Linden and Jeanne

In our fertility process I found dealing with family and friends stressful.  I am an up front kind of guy – so I did not keep our journey secret, and shared openly with my family and friends our process and what we were going through.  Sharing my journey with them for me was easy – but dealing with their varied responses was the hard work.  In particular dealing with their responses every time we had an unsuccessful attempt at conceiving, either through natural cycles or through IVF, was tough on me.

When we received a negative result, we would grieve.  Our grief had many emotions – as it always does – including sadness, anger, frustration, resignation and at times despair.  And eventually it would be processed, and we would return to acceptance and facing the decision as to what road forward.

When we are with someone who is grieving, we all respond differently.  And with our family and friends we had almost the full range of reactions.

Some people felt the grief and sadness strongly themselves – crying, sadness, depression.

Some tried to make us feel better – “It will all be ok”, “ There is a reason for this, even if you cannot see it now”, or “Don’t worry, you can always try again.”

Some gave us advice – “All you need to do is relax more”, “Next time you need to meditate or pray more”, “ Don’t be so stressed”.

Some told us stories – “ When cousin Jenny was going through this she drank wine every night and fell pregnant”, or “ My secretary fell pregnant when they stopped trying so hard, so why don’t you stop trying.”

Interestingly no one ever got angry alongside me – “%!&$.  This is so damn unfair. Bloody hell!”

So which response did I like, and which response did not work for me?

The answer to both questions is the same – all of them, at different times.

When I was feeling sad and grieving, I wanted people to allow me that space.  If they were close family and friends, I wanted them to support us while we moved through our grief.  I did not want them to fix me, or make me feel better, or give me advice.  At times I wanted them to be there , to create a held space for us – and at times I just wanted space alone with Jeanne.  What I did not want – at that moment – was someone to tell me it was all ok, or that this was part of some bigger design.

When the sadness was not strong, and I was starting to look forward and have perspective, then I wanted people who would listen to me.  People who could reflect back to me what I was thinking and saying, and tactfully yet gently get me starting to think about new possibilities.  What I did not want – at that moment – was lots of advice. “Just relax”, “ Have a massage and then you will feel better”, “You must just tell Jeanne to lie on her back for three weeks next time.”

When I was angry, I wanted people around me who were comfortable with anger.  People who would not try and tell me that “Being angry doesn’t help”. What I wanted –at that moment – was someone who would look me in the eye and swear at the unfairness of the universe.  Who would be on my side, and give me loud angry music or gloves and a boxing bag.  Who understood that the anger was real – at that moment – and would pass, in an hour, a day, a week.  And that once released would open the way for hope and joy again.

When we were ready to take the plunge again (and again), I wanted people who shared our hope (all over again) and supported us in whatever way they could to make the next process as meaningful, hopeful, calm and fertile as possible.

In summary, I wanted family and friends who understood that most importantly this was about us – Jeanne and myself.  And that for most of the time, what we were feeling and going through – at that moment – was real, and what needed to be dealt with.  I wanted people who could hold onto their own emotional responses and judgements– at that moment – and support us.  I did not want to have to stop thinking about me, to focus on supporting them.  There would be an appropriate time for them to share their own feelings with us, and for us to be connected and open with them about how our journey was impacting them.  However the time for that was when we were ready and able – not whenever they wanted to.

I wanted that when someone did not know what was the best way to support us –at that moment – then they simple asked “How best can I support you now?”.  I would have told them, and if I was not sure, we could have worked it out together, gently and with love.

If I ever had to go through any kind of fertility process again, I would make it a priority to sit down with Jeanne and ask the following questions:

·         “How do we want people to support us?”

·         “What do we want people to say to us, and what don’t we want to hear?”

And then I would write the answers in a letter, and send it to all my family and friends.

“Dear family and friends.  As you know, Jeanne and I are very excited about our journey to try and have a baby.  We know that the process can be hard, stressful, sad and joyful.  We really value your love and friendship, and would like to ask for your support in our process.  We acknowledge that we are all different, and would want different things in times of stress or sadness.  What you think you would like to hear in those situations may not be what we want to hear, and vise verse.  So here are some thoughts we have had about what would be great for us ……”


Note to blog: I thought I would give you my personal list of things that were the most difficult for me to hear from people that made me want to shout, run away or just say “really?”.

Just relax. 

Don’t stress. 

You have not put this out to the universe properly. 

Don’t worry. 

It happened to us, so I am sure it will happen to you soon. 

Stop trying so hard.

Don’t think about it so much.

This is all part of God’s plan.