When Friends Have Infertility and You Don’t

trellises-243025_640I see two parallel lines. Wait, or is it the lighting? Is one line a shadow? Husband confirmation – it’s two parallel lines. We’re pregnant!

Wow, I think, that didn’t take as long as I thought. My OB confirms pregnancy and I breathe a sigh of relief. . . ONE sigh of relief . . . because before I can breathe another, I begin to think about that friend from work, the friend who has been trying to conceive for 16 months. And my co-teacher in Sunday School. She had a miscarriage three months ago. What about my husband’s fraternity brother? He and his wife are spending thousands of dollars on infertility treatments and still no baby.

Do we tell them I’m pregnant right away? If they find out from someone else will they be upset we didn’t personally share our news? People will eventually find out when I’m showing, right? I don’t want to hurt anyone. But we’re so excited! Friends want to celebrate with us! Deep down, I knew I should be ecstatic. And I was, but I also felt guilty.

The truth is infertility affects us all. The CDC says 10.9 % of women ages 15-44 have impaired fecundity (impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term). 10.9 percent! That’s more than 1 out of 10 women. Some women choose to share their experiences and for others, it’s too painful.

I don’t understand that pain. I’ve had two fairly easy pregnancies, and I haven’t walked in those shoes. I can’t imagine how people must feel. I don’t always know how to act. I want to help and be supportive, but I’m not sure what to say. Should I invite these friends to baby showers and children’s birthday parties? I’ve been told to send the invitation and let the couple decide. But will I deepen the hurt?

We all have a different story to tell. I’m not convinced there is a right or wrong way to handle fertility challenges. Feelings are individual. What I do believe is that people like me can be more empathetic. I told myself, don’t feel guilty, feel empathy. Fertility awareness is for everyone, not just those going through challenges. I may not feel the pain, but if I learn more, perhaps I can be a better support.

All this, coming from a girl who thought a D&C was a “DNC.” So, that’s what I did first – I researched basic terms I was hearing. I learned developed a better understanding of what my friends were experiencing.

  • IVF (In Vitro Fertilization): egg and sperm combined in a lab dish and the embryo is transferred to the uterus
  • IUI (Intrauterine Insemination): placing the sperm inside the uterus to help with fertilization
  • D&C (Dilation and Curettage): a procedure that removes tissue from the uterus
  • FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone): helps eggs mature and release, high levels may indicate the ovaries don’t have the normal level of eggs

If you want to learn more about terms and treatments, The American Pregnancy Association is a valuable resource.

If you’re more interested in hearing the stories and emotions of women along their journeys, check out one of the blogs below. I found it easier to empathize with people I knew experiencing fertility challenges after reading other women’s stories.

Kansas City Moms Blog

Conceivable Reproductive Resource Center

www.resolve.org (National Infertility Organization)

Starbucks, Peace and the Pursuit of a Baby

Journey to Baby Bear 

Life Without Baby 

Bubble Lush

When interacting with friends enduring fertility issues – feel empathy, not guilt.

How do you practice empathy? How do you support friends who are facing fertility challenges?

Katie Enger bio picAbout the author: Never realizing she’d fall in love with a Kansas boy and return to her birth city, Katie grew up in Copley, Ohio. She and her husband, Jeff, met at Miami University, enjoyed Cincinnati, Ohio for a few years, and moved to Kansas City after getting married in 2007. They now reside in Overland Park.

Katie spends her free time exploring Kansas City with her husband and daughters, Emily (almost 4) and Olivia (18 months) . Zoey, her very excitable Boxer often joins the adventures. Katie received her bacherlor’s degree at Miami University of Ohio and taught elementary school in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since moving to Kansas City, she found a passion for the medical industry and works full time for a pharmaceutical company. Katie thanks her mother and grandmother for instilling in her a love of reading and writing!

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  1. Katie,

    This was such an insightful read. I found out yesterday that a fellow blogger and her husband are going through IVF. I never would have known or even suspected as they are both even younger than me. Reading the blog she created helped me understand something I didn’t know much about before. Fun to read something you’ve written.


    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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