Infertility is a personal and often private challenge. It’s often a lonely road to travel but you’re not alone and you don’t have to walk alone. You do not have to bear the burden alone or on your own, but that should not mean you should tell everyone what you are going through, should it?
The best advice is that you probably shouldn’t tell everyone about your fertility challenges, that is, if you don’t want to, however, on the long run, keeping your fertility issues completely secret may not only be unnecessary and counterproductive, but psychologically painful for you.
When you keep your infertility completely a secret, it might only be the worse for you. Perhaps you are keeping things secret because you cannot bear the shame or stigma. Unfortunately, shame is like mould—it thrives in darkness. So, this so-called ‘shame’ about your condition just grows and grows the more you keep it hidden.
What you need to accept is that talking or ‘exposing’ your fertility challenges to even one friend, one family members or anybody, will only help to shine light on the so-called shame that you are feeling and perceiving.
When considering the pros and cons of telling, it is wise to think of the particular people that you believe can help you make the best choice. You can talk about your challenge only to friends and family members and others who you think can be supportive and tell them what’s on your mind, but of course, you cannot predict how those you tell would react.
Talking about your infertility challenge is a sure way of moving forward. If one person you tell reacts badly, don’t let that stop you. It’s essential to find the right support when dealing with infertility and if friends and family can lend some of that support, it’s good for you.
The question, really, isn’t so much about whether you should tell your friends and family members that you are infertile; it’s more about exactly who you should open up to and when you should open up. When you do talk, who do you talk to and how do you talk about it?
However, be aware that they can only respond to what you tell them and how you tell them. If you admit that you’re struggling with infertility, people might respond honestly and supportively or otherwise. They may not give perfect support, but even imperfect support is better than no support.
Naturally, you’ll get asked fewer questions about why you have not yet had children and when you’re planning to start having them, but in the long run, and by implication, the number one benefit of sharing this ‘secret’ is to get support.
Mothers in-law particularly can be pushy but if you explain to them that you’re trying but having problems, they may stop pressuring you and even offer assistance.
Friends are another matter. Telling friends about infertility problems can help when potentially uncomfortable situations arise, such as baby showers. It’s totally normal to feel uneasy about attending a baby shower or other baby-related parties, and many women coping with infertility turn invitations down. If your friends know about your infertility, they will probably be more understanding.
It would be much easier to cope when you can call a friend or family member after another negative pregnancy test and disappointment. People would empathise better when they understand your experience.
This is not to say there are no disadvantages to sharing. There are pros and cons. Some would give a lot of unwanted advice, others may try to make you feel that there’s an easy solution or even try to discourage you one way or another.
However, there will always be one or two persons ready to offer useful support. On the other hand, you also have to be ready to deal with inappropriate comments and people who don’t know how to handle these subjects in a sensitive way.
Some others may not be open to changing their approach, intuitively you will likely know who such people might be and it might be best not to share your story with them in the first place. With these benefits and possible pitfalls in mind, how do you decide exactly who to tell? Who do you tell and who do you not tell? Your choices are best based on what’s best for you, and not based on who you think ‘deserves’ to know.
Telling people about your issue is easier said than done, but it’s your choice. You are not doing it for anyone but for you and others like you. And that is what counts. Apart from who you want to share with you also need to consider exactly the content of what you want to share. As mentioned earlier, it’s an entirely personal decision. There are no right or wrong answers, but there could be sticky situations.
Naturally, you would want to tell your parents, that is understandable, but it would only be worth it if they are not the type to react with blaming or excessive advice-giving. Only you would know whether or not telling your parents is a good idea. Sibling support is unequalled so telling your siblings or cousins may provide some of the best support you can get. The important issue is to find good people to confide in.
You need a friend in this situation, but the response from friends could be 50/50. You know your friends best, and you can probably quickly know who to tell and who not to tell. Don’t feel obligated to tell someone just because he or she is a good friend because that your ‘best friend’ may not be the best person to confide in. Also, that ‘good friend’ at work could be the perfect person to seek support from.
There will always be pros and cons to being totally open. Some of the biggest benefits are the support you get from people, and the ability to share your struggles without fear of your ‘secret’ being leaked out. Plus, when you speak out about infertility, you’re advocating not just yourself but everyone concerned as well.
It is perfectly okay if you decline to share details of what’s causing your infertility: This may open you up to more unwanted advice or judgments. Also, if it’s your partner who is infertile, you must get their permission to share. On the plus side of sharing details, it may allow you to educate others on what infertility is really all about and how it can be tackled.
For instance, when you are in the middle of a treatment cycle: Telling people means you’ll have support when you need it most, and this can really help. On the flip side, you’ll likely also have a lot of people asking, ‘if it worked.’ If the cycle isn’t successful, needing to share that information with many people can become painful. When you finally get a positive pregnancy test result, the debate could shift to ‘when to tell people’. It’s completely your choice; there are pros and cons to every decision.
It’s important to have support from those who understand infertility. While your very best friend or sibling may be a great listener, you still may want to talk to people who understand and share your concerns. Even though friends and family truly do want to support and understand, it may be difficult for them to do so except they have personally gone through the same challenges.