Sunday, 26 October 2008

I'm coming out

No, not like that. Although the husband is still convinced that I have more tales from my teenage years in a girls' boarding school that I have yet to share with him.

(I don't.)

Back to the topic. A discussion that is often raised in the blogosphere is 'should we tell folk we are having problems conceiving?'. (I still find it near impossible to use the word infertile - it sounds far too final.)

But why the dilemma? It is something that I have struggled with. I'm not ashamed. It is not my fault. It happens. No one is going to judge me and actually telling people might even illicit some good advice or sympathy.

And that is the problem.

We all know the kind of advice we would receive, usually backed up with a concrete example of "a friend of a friend's cousin did X and now she has 6 children".

Or the sympathy, at best, might leave me a blubbering wreck and the giver of said shoulder to cry on wondering if it would be heartless to forward the dry-cleaning bill. At worst the sympathy will take the form of pointing out people who are worse off. I know there are people worse off, I feel for them, I hope everyone's dreams come true but telling me about them isn't going to make me slap my hand to my forehead declare how blind I have been and start seeing the world through rose-coloured spectacles.

But, just to contradict what I have said above I have started to tell people. Initially just my closest mates but more recently other people who I suspect may be having similar problems or who I see often enough that I don't want them to start nudging each other should I not drink. Or those I fear will one day casually raise the "So when are you two going to have children?" topic. I'm pre-empting. And so far, its been positive.

The responses I have had have generally been supportive without seeing it as a green light for intrusive questions and it has felt like a weight off my mind. Turns out I should credit the folk I know with a bit more tact, and empathy.

One person I told recently was my Dad. Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know that a) I have been teetering on the edge of talking to him about this for ages and b) my Mum died when I was 15 so he has to deal with the emotional baggage of his three daughters as well as the more conventional DIY-expert/ plumber/ electrician Dad role.

So back in September (I know its taken a while to blog about it) I had a work meeting in a town near my Dad's so I took the opportunity to stay with him the night before. His wife was staying with a friend so it was the first time in years there have just been the two of us, no partners, no siblings.

He took me out for dinner and, in a very calm, unemotional way, I told him exactly what was going on; what tests I'd had; what the results were; our next steps. And my dears, this is the phenomenal bit, I managed to have the whole conversation without even alluding the the fact that I have sex with my husband, there are somethings a father never needs to confront.

He was brilliant. Only one blip when he suggested that maybe if I "didn't worry so much about it, it would happen". Deep breath. Explain how I have had irregular periods all of my life (I gloss over the period I was on the pill, see above, he doesn't need to know), so there is clearly something 'up', and anyway I wasn't worried at the start.

Now he asks how things are going with the "baby thing", but doesn't push it, and will frequently hand the phone over to my step-mother to dig for more graphic details.

I suppose the point of the post is to say on the whole talking to people in real life has generally been really positive and helpful. I'm not about to walk into a party with an opening gambit, "Hi! I'm infertile, what about you?" and, other than on a need to know basis, folk at work will remain oblivious. But I am less wary about talking to friends and family. These are people who care a lot about me, and they want to share the bad stuff as well as the good, and appreciate the trust that I have shown in them by telling them.


  1. Depending on the people I am talking to. I've learned who I should and shouldnt let engage me in an infertility conversation. Some people just make me angry, and soI dont talk to them about

  2. Good post, good topic.

    We have a funny situation, we live away from family so they don't see or hear from us on a day to day basic.

    One member of both our families knows on a high level whats going on. i.e. they want a kid, haven't had one yet.

    We came out to our friends here a little over the 12 month mark, but it remains pretty much an unspoken topic.

    My fear with telling family 'properly' what's going on is the interference, and the 'advice'. There would be no avoiding it.

    We know the time will come, we know we will have to give away some of that privacy, some of that protection we allow ourselves by keeping it to ourselves.

    I'm 100% behind you telling people who will be supportive, and it seems you have a family like that, that's a good thing. Having someone outside the relationship to talk to is important, there are days you want to talk and he doesn't and vice versa.

    But for me, the fear remains, the hesitancy, the unwillingness to open our protective layer to people who in truth, can't help us, regardless of how much they love us.

    (Sorry for the novel)

  3. I think it's great to have a support system. For so long I was 'in the closet' w/ TTCing and IF. Now that DH is able to discuss it, it's easier to share with others.

  4. I've recently started sharing with people too, and even posting about it on my blog. I had to take a huge deep breath before that one! I've found the same thing though. People have been a lot more caring than I thought they would be. And it can't hurt to have all those good thoughts and well wishes coming our way, right?

  5. Hi Sarah, yes it is definitely about knowing your audience.

    Tolstoy, yeah we haven't told the husbands family and that is mainly to do with distance. They live in the Scotland and this is a face to face conversation. But, although they can't help (although my sister did offer me her eggs once) i do find talking about it to close friends and family, when I want to, can definitely be a relief.

    BFN, after 10 years i think I would go crazy if I just had one person to talk to, especially one equally as emotionally involved.

    Lea, Welcome! You've done it the other way round to me I started the blog completely anonymously and deep breath, told a few people I know in real life about it. I don't know which is more scary!

  6. Good on you for sharing with your nearest and dearest.

    We've never made a secret of our situation ie recurrent miscarriage, and I find I get varying levels of understanding about it. A lot of "at least you can get pregnant" type of comment, so I have to go to lengths explaining why it seems I can conceive but not carry a pregnancy, which is just as bad imo.

    I find it a hard topic to broach with my brothers, as they seem to leave it to their wives to talk to me about it, albeit not very often. Don't know if they see it as a "womens' thing" or that they are just not aware of what we are going through. It can be very isolating at times.

  7. I envy you. I've tried talking to my family (earful of assvice, wilfully stupid remarks and lalala rainbows with a sideorder of 'stop whining, it's no big deal', this last, invariably, only from people who have at least three kids). I've tried not talking to my family (incessant questions about when we're going to have a baby, what's wrong with us, why don't I ever talk to them about family plans?)

    Add a miscarriage into the mix and hte only person in my family who even so much as hints at it all is my mother and she's working her way through the list of 'Things Not To Say To Infertile Woman Who Had A Miscarriage'.


    I am glad your family is being a source of comfort and strength. After all, damn it, that's what families are for.

  8. It's a puzzle, right enough. Thing is, I miscarried before too many people started asking awkward questions, so I didn't get too much of the 'when are you planning the baby' questions. I just got tons of tactless advice on how not the kill the next one. My MIL really does need a good wallop!
    I think my Dad had a rough day when he had to be told about my two-uteri thing. Not the best thing for a Dad to have to think about! I hope you enjoyed your meal a deux, subject matter aside. Quality time with Dads: always good.

  9. I have a tendency to talk about IF to almost anyone except my family. I do regret a bit telling them a couple years ago I was going to try since now I have to keep saying "nope, not yet."

  10. I think that the question of who to tell, and who not to tell is a very tricky one. As many others have said, if you do talk about your infertility you open yourself up to a whole slew of insensitive comments. But, if you choose not to tell anyone you know IRL, you can wind up feeling more and more isolated.

    I'm glad that the conversation you had with your father went well. As you know, I too lost my mother during my teenage years. My dad has surprised me with just how great he has been during our struggles with IF - although it has inevitably led him to confront the fact that his daughter is a sexual being, he has managed to set aside his discomfort in order to offer us his support.

  11. Jane, I haven't ever been pregnant so I haven't had to hear the "at least you can ..." but from well meaning, clueless folk. I think that would change how I feel about telling people.

    May, I've seen some of your mothers comments on your blog. Yup. At least she's trying (yes, very trying sometimes!)

    HFF, "tons of tactless advice on how not the kill the next one" ooooff.

    Batty, Yes, you need a notice saying "Don't ask me, I'll tell you".

    Ms H, Even now I think I don't necessarily give my dad enough credit. But they are pretty great folk aren't they?


I've resisted word verification for ages but I'm getting so many spam comments at the moment that I think it is time. Sorry!