Shari Franks from Earthside Journeys sheds light on the other side of support in this post. She shares snippets from her personal travels through infertility and provides helpful tips on how to support families undergoing fertility treatments and yearning to be parents.
Guest Blog by Shari Franks
Support from friends and family while maneuvering through the journey of infertility and fertility treatments is essential in order to help smooth the path of uncertainty and fear. It helps keep the hope alive when faced with the various obstacles and struggles individuals and couples encounter throughout every test, medication and procedure. Unfortunately, the kind of support needed is often not what is given.
For the most part, my husband and I had amazing loving support throughout our 4 year journey of fertility treatments but we were taken aback when the lack of support was present from various people we assumed would be the light in our darkness.
We were naïve to believe that those around us would be our cheerleaders, our hope holders or would take interest in our pursuit to become parents. We never thought we would be faced with comments that would tear at our hearts but we did. There are a variety of situations that shocked us and hurt our hearts but the 4 situations we encountered I am sharing are most vivid in our memories and have hurt us deep in our soul.
1. My husband and I were told by a family member that due to being the age of 40 (at the time) perhaps we should just stop trying to have a child. We never believed that our age was a reason to not be parents and to hear that judgment cut deeply. We have known plenty of 20 and 30 “somethings” that were not financially stable, in emotionally stable relationships or could provide a stable home to a child but somehow it was believed due to their age alone they deserved a family more than we did.
We are very much aware of our ages and the fact that we might be those 60+ parents at our daughter’s high school graduation does not cause us concern. Since 1 in 6 Canadian couples experience infertility often due to age related issues and pursue fertility treatments we most likely won’t be the only older parents cheering on a very much wanted and truly loved child. My husband and I will stand together with great pride that day I am sure. Perhaps we will have a little more grey hair than many of the parents and a few more wrinkles but definitely most likely more love not less.
2. I was told by someone, in a very casual tone that I thought was a true friend that I should just live my life, travel and live childfree. When I was immersed in the infertility journey hearing the words “child-free” took me to a place of great sadness and loneliness. I was surprised to hear those words and what I felt was the lack of support from my friend. This made me examine other parts of our friendship that were not sitting well with me and I proceeded to end the friendship at that time. I didn’t have the capacity to explain what had impacted me so much and the lack of support I was feeling because infertility takes all of that you have for the period of time you are immersed in it and then some. I often wonder if I made the right choice to walk away from a friendship that had such value in the past. I often wonder if the friendship could have survived through other obstacles or struggles. All I knew at the time was that I could not continue pretending that the support she thought she was giving was the support that I needed. I needed a hug when the test results were less than favorable, an interest in the next step when procedures failed and the words, “you’re going to be a great Mom one day” when I felt the universe was fighting me every step of the way.
3. Being asked on numerous occasions by friends and family, “Why don’t you just adopt?” was hard to hear. We were continuing our treatments at the Calgary Regional Fertility Program and were often bombarded with this question without any thought of where we were in that process. We were not given time to grieve the miscarriage we experienced in May 2014 by many people before people faced us with the question of adoption. The lack of sensitivity was shocking to us.
If anyone truly knows about the process of adoption it isn’t a matter of “just adopt”. We started down that path after multiple unsuccessful fertility treatments and we were many steps both emotionally and financially into the process of adoption when we encountered circumstances that did not sit well with us.It was not that I felt I could not bond or attach with a child not genetically linked to either my husband or myself. In various circumstances in my life and at various times I believe I felt I have bonded and attached but the process we were presented with by the professionals involved was anything but compassionate or caring unfortunately.
4. Being told stories about people getting pregnant without a thought, due to a “whoops” or on a “whim” was more than hard to hear; it was gut wrenching. Any child is a blessing and a gift but hearing these stories of carefree “baby making” was brutal. When I had just got the news that my 5th Intrauterine Insemination was unsuccessful after multiple doctors appointments, obsessive tracking of ovulation and internal ultrasounds multiple days in a row to check the number of follicles I may or may not have I could not share in people’s joy and excitement because I didn’t have the emotional capacity to do so at that time. Fertility treatments become like a second job and require time, patience and fiancés all of which is not required by those who basically just have to think about getting pregnant and often do?!?!. All I needed was some sensitivity to my circumstances and when I was able I celebrated with friends and family who were having babies while I was not.
Words have great power and although the negative support was actually fuel to propel us forward at times throughout our pursuit to creating our family the words often sting in these times of parenthood. They are words not easily forgotten and the words have changed the relationships with those who spoke them. Apologies have never been shared with us and I am not sure it ever could diminish the pain my husband and I have endured.
We are so incredibly grateful for the loving support we did receive along our journey. Without these people who stood by us, cried with us, cheered us on from near and far we could not have made our way to where we are today. It is those people who have also truly celebrated with us and shared our great joy as our daughter has come into our lives bringing love and light to all who know her.
If you know someone experiencing infertility and pursuing fertility treatments simply acknowledge their strength, their persistence and the love they have to give a child. Couples who undergo fertility treatments do it with great thought, true intention and very much the conscious awareness of wanting to be parents and to create a family. A hug, a kind word and continued sensitive support along the journey are truly valued.