Infertility: Don’t Ask and Don’t Assume

Emily's Blog

In recognition of National Infertility Awareness Week, April 21st-27th 2019, we’re posting a blog that shines a light on the causes of infertility and the men and women it affects. 

Infertility is sneaky. It can consume someone’s emotional and physical well-being, however you can’t tell someone is struggling with infertility just by looking at them. Anyone can face challenges building a family. And while you can more easily support those who are open and share their infertility struggles, many suffer silently.  

 How do you support someone facing infertility if they aren’t public about their struggles?  

By simply understanding that the decision to start a family – or add to a family – is a personal one. While your questions may seem innocent enough, “Are you going to have another child?”, they may have an emotional impact of which you’re not aware. Unless someone is speaking openly about their family-building plans, it’s best not to ask – or assume – anything. When and if they are ready to share, you can be ready to simply listen. 

Our Clinical Director, Emily Sonier, shares her story about infertility, and how her own experience guides her interactions and support in her role at Circle. 

 

When my daughter was a little over 2, a doctor at our pediatric practice asked her if she had a brother or sister. When she answered ‘no’, he told her, “You tell your mom and dad that you need a little brother or sister!” 

My daughter didn’t say anything but I felt crushed. Later that afternoon, when I was home and had time to process the conversation at the doctor’s office, the most recognizable emotion I was feeling was anger. “How dare he assume, and he a pediatrician!” 

The next day I got up the nerve to call the office and requested to speak with the doctor. I told him how he should not assume things and talk with children about siblings, especially since he has no idea what families might be going through. I informed him that we were experiencing secondary infertility. I was speechless when he replied to me, “Your daughter didn’t seem upset”.  

When I was first married to my husband, I secretly planned that we would have two children roughly two years apart. I was one of three children and loved having siblings. I was lucky enough to get pregnant relatively easily with our daughter. My delivery was unremarkable, but I had complications that would have taken my life before antibiotics. Following many surgeries and years of trying with IVF, including using donor eggs, we finally became pregnant only to be told at 16 weeks that our baby’s brain had stopped growing.  

Infertility is infertility, no matter when you experience it. I will never compare primary or secondary infertility, because I can understand the incredible anguish and pain a woman feels when she cannot carry a pregnancy, either due to a medical condition or the unknown of unexplained infertility. 

Many people believe that if you have had a child, you shouldn’t complain about your inability to have another. When we were trying to have our second child, I was amazed at the things people said to me: I was told that I should ‘just be happy with the one I have’; if I would just relax about it I will get pregnant; and that having an only child ‘isn’t that bad’. And many, like the pediatrician, believe that if someone has one child, they should certainly have another, and it’s completely acceptable to make comments or ask questions about when you’ll be adding to your family. 

In my role as a social worker, I speak with women daily who feel beaten down after not being able to trust their bodies, whether it be primary or secondary infertility. They struggle with being around friends who get pregnant easily, who unintentionally say insensitive things, get pregnant and stay pregnant, have baby showers and who plan and succeed at having their children perfectly spaced apart. Women I know with secondary infertility often watch their other mom friends go on to have a second or third children without issue, reminding them that they may be “one and done” – not by choice, but by bad luck. We worry that a single child will be spoiled, not play nicely with others, or that something bad will happen to child. And while these worries are not unique to secondary infertility or parents of single children, they can be profound. Due to my experience, I try very hard to not assume, say the wrong thing or be insensitive to people’s experiences and wishes as they try to build their family.   

 In the end, due to my determination to have a second child, we now have an adopted son who is 5 ½ years apart from my daughter. It has ended up being a wonderful situation, and my children are incredibly close.  

Having a blended family has been an incredible experience that has taught both my children not only the power of love, but that love is what builds a family. 

 

 

To learn more about becoming a parent through surrogacy, visit circlesurrogacy.com/parents