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I Am One In Eight: How To Support Those Struggling With Fertility Issues

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Fertility…my least favorite F word.  If you are talking family, friends, and fries, now those are right up my alley but fertility is not always easy to talk about.  I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 18.  When I was 20 (a month after I got engaged), my doctor told me that because my body didn’t ovulate, it would be very difficult to have children.  That was not a fun conversation to have with my then fiancé.  Fast forward 16 years and we are happily married and have adopted three great kids.  It’s certainly not the life I thought I would have but it is the life God had planned for us and I love the children that were born straight from my heart.

Last month was fertility awareness month.  I really should have written this then but sometimes I get in a funk and just don’t want to talk about.  Honestly, saying those five words isn’t easy for me. I am one in eight. Yes, that is me but really those words do not define me.  They have been a curve ball in my life.  They have made me stronger and they have certainly grown my faith. But what does those words really mean?

Well, it means that one out of eight women deal with fertility issues. It also means that you probably know someone who is struggling to have children.  You also know someone who has lost a child.  When I had my two miscarriages, I decided not to suffer in silence. Those were hard times. My heart had never hurt so bad.  To wait for 12 years, praying for a miracle and then to lose it, twice…well, how is someone supposed to not talk about that? I wrote about it on my blog which was like therapy.  It also gave me tons of support.  I would love to share more of our journey with you in the future…it’s a whirlwind of crazy, God-filled goodness, but today I really want to help you know how to support your friends that are also one in eight.

Tips For Supporting Loved Ones Dealing With Fertility Issues

Don’t constantly ask, “When are you going to have kids?”  It’s such a natural question that we ask without thinking.  For people struggling to get pregnant, it’s like nails on a chalk board though. How do I answer that? Do I tell them that we are trying? Do I tell them the medications aren’t working and how many babies we have lost? Or do I just smile, answer hopefully soon and die a little inside?

Be sensitive when it comes to baby showers and pregnancy announcements.  My family and friends have always been so thoughtful when it comes to this. They would come over and tell me first before they made the public announcement about their pregnancies. I know they feared my reaction but honestly, I was always happy for them. I appreciated that they cared enough about me to consider my feelings though.  The year after my last miscarriage, my friends started getting pregnant left and right. There was a point when I was like, goodness, let me drink some of that water! For some women, that wound takes a lot of time to heal and it isn’t easy seeing others get what you desperately want. Just know that if they can’t come to your baby shower, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t happy for you or love you any less.  Their pain is just more than they can bear that day.

Don’t say these things after a miscarriage because they are not helpful. #realtalk

Everything happens for a reason. Y’all, that is not comforting. I have faith that can move mountains but those words did not provide me any comfort. Would you say that to someone after their mother died? Absolutely not! I never understood why people say that when you have a miscarriage.

At least you weren’t further along. That really doesn’t matter. God breathed life into my womb and it is no longer there. It’s still a huge loss. Please treat it like one.

You can try again. Well, if you are a person who has fertility issues, it’s not that easy.  This could have been their one shot. You also don’t know how long it took them to get pregnant or how much money they have spent. For us, it was 12 years so you could imagine how devastated we were.

You can always adopt.  Yes, that is so true and there are a ton of children who need great homes. Honestly, if I hadn’t had trouble getting pregnant, we may have never adopted our three children. I do believe that my fertility issues were purposeful because it lead to us parenting children that needed us. Also, being a foster parent absolutely changed us. While we embraced that calling in our lives, I would love to have a little boy that looks just like my husband. A lot of couples eventually get to that decision but it’s not before they have wished and hoped for a child with their own genes. That is completely natural. Adoption is something that you want to consider after you have healed from your loss or lack of pregnancy.  It’s not the cure for a broken heart. That entire process comes with its own challenges and you need to be at a place of strength to endure that journey. Adoption is beautiful but it’s not for everyone.

How can you help?

Here’s the good news. We need you! We need your love, support and prayers. A lot of women choose not to share their journey but I really encourage you too. For previous generations, there was an unspoken rule that you just didn’t discuss miscarriages or fertility issues but thankfully things are changing.  If you have a friend struggling and you have empathy, it is so helpful to talk to someone who understands what you are going through.  So many times, I have shared my heart and by doing that I found many friends that had endured the same thing. Why didn’t they tell me? Why didn’t they let me be there for them? It is very personal so I do respect their choice but I also want to say that no one has to go through any of this alone. You may not realize it but I guarantee someone in your life is on the same painful path and supporting each other is so helpful. I have a friend who often texts me for a pep talk before she goes to a baby shower and I am so thankful that I can be there for her.

When you know someone who has gone through a loss, just be there. Drop of a meal, send flowers or a gift card for a pedicure or something to make her smile. Don’t forget about the dads too. I remember one day I was in bed so sad after our second miscarriage and my husband texted me, “I’m hurting too.” That broke my heart twice over. It’s easy to forget about the dads but they need support too. Now, for my husband that would mean going to watch sports at a sports bar, grab a beer and talk about nothing and that is perfectly okay. Often, we go through the motions until we can just feel normal again.

On another note, if you are the one who has just suffered a loss, be clear about what you need. I emailed everyone at the school where I worked. They all knew I was pregnant because I was so sick. I asked them to please not talk about it until I was ready. I also asked them to not look at me with sadness. I needed them to be normal and a point of joy in my day. I know it was hard for them but they kept it together for me. Weeks went by and I could finally talk about it and they were all there. I knew that if someone talked to me at school, I would fall apart and you can’t teach kindergarten being an emotional wreck. I also told my family friends that I needed help taking care of my family for a week or two and they brought meals and helped taxi my kids. There is nothing wrong with asking for help! People want to help, they just don’t know how.

I really hope this post helped provide you with food for thought. I certainly don’t want it to be a downer but the fact is that one in eight women (and their supportive spouses) do endure this journey. They often also endure the loss too. It’s not an easy journey but for me, I am thankful for the faith it has built in my family, the friendships it has provided and the perfect plan that I am not in charge of. We are still hoping for a baby. Our kids are now 16, 18 and 20 and we are not ready to be in that season of life yet. Private adoption is so expensive. Right now, we are considering refinancing our house and maybe doing a few fundraisers to raise the $30,000+ it would cost. Isn’t that crazy? When we adopted through foster care, we didn’t have to pay but we also adopted older children that came with many needs. We’ve never done the baby thing and we are still hopeful that it’s still part of God’s plan for us. Wherever our journey leads, I’ll definitely be writing about it because I want you to know that you are not alone.

I am one in eight.

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One Response to I Am One In Eight: How To Support Those Struggling With Fertility Issues

  1. Amy Williams
    Amy Williams May 20, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    Crystal!! I enjoyed reading your perspective and advice on the struggle with fertility. This was real, eye opening and great tips! Thank you for sharing!!