pregnancy

"Choose your friends wisely." 4 lessons I learned from my fertility journey.

This post deals with pregnancy loss and might be triggering for some readers.

We were sitting opposite one another in the hospital cafeteria. Tears were streaming down my face, but for once, I didn’t care who noticed, or what they thought. My husband was his usual stoic self, although internally, he was equally as shattered as I was.

Glancing around, my grief turned to anger. There, sitting just a few feet away from us, were two enormous baskets; one contained a pale pink teddy bear, the other, a blue one. 

Why on earth would they display them here? Sure, there were lots of ecstatic couples, clutching black and white photographs (bound for pride of place on the fridge), of their healthy, unborn child.

But we were in possession of no such image. It was as if the soft toys were mocking us, rubbing salt into our fresh, open wounds. Our worst fears had just been confirmed – we were never going to be parents.

To say that the last few months have been challenging would be a gross understatement.

Here are some of the things I have learnt from my own fertility journey.

Watch: Facts on fertility. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

1. Choose your friends wisely

You will very quickly work out which of your confidants are helpful during your grief, and despite their best efforts, which aren’t. Without meaning to, friends and relatives can say the most inappropriate things. 

Choosing not to speak to someone for a period of time is not only okay, it is absolutely necessary. If they are true friends, they will understand your need for time and space. 

Whilst you are well and truly bearing the brunt of the storm, self-preservation is key. On occasions, you may also think, or even say, horrible, nasty things because of jealousy and anger. Close friends will recognise that this is not your true character or an accurate reflection of who you are and how you think; it is simply your current self, lashing out. They will forgive and understand your judgmental lambasting, and at times, even encourage it.

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2. Friends, relatives and colleagues will have lots of helpful advice

This idea is linked to the previous one. When those around you do come to learn of your fertility battle, they will insist on giving you a lot of advice. This ranges from, "have you considered a sperm donor?" to "I see this amazing naturopath. She will fix everything!" to "you need to go to Prague. Their fertility treatments are amazing and much further ahead than here in Australia".

It is important that you come up with a strategy when such counsel is given. Of course, it will partly depend on who is proffering their guidance. However, you are perfectly entitled to politely, yet firmly inform them, that you have made informed, educated decisions that are best for you and your partner and at this stage, you are not interested in pursuing any further avenues or treatment.

3. It will impact on your relationship 

Image: Supplied. 

If you are sharing your fertility journey with a partner, the process will inevitably impact upon you both as individuals, but also as a couple. Because you are both reeling and processing the grief at exactly the same time, it is hard to give support to one another.

Although it is vital to talk to each other and to share what you are going through, it is equally as important that you can both talk to someone individually also. This third party can be a professional, a relative or a friend, but you will need to talk to someone.

4. Every person’s fertility journey is different

Although it can be helpful to talk to someone who has faced their own fertility struggles, remember, your journey, and more importantly your reactions, will be different. And whatever you are feeling - grief, loss, anger, rage, anxiety, depression, bitterness, jealousy relief - they are all completely valid. 

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Remember too, that grief is not linear. It constantly ebbs and flows. Don’t compare your emotions to others or, worse still, berate yourself for feeling, or not feeling something. Accept you and whatever it is that you are experiencing at that particular moment. 

And remember, there will be triggers: prams, pregnant women, idle chit chat amongst work colleagues about their offspring, ads on TV, promos for Call the Midwife. All have the potential to deliver what feels like a physical blow, leaving you winded, breathless and fighting back tears or alternatively, wanting to punch someone or something yourself. 

Finally, just a quick note if you do know someone who is dealing with infertility. Acknowledge the horrendous circumstances, offer your love and support, and leave it at that. It is absolutely fine if you don’t know what to say or how to help. In fact, the best thing, is to say just that.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for  free here. Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

Jennifer Barnao is a teacher and occasional actor. Since relocating back to her hometown of Melbourne at the end of 2019 (impeccable timing on her part!), she has been working on her first, full length fiction novel.

Feature image: Supplied.

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