When you are going through fertility treatment, especially egg donation, or embryo adoption, it will affect your life in a way that may make you feel that you have changed as a person. If you feel that you have changed then the people around you may also feel that you have changed? Whilst in treatment you may experience some emotional difficulties and these can affect different parts of your life such as your job, social life and also your relationship with your partner.
Suddenly you can find yourself in a situation where you feel that you are the one that needs help and support and maybe this need for support is a new situation for you? Perhaps you are normally the one that supports those people around you?
Are you strong enough to ask for help when you feel lonely and frustrated? I write the word strong, because some of us may think that asking for help is a symbol of weakness?
Are you strong enough to tell the people around you about how you feel? If you want to support in the right way you must tell people how you feel and you need to tell the truth! By telling the truth the people around you can fully understand your needs and support you in the way in which you tell them that you want to be supported.
Ask yourself: How much did I know about fertility treatment before I became a patient myself? Not much?
So, can you expect the people around you understand your situation if you don’t tell them about how you feel and how you want to be supported?
You need to help people to help you!
If you don’t feel that you get the support you need, or expect, this can be because the people around you have no idea what you are going through, remember they don’t know anything about fertility treatment, so they may not have the ability to understand what kind of ethical, medical and emotional roller coaster you have entered into.
IVF, sperm donation, egg donation and embryo adoption are all treatments that are still taboo in many countries and many societies.
So we are the first generation to experience these kinds of treatments. Due to these ‘new’ types of treatment, your lack of openness may make it difficult for people around you to understand what kind of treatment this is and how it can affect your life.
How to tell people around you:
Many of my patients have had different ideas about how to involve their family and closest friends in their fertility treatment, for example:
- They have created anonymous Facebook groups for family and friends with information about their treatment.
- They send articles and statistics to their family and friends showing different information about their fertility treatment.
- They involve their closest family by asking them to come with them to their fertility clinic appointments and appointments with their fertility specialists.
- They make time to tell their family and friends about their feelings and thoughts, but also take time to tell them when they don’t want to be asked any questions, or if they don’t want to talk about their treatment.
If you decide to involve the people around you in your treatment make sure you also tell them exactly how you want to be supported and when.
This is the advice that I normally give to those who are close to women that are undergoing fertility treatment:
- Listen to them without being orientated to finding a solution, every fertility patient has already thought about every solution possible to become a mum.
- This project is an emotional rollercoaster, every failed attempt/ miscarriage will be an emotional challenge. Respect the emotional reactions your friend/family member has and be aware that her tears and grieving is all part of the process. Remember that this is a time-limited project and that she may change her personality during the process, but not forever!
- Don’t say things that can make your friend/ family member feel responsible for her own lack of pregnancy by saying things such as: “don’t stress”, “don’t think about it and you will get pregnant!”, as stress alone cannot be the only reason why she is not getting pregnant!
- Don’t talk about all the miracle stories that you have heard about couples that bought a dog, started the adoption process, or just didn’t think about making a child anymore- suddenly got pregnant! There is a reason why these are called miracle stories because that is what it is ‘a miracle’ it is not normal!
- To be supportive doesn’t mean that you need to say something smart, or empathetic, sometimes words are not necessary. Maybe it is enough that you are just present and offer a hug, or offer a hand to hold on to.
- Ask how she wants to be supported? She is the expert in her own life and knows what she needs and when.
Help people to help you, if you need it and when you need it.