Responding to questions about your fertility progress

Aug 28, 2023

When you’re going through infertility, whether you’re trying to conceive naturally, or doing IVF or IUI, there are so many questions to navigate your way through.

Sure, we get the insensitive ones from complete strangers or acquaintances – When are you going to have children? Do you have any children? Why don’t you have any children? Those are the ones we cringe about. We decline social situations sometimes, just to avoid them. Because they hurt, and we tend to put on a fake smile and respond quickly, before rushing out of the room to have a good cry and pull yourself back together.  Those are the insensitive questions from people who don’t know any better. Of course, it doesn’t mean it’s ok – those are the questions you shouldn’t ask.

But what about the people closest to you - the ones who know that you’re struggling to have a baby? The ones who check in to see how you’re doing.  Who asks out of love, because they’re curious and they care.

How do you answer the (sometimes constant) questions about your fertility progress?

Before we dive into this, let’s discuss boundaries. Because this is where we draw a line in the sand and make a choice as to which option or path we take from here. This determines how we respond.

On this journey, boundaries are absolutely vital in order to protect you. I believe that boundaries determine what you are responsible for, and what you aren’t responsible for. A lot of the time, when we respond to a question about our fertility journey, we don’t think about what WE need in that moment, we think about how the other person will feel in terms of our response.  So, we craft our answer in a way that minimises their discomfort, regardless of whether it makes us feel uncomfortable or betrays our own feelings. 

BUT (and here’s the boundary) - you are not responsible for other people’s reactions or emotions; you are only responsible for yours.  I liken it to a game of tennis (yes, I’ve been inspired by Wimbledon). They hit you a ball in the form of a question, when you respond, you hit it back to them. If you tell them you don’t want to talk about it, they may feel discomfort and hit that back to you.  A lot of us absorb that discomfort as though it’s our own, but it’s not.  We need to hit that ball back to them, because we are all in charge of holding our own emotions.

I also believe that we are responsible for telling our truth, in whatever way feels comfortable for US, not the other person.

And now that we’ve clarified the boundaries i.e. what you are responsible for, this now gives you permission to respond in a way that feels best for YOU.

Now that response depends on who the person is, and what kind of mood you’re in. Because sometimes we don’t want to talk about it, and sometimes we do. And some people are capable of holding space for us, and some people aren’t.

Not everyone is worthy of knowing your story or your truth.  If you’ve told someone in the past and they’ve betrayed your trust by telling someone else, they’re not worthy.  If you’ve discussed your challenges with someone and they’ve responded with “have you tried……..”, they may not be the right person to open up to either. Just because they are asking, doesn’t mean they have earned the right to hear your story.  This is your choice.  And choosing your audience and reading the room is important. Because handing over your truth to the wrong person can sometimes cause more pain than relief.

It also depends on how you’re feeling at the time. Some days we want to talk about it and vent. And other days we just want to forget about it and feel like it’s not dominating every conversation we have. Sometimes we just need a break from it all.

So, if you’re having that kind of day, where you just don’t want to talk about it, or if it is someone who is unworthy of hearing your truth, here are a few ways to respond –

I’m feeling really consumed by it all at the moment, so I’d rather not talk about it today. Thanks for asking though.

We’re getting through it one day at a time.

I don’t really want to think about it right now, what have you been up to lately?

It’s complicated – do you mind if we talk about something else?

If you’re open to talking about it, you can still set some boundaries in place to ensure you’re not given the annoying unsolicited advice. By prefacing your update with –

I just need you to listen today without giving advice.

Oh yes, I need to vent, and I need you to tell me how shit it is too.

I feel……..and I need you to tell me that it’s ok to feel this way and that I’m going to get through it.

I’ll tell you, as long as you promise not to give me any advice…….

But most importantly, remember that your response is about what YOU need in that moment.  Not about what other people need. Because sometimes you want to talk about it, and sometimes you don't. Some people can hold you in your experience, and some people can’t.

And it’s completely acceptable to respond according to what you need in that moment.

It is not your responsibility to hold other people’s emotions or take them on as your own.  It is your job to hold onto yours (and they are heavy enough right now!). 



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