This is a guest post from a very articulate patient of ours ! It's an open letter from her to her friends and family.
I’ve greatly appreciated your offers of help and support during what has become an extended struggle with fertility. This infertility treatment stuff can be awfully isolating for a single girl, and I’m grateful to have supportive friends and family to help carry me through. I know that you are sincere in your caring, and I imagine it’s tricky for you to know “what to do”, so I’ve put together a few thoughts to help you understand what I’m going through, and how you can best support me during this time:
1. The choices I’ve made and am making are among the most difficult and deeply personal that most individuals face. I’ve shared my situation with you because I trust you and need your support. You may have opinions and judgments relating to my situation; sharing these with me at this point is not helpful. In general, I find folks feel much more free to ask judgmental questions or pass along critical comments to a single woman than they might if I were married. Please consider whether you really need to tell me about your thoughts on the selfishness of single motherhood, why God doesn’t want women having careers, how adoption is the only ethical reproductive choice, how overpopulated the world is, etc. I don’t want to push people away, but I’m vulnerable right now, so I have become protective of myself, avoiding situations and people who are negative or judgmental.
2. I’ve spent many, many hours researching every aspect of fertility and every option available to me. Although I know you’re well intentioned, I find it a little frustrating when friends insist on offering a barrage of insights along the lines of: “You probably didn’t know that a woman’s most fertile days are…” or “Have you considered resting with your legs raised after the insemination?” My personal hot button comment is “If you’d just relax…” Please note that blaming me neither helps me relax, nor offers me any insight. Unless you happen to be a reproductive endocrinologist, chances are I’ve read the study, researched the rumour, tried the miracle vitamin, and visited the new-age practitioner you heard could get a rock pregnant.
3. Know that you don’t have to have all, or any, of the answers. I’m so grateful for the calls, emails, check-ins, and long cups of coffee. You can’t imagine how relieved I have felt after a good conversation with a friend. Just listening is a wonderful gift of sharing of yourself.
4. I’ve been truly blessed by all your offers of support. Sometimes, it can be a little difficult for me to talk about what’s going on. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about my current situation, but I do get awfully emotional about it. I know we’re all hoping that each month is the last; It may be just too much for me to talk to you after every “non-success”. When things do look promising (like a positive pregnancy test), what is a source of joy for most women trying to conceive, carries with it a further level of anxiety for me. I don’t want to share good news and then have to choke down my tears to report a disappointment. Let’s agree that I’ll call if and when there’s good news I’m ready to share.
5. I want to be a good friend, sister, neighbour, and colleague. I am truly excited to hear about your little bundles of joy. Don’t stop sharing your good news! It’s inspiring to me! I usually enjoy being around your children; I love kids and yours are an inspiration. Sometimes though, I need to be in a world without babies, just for a little while. Please forgive me if I send a card and a gift rather than a personal appearance at a shower, or if I’d rather go to a movie geared towards adults than family cartoon where there are likely a million beautiful little ones running around.
6. So much of my life revolves around medical appointments, charts, tests, and hormonal fluctuations, that I’m thrilled about any activity that takes me out of myself. I do appreciate your openness to listening, being able to talk about all this is a godsend. I also appreciate the opportunity to get out and socialize, go hiking, or canoeing, or out to a party; in short, do all the stuff we did before I started down this road. Normalcy is great! Let’s talk about what’s going on in your life too.
I’m looking forward to being done with all this; in the meantime, you can’t know how grateful I am for all your help and support. I look forward to sharing good news with you soon.