The holidays are a time of get togethers with family and friends. These can be fun, but also stressful. I recently posted a blog to address dealing with stress when you have anxiety. Infertile couples endure their own kind of anxiety: the pain of being childless during a season that focuses on children and family, and the fear that people will ask that very common question: “So, when are you two starting your family?”
People mean no harm when they ask. Some are sincerely interested in you, like your closest friends and loved ones. Others, people you may have recently met, may not be good at making small talk. Recognizing their intentions may help you consciously justify their question, but it does little to stop the visceral reaction of pain you feel when you hear it.
Part of this reaction is probably due to the tendency of couples to hide their struggles with infertility, even from those closest to them. Many couples feel shame or self-condemnation when dealing with this condition, and so they keep it secret. It’s so important to accept that there is no shame in infertility; it is not a reflection on you as a person, nor is it a sign from the heavens that you would be a terrible parent. It’s a biological condition and you are not alone.
How to Respond
There are several ways to cope with these questioners, both the well and not so well intentioned and it depends on their degree of closeness to you.
Consider sharing your struggle with those closest to you. Take time to think it through and discuss it as a couple, then share your situation and your feelings with your family and closest friends. Let them know you want them to be aware of your struggle but that you prefer they don’t ask about things unless you volunteer information. By doing so, not only do you avoid painful questions from them, you also develop a wider support team.
For those people who are not as close to you but with whom you wish to maintain a positive relationship (co-workers or neighbors, for instance), give a vague answer and change the subject quickly.
- “We’ll see what happens. How’s the guacamole?”
- “It’s not something I’d really care to talk about. Let’s talk about your new job.”
- “When it happens it happens. Let’s change the subject.”
For people whom you’ve recently met or you sense are just plain nosey, feel free to be a little more abrupt. It might prevent the person from hurting someone else in the future.
- “That’s a very personal question and I don’t share that information”
- “This is not something I would like to talk about?”
- “It might be a good subject to stay away from don’t you think?”
You owe no one an answer. But those who are close to you could be a support system during a difficult time. I have helped many couples cope with the difficult emotional roller coaster of infertility. Please explore my blog for other articles on infertility and reach out to me if I can be of any help.