To tell or not to tell, well that is the very big question!
Should you tell people about your infertility? This is a controversial topic in the TTC community. I firmly believe that you need to ensure you have a strong support network around you given the challenges you may face. However, I also understand that you also don’t want to give yourself additional worries or stresses by telling the wrong people, who may later upset you.
Some of the benefits to sharing:
My experience hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been much easier being honest than pretending I’m ok and nothing is wrong (especially when you feel rubbish, emotional and bloated).
I was also putting people in a position where they may upset me or make inappropriate comments without realising, which didn’t seem fair and could make people feel awful.
If you don’t share, you’re not giving those closest to you an opportunity to show that they do actually understand, care or an opportunity to show support.
Telling friends about infertility problems can help when potentially uncomfortable situations arise, such as baby showers or people making inappropriate comments.
It is a challenging treatment process and it’s not easy relying solely on my husband to talk to about my grief or emotions. This is partly because he is male and doesn’t always understand where I’m coming from, but mainly because he is grieving, stressed and emotional too. It’s important to me to have some other trusted outlets to ensure I’m not loading additional concerns onto my husband and that I can get support from someone outside of the immediate process who is ready with a listening ear, a nice distracting film and ice cream, different topics of conversation and/or wine in hand, where this is needed.
When you feel ill from some fertility medication you’re taking, or down after another negative pregnancy test, being able to call your sister, cousin, or friend can really help. It’s also handy when unexpected things come up in your treatment – where you might need your friends or family to help you administer an injection in a restaurant’s toilet cubicle at 9pm while you celebrate Uncle Joe’s birthday, for example.
There are always reasons for not telling people too, including:
- Being afraid because it means having to do a lot of explaining about a subject that is emotionally difficult to talk about with others.
- Not wanting to be pitied
- Not wanting people to ask about it
- Not wanting it to be the main/only topic of conversation
- The difficulty of dealing with your own disappointment after a failed cycle, on top of everyone else’s
- People’s lack of understanding
- The fact it’s a personal/private and intimate topic
- People not knowing how to react to delicate information like this and reacting in a “let me fix it” way, giving you a lot of unwanted advice.
- People making you feel that there’s an easy solution.
- Some friends may become uncomfortable and feel afraid to tell you anything about their pregnancy or new babies, which introduces an elephant in the room that everyone is afraid to talk about.
Who to tell?
This is a wholly personal decision. There is no right and wrong answer to whether you should tell anyone about your journey. Ultimately, the priority is yourself and your partner. Make choices based on what feels right for you, and not based on who you think “deserves” to know. Infertility is stressful enough without giving yourself another thing to worry about.
Telling your parents may be a good idea, but only if they aren’t likely to react with blaming or excessive advice-giving and aren’t going to tell every Tom, Dick and Harry they meet in Morrisons. You might find that you would like to confide in one set of parents but not the others for example, depending on your relationships with each of them.
If you don’t tell your parents though, they may inadvertently put their many feet in it with the ‘when are you two going to give me a grandchild’, ‘you’re getting on a bit now, you better hurry up’, and ‘you shouldn’t leave it too late’. Only you know which situation is best for you.
Some of the best support may come from your siblings or cousins. If you did tell your siblings or cousins it can be a nice support having someone else to roll eyes with at family gatherings or when other family members ask awkward questions. They can also be great wing men/women, changing those awkward topics and getting you out of sticky situations.
The same goes for friends. You know your friends best, and you can probably quickly decide who not to tell. (The advice givers, the blamers, the gossipers, the ‘turn it around to themselves-ers’ and those who don’t do well in sticky social situations, for example.)
Don’t feel obligated to tell someone just because he/she is a good friend. It may be that your ‘best friend’ isn’t actually the best person for you to confide in and that a good friend at work would be the perfect person to seek support from.
The ideal most of us seek is to find a few good people to confide in—just enough to have someone to call on those bad days and that looks out for you. Someone who will keep your confidence, be understanding, empathetic, supportive and, ultimately, a good listener.
If you don’t feel you can talk to friends or family, there are plenty of online forums and communities of like-minded people and sometimes, actually the support you need most is from people who have been there and understand fully what you are going through. Whatever you decide, you do not need to deal with things alone.
What to tell?
Once you’ve found the people you would like to tell, the next question is how much do you tell them?
You may decide to only tell people when you are entering the main treatment ‘milestones’ so you have someone to share any nervousness, excitement or trepidation with. Some people don’t want anyone asking them how things have gone, especially if it’s not good news, so you can set the boundaries at the start with your trusted confidant(s), so they are aware of how best to support you.
You may want to tell people about your fertility treatment at the very start of your journey. Or perhaps you want to see how the first cycle goes, sharing with people after a couple of cycles once you know what to expect, how you have coped and what you have found most difficult etc.
You may want to be vague in your description, simply informing people that you are embarking on ‘fertility treatment’ (don’t need to say which or what), or even just ‘a course of treatment’ (not focusing on fertility at all), outlining vaguely how you think it might affect you and what support you might need from them.
You might find you want to talk to someone in lots of detail about how you’re feeling, the strains it may be having on you as a couple, the bruises and swollen tummy, and all the highs and the lows (if your selected person(s) is happy and able to cope with the level of detail of course). After all, tea and sympathy, or ice cream and Bridget Jones, with a good friend or family is sometimes the best medicine.
Ultimately, the choice is yours.