In my opinion (which actually counts because I've been there), there are several stages to infertility. I personally have experienced each of these fantastically fun stages and lived to tell (you) about them. I think when you are in the first couple of stages, your head is still spinning and it's incredibly hard to put into words what you are feeling. Thankfully, it does get better. It's a "new normal" and it's guaranteed to be lonely and isolating. Looking back however, I'm not sure I'd change anything as crazy as that may sound. I'm a different person because of what I've been through. I'm better and I'm stronger, so no regrets. I'm not a victim in my own life, I choose to be the heroine and I hope you do too no matter what hurdles you stumble over in your own life. May you clear them and live to tell about them.
So, the first stage is PANIC MODE. Panic mode is like this, you have been trying to conceive for 6+ months and you start losing your sh*t because you are wondering if it will everrrr happen. You are on WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and googling all sorts of PANIC MODE sh*t like, "early signs of pregnancy," "best positions for getting pregnant," "am I ovulating," and "tricks for getting pregnant," like all-day-everyday.
The second stage is the CALL-THE-DOCTOR stage. Most women seek out help from their OBGYN first and to be honest, those guys don't know a dang thing about it. They try the standard five steps, test the hubby, test your hormone levels, check to see if tubes are clear, prescribe clomid, do IUIs, and if you are real special, you get referred to a specialist, which is incredibly scary in and of itself, but in some ways comforting too because you are finally seeing someone that specializes in what you need. However, during this call-the-doctor stage, you are losing. your. damn. mind. Let's be real here, by this stage, you know something ain't right and your mind is all over the place. This is an awful place to be. You can't help but withdraw from friends with kids, feel less social, avoid baby showers and just want to crawl into a hole. You are exhausted and just going to work is an accomplishment. I can describe this stage in one word. Isolating.
The third stage is DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT. This stage is a roller coaster of emotions because there is hope then despair, then hope, and then despair...well, you get the picture. The treatments usually take a toll on your body too, like moodiness, bloating, and exhaustion. It is still incredibly hard to attend baby showers, baptisms, hang out with friends with kids, and even see pregnant women without wanting to snap, "quit showing off." I know, sounds so silly, but I'm just being totally candid here.
And finally, the last stage, which is the OUTCOME/AFTERMATH stage. Either your treatments worked and you have a child, or you don't. But either way, as far as I can tell, you are never truly "over" what you went through. It doesn't ever disappear. And it's really really hard to not ask what the h*ll you ever did to deserve everything you had to endure. Some people in this stage, move forward with their lives, be it childless or with their children. They do their best to put their experience behind them and not let it define them. Others will be haunted by it forever.
I personally have experienced each stage and I can say that I only became open about my struggle because I had to. Well, I had no choice. My sister was carrying my child. I couldn't exactly explain that one. Ha! I had to come out with it. And when I did, it was the scariest thing I'd ever done in my life. What would people say? What would they think? I just knew everyone would feel sorry for my husband for marrying this women that couldn't carry a child and I hated that thought. I hated to let down my husband's parents. I hated to put my sister through all she endured. It was just pure hell to be real.
But, oddly enough... being open about my experiences has been one of the most freeing things I've ever done. I don't feel ashamed or alone anymore. I feel stronger for what I've endured and I'm actually really proud of myself. Funny how strong you can be when you have no other choice.
So here are a few things not to say to your friend, acquaintance, or family member experiencing infertility. Hopefully this helps, but remember, no words are perfect words, just do your best to listen and be there.
DO NOT SAY:
So the moral of the story is, be patient with your infertile friends and consider which stage they are in. The best you can do is simply be there for them to lean on or vent to and definitely encourage them to go to a support group (best thing I ever did). The bottom line is that infertility is like so. many. other. things. It's a total plot twist in someone's life and it feels devastating and makes you feel like no one out there could possibly relate. In many ways though, we can all relate to that, can't we? So let's hold hands and do this thing together. We've got this.