Written by Tiffany Johnston, WTF contributor
For those of us who are unfortunate enough to be fluent in the language of infertility, there are few words, so innocuously strung together, that are more likely to elicit a punch in the face as when we are asked “Are you guys having kids?” or “Will you be having another?” When you’ve struggled with infertility these types of questions will never be a simple “yes,” or “no.” We are more accustomed to responding with “Maybe.” or “We hope so!” upon which it’s not hard to assume that the answer truly is far more complex and seeped in misery than the poor soul that dared to ask said question ever assumed. Realistically there is a 98% chance that the poor unfortunate soul asking the question at hand has no idea that you have endured months or years of disappointment, and that weekly you face a myriad of doctor appointments, shoot yourself up daily, and that you have come to track every single day of your month. Recently I brought up this topic with my postpartum counselor and wanted to talk about some strategies and “canned responses,” as she called them, that could help keep us on the right side of the law when those dreaded questions are asked:
1) Take A Deep Breath
Simple enough right? This is probably the most critical part in this interaction, because at this point in the interrogation your heart rate is elevated, pits are sweating and you are suddenly in fight or flight mode. The first few times you run into this question while struggling to conceive, will be like stubbing your toe; all at once your body will suddenly go rigid and it will feel like you just got the wind knocked out of you. In this moment of complete and utter panic, if you only do one thing, remember to breathe.
2) Remind Yourself That It’s Likely Not An Interrogation
Our society has created pre-formulated ideas on when and how we should reach certain milestones, so when we stray off the ‘typical’ path those around us are bound to become inquisitive. What you must remember is that most people are only mildly concerned about your life choices, so no matter how you answer them it is unlikely that it will have any long term ramifications to their day. So aside from a few follow up questions at most, the annoyance should be short lived and fairly painless once you have a battle strategy in place.
3) Consider Using a canned Response
The goal of this is to keep the conversation within YOUR comfort zone, because you do not owe anyone anything, especially not when it comes to your family and body. Come up with a short, sweet, and free of excuses response that you and your significant other are comfortable with sharing. The answers can vary slightly to match the circumstances or audience. We like to have one appropriate for work, family and friends. It is up to you to decide how in depth you go with each group of people but for your sanity have some kind of canned response ready for when the questions start flying.
4) Remember That It’s Okay To Have Boundaries
Our society is one that values simplicity, non-controversial topics, and likes to hide from taboo subjects. This type of thinking tends to lead to superficial conversations and naivety. So, though it is difficult, remember that you and your partner are the ones on the rollercoaster of bitter disappointment, painful procedures, and tough choices. You get to decide who gets the front row seat and who gets the seat in the very back. If your choice is not to share any of your journey with anyone, then own that. Make sure it’s your hand on the on/off switch, no one else’s. There will always be someone that could never relate and has no concept of conversational etiquette. Thus, it is your job as a couple to firmly place and uphold your boundaries, for your sanity, relationship and for the sake of our judicial system.
Most importantly remember that you dear one, are powerful beyond measure, and deserve to feel heard during your journey. Though each of us are different, I encourage you to strive to be vulnerable and connect with other women openly and courageously, strive to root yourself in finding a new more empowered and accepting you. That is capable, and willing to educate others while striving to grow a community full of empathic and enlightened individuals ready to support those facing the rollercoaster of infertility.