The subject of infertility has been in the spot light again, in part due to Ant McPartlins admission to rehab, with him citing his and his wife’s difficulty conceiving as being a factor in his depression. It raised the question of ITV’s loose women, “should we stop asking people if they want children and plan to start a family?” There was a mixed response on their facebook page. Many comments expressing how difficult they find it when people ask about family as they are experiencing fertility problems or have had miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. Other comments suggesting people deal with it and stop projecting their feelings on others. One suggested people should grow up!
Infertility in itself, is a very emotive word and often a taboo subject. I don’t use that word, it creates such a negative impact, and seems so very final. I see couple’s physically recoil at the word, so I prefer to refer to ‘your fertility’ and work with creating a forward looking approach. I treat many women and couples within my Natural Fertility Practice who are having difficulty conceiving and / or maintaining a pregnancy, the majority of which have not shared this information with their family or friends. So when they are asked “when will you start a family?” “Do you not want children?” or “are you trying for a baby yet?” (which, let’s be honest is asking if they are having unprotected sex!), they can feel a whole host of emotions. Commonly if you are trying to conceive and it’s not happening, these feelings include, upset, anger, jealousy or embarrassment. So why is that? Is replying honestly an admission of failure? Is it too personal a subject to discuss?
I am a very open person and often told I’m far too honest, I like to say refreshingly so. I remember saying “it hasn’t happened yet”, but I guess for some there is the potential that this opens the way for a stream of well meaning, but not necessarily wanted ‘advice’. Don’t get me wrong this could be helpful advice and you may welcome it, but what if you don’t want it?
Is the best thing to do to develop a coping strategy, perhaps to have your set answer ready? One of my clients recently told me that she said to someone who asked if she was planning to have a family, “that’s very personal, that’s like me asking you what position you have sex in!” Does ‘preparing’ your answer but you in a state of stress as you are then anticipating being asked?
I have worked with many clients to help them find what works for them, for some “not yet, but I don’t really want to talk about it” works, others have found that this opens them up to ‘pity’. I am not saying that people will feel pity, more often its sympathy or empathy they show, but what we have to remember is we are talking about feelings, thoughts not facts, and your perception of your own situation. This therefore cannot be controlled by one stock solution, nor should it be judged.
Learning to own your situation, to sit with it or just acknowledge its presence can be of help to some. Working with clients through mindfulness practice and visualisations has shown to provide great benefit. I have also found that replacing negative feelings with positive affirmations can be helpful to many clients, often changing “if” to “when” in your dialogue can be helpful.
So do you need a coping strategy? Is is it time that Fertility is discussed openly without feeling blame, guilt or anger? This open dialogue may provide you with some valuable help or a recommendation to someone that has helped a friend/colleague.
Or is it time that we stop making assumptions and asking people such personal questions?