When Fertile Myrtle Meets Barren Bertha

Help for talking to your infertile friend

April 24th-30th of 2016 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that because I can guarantee you those struggling with infertility hardly need a full week to be aware of it. Kidding! I know the week isn’t for me, but for my friends, family, and possibly even colleagues that don’t understand the struggle. This is a week for me to share some of my story so you’ll know how to talk to me.
I’m supposed to teach you things like:

  • 1-8 couples struggle with infertility (chances are you know someone even if they haven’t told you yet)
  • If you are under the age of 30 and you’ve been trying for a year unsuccessfully to conceive, then you should seek the help of a doctor.
  • If you’re older than 30, you should only wait 6 months of “trying” before seeing a doctor.
  • Infertility is costly (financially and emotionally)


There are plenty of blogs that talk about all of the above and plenty that give you the details on what you should and shouldn’t say to your infertile friend. But the truth is, the journey of infertility is so different for every couple that you really do have to ask your friend how to best to talk to her.

I remember when I first realized I’d probably struggle with getting pregnant.

At the time, it seemed so unimportant.

I sat in the office of my gynecologist (who about a month later would be operating on me) and he told me that I would probably struggle to get pregnant. He also told me that my best option was to go through my navel with a laser and carefully destroy all the anti-pregnancy growth that was certainly present but couldn’t be seen with an ultrasound. His best guess was that I had endometriosis. His plan: Go in with the laser and clean off the nasty endometrial cells. If all went well, a simple burning of the tissue was all that would happen. If things were bad in there, he might have to remove an ovary…or more.

I was in my early 20s at the time and in a world of pain. I actually used to beg God to let me die because the pain would be so incredibly severe. And, at the time, I really didn’t feel like I was being overly dramatic. I basically told my doctor to take whatever he needed to. “Who needs ovaries?”

Of course, I was single at the time and not even close to looking for a relationship. I was pretty stuck in the immediate situation and couldn’t begin to see into the future. But, that day’s future has now become the present. And though my doc didn’t remove anything other than the endometrial tissue, I sometimes wonder if my husband and I will ever get the opportunity to hold a baby that we’ve conceived.

So, my fertile friend, here’s my insider look at the infertility issue. First of all, don’t believe everything you read online. There are plenty of sources that will tell you to forgive me if I don’t go to your baby shower or if I’m not excited about talking about your pregnancy. I’ve even seen sites that say not to complain about your pregnancy in front of me because I’ll die a little inside wishing I was in your place.

Here’s the truth.

You really can tell me about the latest cute/funny conversation you had with your little one. I can always use a good laugh. You can also tell me that you feel like you look fat or that you throw up everything you eat and can’t sleep or walk anymore. Because seriously, while I’d love to have a baby, I’m not looking forward to the morning sickness, inability to breathe if I sit down for too long, or peeing when I laugh too hard. I really love to laugh and I kinda feel like it wouldn’t be as fun if I wet myself while I LOL.

Here’s another truth.

Even though websites say to carefully reveal the information that you’re pregnant to me, you really don’t have to. Now, I admit, there may be a twinge of hurt (not jealousy my friend, just a little hurt that I still haven’t conceived) but it does not make me any less happy for you. I truly want you to have an amazing pregnancy and a healthy baby, and you can bet your onesie I’ll be praying just that for you.

I also know that the advice is often, “Don’t ask questions or give me any tips.” That’s only partly true. Don’t ask embarrassing questions like, “Are you having sex at the right time” or “Do you know if there’s a medical reason?” Believe me, by the time we were ready to speak about having a hard time conceiving, there is very little advice you could add and we’ve also examined all the medical possibilities. But, if you want to ask my thoughts on IVF or adoption, I’d be more than happy to share them with you. And, if you want to know how specifically to pray, I’ll let you know that also.

Bottom line, even though infertility is a pretty painful experience, I still want to know about your life and I want you to know about mine. And while not everyone walking through the journey of infertility can say this, I can say without hesitation that I’ll be honest with you. If I just can’t do the baby talks or cheer your little one on at his next peewee game, I’ll tell you. If I say nothing of the sort, know that even if the hurt is there, it doesn’t begin to trump the relationship we have.

I need you during this time. And just being there really is enough.

With love from your childless friend,
Jessica

Dr. Jessica McCleese is a wife, a licensed psychologist, and a sexual educator with specialized training in sex therapy who works with Christian couples looking to improve their marriages and their sex lives using biblically-based principles. Jessica serves on the advisory board for Millennials for Marriage, is an educator through the Christian Association of Sexual Educators, and a licensed psychologist at her private practice in Norfolk, VA. She has a unique ability to connect with others and lead them through practical steps they can take to see improvements in their marriage and currently serves people internationally through her work at BeFullyWell.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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21 thoughts on “When Fertile Myrtle Meets Barren Bertha

  1. This speaks to me. I suffered with PCOS and endometriosis for years and had to have a hysterectomy one month prior to my first wedding anniversary. It’s a hard road. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • You’re welcome. Thanks for sharing yours with me. It is tough road indeed with some days being better than others. It’s always nice to have a little community in all of this. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing so honestly, Jessica. I have “secondary infertility.” I guess that’s what they call it when someone is able to have one child and then either can’t get pregnant again or, as in my case has miscarriage after miscarriage. Painful subject and topic, but I love how you put your friendships first and invite those in your life to openly continue to do life with you. I’m guessing that takes courage some days. Praying that in the Lord’s perfect time He will give you the blessing of a little one and the grace you need in the meantime as you wait.

    • Thank you, Brenda. I would say that “putting friends first” is a new grace I’ve been given. That certainly wasn’t always the case. Thank you for your prayers. I’m praying for you as well. 🙂

  3. Beautifully and honestly written from your heart. I think everything you wrote can also be applied to how to support your friend thru a miscarriage or loss of a baby. I’ve been thru both and the worst part was people not knowing what to say & so they avoided me when I didn’t need to be alone. It was a long time ago & I like to think things are just a bit different because we blog about it, we have articles about it, so maybe now we can talk about it.
    I hope someday your dreams come thru one way or another.

    • You are so right. These are good tips for miscarriage and loss of a child. It does help to have more knowledge out there through blogs and articles, but people in general seem to struggle with how to help those that have been through loss. Hopefully we’ll keep getting better and better at this.

    • I’m glad it was helpful to you! It really is hard to know what to say and every woman is certainly different. But, there are many, many, many of us waiting to hold a little one. Speaking gently always seems to help. 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing, Jessica. I have quite a few friends who have suffered miscarriages or who have been struggling with infertility, and I have always had a hard time walking on eggshells trying to figure out just what to say/not say, because I definitely never want to cause pain for anyone.

    • Hey Natalie, as long as you check in with your friends I’m sure they’ll let you know if anything you say is painful. I know for me, just being treated normally can be really nice.

  5. Luckily I never had to deal with this, but had friends who were struggling. I also was posting for a fertility monitor company and learned a lot about it, similar products and about the customers as they posted… quite interesting.

  6. Such a great post-we need to be more ‘in tune’ to others and what they are going through, while still being able to share with our close friends!

  7. Wow I love that you are so real in this writing and that you can be happy for your friends who are having babies as well. So many women have a hard time being happy for others these days.

  8. Bless your heart. I was infertile for 9 years. I was appalled when a lady told me what undergarments my husbands should/should not wear. I was barely 20 and wished I could fall through the floor. I just whispered your name to Jesus.

    • Yeah, people make the weirdest comments! I know they mean well, but it seems like people could consider if they’d want to answer those questions when they ask. Thanks for your prayers!

  9. Thanks for sharing from the bottom of heart. I feel lucky for not having to fight with it but some of my friends do. Glad to know that you still have good life and optimistic attitude. Keep going on and who knows miracle can happen some day.