They say you should write about what you know. Thankfully I haven’t experienced a lot of what Liz did in my first book The Girl Who Just Wanted to Have Fun but in my next novel I explore the issue of infertility, which is something I unfortunately know a lot about.
I am lucky I have a beautiful daughter through IVF but infertility is really still one of the last taboos. People don’t know what to say to you so often avoid the subject. Here are just a few things you should never say to someone who is unable to have a child naturally.
You know I have heard loads of people who get pregnant when they stop trying!
This actually is true for some, but only when they are not actually medically infertile. I am almost one of the lucky ones in that I have explained infertility (no tubes in case you were wondering). I know many for whom it is unexplained and that must be even more difficult to deal with. There is literally nothing I can do apart from put my faith in science.
2. Well, at least you have one already.
I know this is often well meaning but just because you are infertile it doesn’t make maternal urges any less and doesn’t mean I have any less rights to have children. I am lucky in that our first round of IVF was successful. However our subsequent attempts haven’t been so good. Yes I am luckier than those who never manage to get pregnant but the urge doesn’t stop with one. Particularly when you get a really good one!
3. So when are you going to start having kids (after marriage) OR So when are you going to give this one a little brother or sister?
I found this happened a few months after we got married. People just presume that you will be popping them out as soon as the ring is on the finger. A few months into my marriage I did get pregnant, it was sadly an ectopic pregnancy, followed by another one about a year later. After this I could barely bring myself to look at a baby or a pregnant belly let alone face questions from people about when I was going to ‘choose’ to start a family. Knowing what I know now about the number of people who have problems, I never ask.
4. You can always adopt?
I actually do hope to adopt one day but not as a consolation prize. I want to be in a position to enhance my family and give a child a loving home. However, people often think that if you can’t have your own then this is the next step. I don’t think people realise that adopting is hard. As someone with bipolar disorder I know from speaking to others that this process might be even harder for me. I know that most adoption agencies also want a I hamount of time between failed fertility treatment and adoption applications so that people are doing it for the right reasons, not just because they are mourning the lack of a biological child.
5. You should try juicing/ acupuncture/ praying/ special diet….
I have found this is advice from people both who think if I follow all this I would drop pregnant instantly and then those who are a bit more realistic who say that IVF will work if you follow these steps. Again, there is some truth in both. Getting pregnant can be easier if you are fit and healthy. But for someone with no tubes, no amount of meditation or kale is going to help along that positive test. Similarly with IVF, the reason it doesn’t work is not usually to do with the woman’s body, unless that is the reason for infertility in the first place. There is such a guilt around women and pregnancy, this happens when women lose babies too. We blame ourselves whereas a lot of the time the pregnancy would never have been ‘viable’.
6. Oh are you pregnant?!
This is something you should never, ever say to any woman unless she is either wearing a baby on board badge or waggling her scan picture in your face! Women have bellies, particularly during fertility treatment when all the hormones that get pumped into you add bloating everywhere. For most women being mistaken for being pregnant is pretty awful but for women who may have been trying for months or years, this question can be horrific!
In many ways I would love it if talking about infertility was more out in the open. I feel as though lots of taboo subjects such as mental health have become more mainstream and part of the national mindset these days. One in seven people will have problems conceiving, so it is a pretty common problem and yet it is still talked about in hushed tones and mainly behind closed doors. I do know that for those who haven’t experienced it that it is a big unknown and like anything people don’t realise they are being insensitive or hurtful. This of course is just my personal list and others will have no problem with the above but may hate other things. The purpose of this is just to give a few pointers!