An Infertility Letter To Family and Friends: Should I Share?
Infertility is such a personal and sensitive topic, so it is no surprise that couples often choose to not share their struggles. Sharing and explaining infertility to family and friends can be scary, exhausting, and frustrating. But it can also be liberating, heart-warming, and “just what the doctor ordered.” I take it you are reading this because you have decided or are in the process of deciding to share your journey and you don’t know how or need help weighing the pros and cons. It may be helpful to write an infertility letter to family and friends explaining your situation.
My husband and I did not tell anyone about our struggles with infertility for a while. Personally, I felt embarrassed, broken, and very lonely during that time. My infertility was not something that I was ready to talk about with others. Yes, we had one another for support but, quite honestly, we both needed opportunities to turn to other people for support. In hindsight, I can recognize that I poured all my feelings and emotions onto my husband. He tried not to pour his feelings onto me because I was hopped up on a tremendous amount of hormones and probably could not handle the weight of both his feelings and mine. I needed to give him a break. I needed to share with someone else because he was feeling the weight of the world as well. When I decided to share with a few people, the outpouring of support from those I told got me through some of my darkest days and helped my husband and I cope a lot more effectively. I can tell you firsthand that some support is better than no support at all.
You may have questions – Who should you tell? What should you tell them? How should you tell them? What if they react poorly? Let’s break it down.
Benefits of Sharing Your Infertility Struggles
Support When You are Feeling Down
A shoulder to cry on or a gallon of ice cream (to eat by yourself or share with your spouse) is priceless! Feeling more sad than happy is not uncommon during an infertility journey. It is incredibly helpful to have encouragement and support from trusted people to help you through trying times.
Help with Tasks
People often don’t realize how much goes into infertility treatment or how it takes over your entire life. Having others that can help is a blessing. I didn’t realize how sick I would feel during egg stimulation and how much pain I’d be in after the retrieval. It was helpful to be able to have my parents assist with errands – and with our foster daughter – so everything did not fall on my husband. Should you go the IUI/IVF route, you may even need someone to help give you needles. Luckily, we did not need any help in that area because my husband treated needle time like target practice. I guess we all have our own way of coping.
A Sounding Board
Sometimes you may want to process things with someone other than your partner. Or you and your partner may want to talk things through with another couple. When solicited, different perspectives can significantly improve how we cope with things and better inform the decisions we make. Even if you are not looking for advice, venting to a trusted friend or family member can make you feel a little less burdened.
Understanding Your Absence, Physically or Emotionally
It is a hard pill to swallow, but infertility makes many people retreat. It is not that we do not want to be around, but something about the event or interaction triggers us in a way that is not healthy for where we are in our journey. Depression due to infertility is also very real and can make you withdraw into isolation. For me, I never had to explain why I did not do something to those with whom I shared my journey. They knew why and they understood. I will forever appreciate them for not making me explain.
Areas of Concern with Sharing Your Infertility Struggles
There is a chance that the person you tell may not react in a way that is helpful to you. They may not be sensitive to the issue or may dismiss it as not a big deal. They may even act like there is an easy solution to infertility or may believe that there is no place for science in the conception of a child. You would have to spend a lot of time educating a person like this, which can be exhausting. However, you likely have a hunch who those people may be, so, let’s make a deal to maintain our peace and not tell them.
Yes, people who blame women (and men) for their infertility do exist. As if we haven’t blamed ourselves enough. We do not need someone else doing it for us.
Family & Friends May Become Uncomfortable
Some people are not good at dealing with difficult situations. And infertility is the epitome of difficult. Your sharing may cause them to retreat, leaving you wondering what happened. Again, we know who is good at standing in the gap for others and who is not.
What To Share In Your Infertility Letter
Details of What Is Causing Your Infertility
Sharing the cause of infertility is a very personal decision. Women tend to disclose that information to friends and family much more frequently than men do. Whether male- or female-factor infertility, make the decision whether to disclose that information to others as a unit (if you are attempting to conceive with a partner).
When You Are Undergoing Treatment
Deciding to tell friends or relatives about your next cycle of IVF can have its pros and cons. Yes, they can be there as your cheerleader, but they may also be looking to you to share positive or negative pregnancy test results. Another reason to be mindful about who you tell in hopes that they patiently wait your disclosure (or lack thereof) of your progress.
When You Get A Positive Pregnancy Test
It makes it hard to plan a grand pregnancy reveal when they know the day you go for your beta test. You may feel pressure to share with those who know you went through treatment. Those weeks or months before you tell friends and family about your pregnancy are sacred. You and your partner know that a little human is now growing after years of trying. No questions from others, just pure bliss in knowing that your little one is on the way. Setting an expectation that, either way, you will or will not share the result may be helpful.
When You Get A Negative Pregnancy Test
A failed treatment is among the worst disappointments I have ever experienced. You tell yourself it will work only to be let down. The last thing you want to do is share with everyone you told about the treatment. But my hope is, if you do decide to share, you will have the support you need to get you through those tough days following your failed test.
Deciding Who to Tell
A Few Trusted Family Members and Friends
Choose a few good people who have the capacity to be there for you during this time – good or bad. Choosing a few allows you to have options. Parents, a best friend, or close cousin may be a few good options. However, do not feel obligated to tell someone about your infertility just because you all are close. If they would not make a good support person, then they may not be a good for your infertility support bubble. And that is okay.
The characteristics of good support people are key. Choose people who are good under pressure, empathetic, thoughtful, caring, good listeners, supportive, and compassionate. Try to stay away from habitual unsolicited advice givers, those who judge, blame, or stir worry.
How to Tell Them About My Infertility
So, you’ve decided that you want to tell a few people about your infertility…GREAT! But you don’t know how or what to say? I get it. Finally saying the words out loud to others can be incredibly scary and hard. Writing has always helped me to gather my thoughts. Maybe writing out your thoughts in a letter or jotting down notes before a conversation will be helpful. Feel free to use the template below as a roadmap for your letter or conversation with your family and friends about your infertility struggles.
Dear (Insert Name),
I would like to tell you something very important. Please read this in its entirety and, afterward, I am (open/not open) to talking about it. (Insert Partner’s Name) and I have been diagnosed with infertility. It has been very difficult for us as we navigate this time.
Going through this has made me feel (insert your feelings/emotions). (Insert a few sentences about how you feel.)
I wanted to tell you about this because I would like your support as we pursue certain steps to build our family. Please keep this between us, as we have decided to only tell a select few people we trust with this information. We are currently exploring our options and I (may or may not) share our next steps with you, but we want you in our corner during this time.
(Insert your name)
Feel free to add or delete things to your infertility letter to family and friends as you see fit or to use it as a guide for an in-person conversation. Hopefully, this gives you a good start to disclosing your infertility to your newly-formed support bubble.