whenever anyone asked that question, and while it improved my chances of being an olympic free diver, it made my responses halting and weird, which in turn made me feel more panicked. The Yogis have this one people, trust them. Unclench your fist and breathe.
2) Silently Acknowledge That It’s Not An Inquisition (Most of of the Time…)
Particularly if you are at some milestone in your relationship, or even in your career, the people around you are going to be curious to varying degrees about your life. Realize though that most people are only mildly concerned and for the most part really don’t care what your answer is, as they are usually just making conversation. Your answer is not going to change the path in their lives one bit. So aside from a few follow up questions at most, the annoyance should be short lived. With relatives however, the implications may be more complex, which is why you will love #3…
3) Consider Using with a “Thimble” Response
You don’t need to have read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to know that having a plan can help win the battle. In some ways this is a battle. It’s the battle to keep things within YOUR comfort zone, not that of inquiring minds. Here is where you and your partner can work together. Come up with a short, sweet, and excuseless response, no bigger than a thimble, that the two of you are comfortable with sharing. The answers can vary slightly to match the circumstances or audience, such as “the work answer,” “The Mom Solution,” or whatever. It is up to you, but have something! One of my favorites was ,”Oh, we will get to it someday, but we are just soooooo busy,” which was the perfect segue to talk about other things. You could always just quip “yes,” “maybe,” or “no comment” and go about your business, if that suits you. Say your thimble response at least 50 times. Get comfortable. Pick the tone of voice you love best and use it. You never know when it may save your sanity…
4) Put the Question Off For Another Time
This would be wise in a work situation or in larger groups, if the person asking is someone who you are open to sharing your journey with. You will need time and a safe, relaxed environment in which to answer the question. Let’s face it, they are not asking what you had for dinner the night before, and having the annoying intrusion of uninvited others getting schooled on your private life is less than ideal. Talk about your journey on your terms and on your turf!
5) Remember That Boundaries are Healthy
Our culture is one that values openness and quick familiarity, even though it often breeds connections that are superficial at best. Remember that you and your partner are the ones living through the dark moments of bitter disappointment, painful procedures, and tough choices. You get to decide who has a front row seat and who gets insider information. If your choice is not to share any of your journey with anyone, then so be it! Make sure it’s your hand on the information valve, no one else’s. There are things that friends and family may never understand and that is OK. It’s not their job. It’s up to you and your partner to keep each other safe. There is nothing more effective than firm boundaries.
Everyone makes peace their fertility journey at different times and in different ways. Having strategies to keep yourself safe and comfortable along the way is as essential as a prenatal vitamin.
I’d love to know how you’ve dealt with this question! What is your Thimble Response?” Tell me, tell me, tell me! Leave me a comment!