Infertility posts, TTC/TTC Technology Posts

Understanding TTC and infertility – a handy guide for friends and family

My husband and I started trying a year after our marriage. It seemed a good time. We had bought a house and we were ready. 

First time we had unprotected sex it felt so naughty. And I thought, that’s it! I’m pregnant. 

When we didn’t get pregnant that month, or the month after, or the month after that I started getting a little worried which was when I started looking into it more trying to find an answer as to why this wasn’t happening.

There wasn’t one. I took vitamins and followed the advice of the boards. After six months I was very worried and started a more rigid vitamin regime, charting and using OPK sticks.

Still nothing.

Infertility sucks. Until you’ve been through it you don’t really understand it. I don’t mean that in a patronising way, but even my mum who was an adoption officer for over 20 years admitted she hadn’t fully understood what the infertile couples she counselled were going going through until she experienced it with my husband and I first hand.

One of the reasons that I started Clever Cnts was to try to improve the dialogue between women who are trying (and sometimes failing) to conceive and their friends and family. Understanding what someone is going through is halfway towards helping them. And sometimes that involves getting your head around what is upsetting them.

When at eight months of trying close friends broke their news that they had got pregnant right after their wedding after the first try I cried in the loos for ten minutes. I screamed at my husband for putting me in that situation and I avoided those friends and all pregnant friends where I could.

When we had our first positive pregnancy test at eleven months I was so happy. Then came the miscarriage. Followed by a chemical pregnancy the next month and later a third miscarriage. Pregnant women made me feel ill. I dreaded the announcements, I was confused by the feelings of guilt, anger, betrayal, disgust at myself and jealousy that they had what I couldn’t do. 

There are no hard and fast rules to understanding how women and their partners feel when they’re in the middle of infertility issues,  because many people who don’t want children yet or may never want children can’t understand what it’s like to be in the middle of the storm.

You don’t always get what you want…

The basic premise is that you can’t have what you want. You can’t buy it, borrow it, beg it or steal it if you can’t make it. A child of your own is not a right as so many women feel it is; it’s a privilege. And it’s something many women are desperate for.

Ironically the desperation almost becomes greater than the final result. “I’m not even sure what I’m going to do once I actually get pregnant” one friend said to me a few months ago over coffee. “I’ve spent so long trying it’s going to be a shock to have an actual baby.”

We’re coming to terms with the fact that we may not ever have our own children. It’s unlikely (statistically it’s going to happen to up to under 6% of us) but honestly… might happen.  So give us space and don’t feed us ‘it’ll happen for you’, ‘I see you with a baby’ etc. It’s kind but honestly, we’re doing that enough to ourselves.

Don’t judge us

Emotions can get ugly – and when you’re basically a nice person as most of us are, that can be upsetting in and of itself. One friend told me she found it hard to look at pregnant women if she met them at parties, even if they were her close friends (“You just focus on their face and not on the bump”). Another friend told me when she had been trying for almost 3 years she would actively turn around in the street to avoid anyone walking past her who was pregnant. I myself couldn’t be around one close friend when she was pregnant because her bump was a constant reminder of everything I couldn’t have. And I can tell you now, you hate yourself for it.

It’s easy to see this as simple jealousy. Very easy. The trouble is, these emotions don’t sit well with us either. It isn’t that most women struggling to conceive aren’t desperately happy for their friends, it’s that they are actually far more desperately sad for themselves. Few people are generous enough to feel wholeheartedly happy without wistfully wishing they could have the same luck.

It can be very hard to swallow when you’ve been trying a regimented sex routine at all the right times, taking bottles of vitamins, staying off the booze

We’re still trying. I hope it will happen, but I don’t know if it will anymore. We’re starting a medicated cycle next month, I’m seeing a counsellor, I’m being more honest about how I feel to friends who are pregnant or who have kids. I’m trying to be stronger. But it will take time.

I am sad all of the time. I get angry when friends won’t talk about or acknowledge our infertility or our loss and I feel angry at myself that I am being so irrational. But I’ll get there whatever the outcome. 

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