Should you tell others that you're trying to conceive?
A reader asks, "Should I tell my friends and family about my infertility? Sometimes I wish they knew, so I could call on them for support when I’m having a hard day."
Finding support when dealing with infertility is essential, and friends and family can lend some of that support. They may not give perfect support, but some is better than none.
So, the question isn’t so much should you tell friends and family members, but exactly which individuals you should open up to. Considering the pros and cons of telling particular people can help you make the best choice. You want to tell those people who you know will support you, not make you feel worse.
The Benefits of Sharing
One benefit of sharing news of your infertility problems with some family members is that they will, as a result, likely refrain from asking uncomfortable questions (“When are you going to have kids?”) at future family gatherings. Want-to-be grandparents can be pushy if they think you’re choosing not to have kids. If you tell them that you’re trying but having problems, they may stop pushing the issue.
Telling your friends about your infertility problems can help when potentially uncomfortable situations, such as baby showers, arise. It’s totally normal to feel uneasy about attending a baby shower or other baby-related parties, and many women coping with infertility turn invitations down. If your friends know about your infertility, they will probably be more understanding of your actions.
Again, perhaps the number one benefit of sharing is getting support. When you feel ill from some fertility medication you’re taking, or down when your period comes and you have another negative pregnancy test, being able to call up your sister, cousin, or friend can really help.
With that said, there are some possible pitfalls to sharing. People don’t always know how to react to delicate information like this. It isn’t that they don’t want to be helpful, but that they’re just not sure how.
Some may react in a "let me fix it" way, flooding you with research studies they have read or stories they have heard. Others may try to make you feel that there's an easy solution. “Oh, don’t worry about it, you can always do IVF,” they may say, not knowing how expensive and invasive it is, or that IVF is not a guarantee.
Family may react with blaming. “If only you didn’t wait to have kids,” they might say, even if you're only in your mid-twenties.
I have found that some friends can become extra uncomfortable, being afraid to tell you anything about their pregnancy or new babies. In some ways, it’s better than them only talking about their pregnancy or babies. On the other hand, it introduces a huge elephant into the room that everyone is afraid to talk about.
Deciding Who to Tell
With these benefits and possible pitfalls in mind, how do you decide exactly who to tell?
Telling your parents may be a good idea, but only if they are not the type to react with blaming or excessive advice-giving. You probably know by now whether or not telling your parents is a good idea. Ask yourself which is easier -- dealing with the occasional "when are you going to have kids" question, or listening to how all of this is "your fault"?
I have found the best support in my family through my siblings, and I know others who have found good support in telling a cousin they are close to. The ideal is to find a few good people to confide in -- just enough to have someone to call on those bad days, or to make comforting eye-contact with at family gatherings if an inappropriate comment is made.
The same goes with friends. You know your friends best, and you can probably quickly check off who not to tell. (The advice givers, the blamers, those who don’t do well in sticky social situations, etc.)
Don’t feel obligated to tell someone just because he or she is a good friend. It may be that your best friend isn’t the best person to confide in, and that a good friend at work would be the perfect person to seek support from.
Make choices based on what’s best for you, and not based on who you think "deserves" to know.
Support from Other Couples Dealing with Infertility
It’s important to also have support from those who understand infertility. A local support group, such as RESOLVE, or an online infertility community are terrific resources. While my very best friend may be a great listener, I still find myself needing to talk to people who can say, “I get it, because I’ve been there.”
Telling friends and family about your infertility can be beneficial. Just choose who you're going to tell carefully. Remember that even though they truly do want to support and understand, it may be difficult for them, having not gone through the same challenges.