24 April, 2011

A shoulder to lean on?

 In infertility circles, there’s always the question.  Who do we tell?  I started spotting (and my temperature dipped) on Christmas Day with my second ectopic when I was with all my family.  I knew things were not going well.  And I remember thinking "I just want to get out of here."  I knew that I wouldn't get the support I needed with my family.  I just wanted to be alone.

This isn’t an indictment on my family.  They’re not selfish or any more insensitive than anyone else (including me!), but they wouldn't know how to react, and that would have been hard for all of us.  I could see myself having to spend all my energy worrying about my mother, for example.  I might be selling her short.  But I wasn’t prepared to test it.  Besides, I was 40.  I stopped relying on my family for emotional support when I was 17.  I wasn’t going to start again at this.  I wouldn't have known how, and neither would they.

As my ectopic dragged on, proving complicated to treat and resolve, as I was in and out of hospital, I got support from my husband and from on-line friends who knew what I was going through, having been through similar times themselves. One of my sisters was concerned, and would ring regularly to show support.  I appreciated that, but I found it hard to talk.  So in the end I asked her to email, not phone.  In the midst of grief, having that control, being able to choose when I spoke (or wrote) to someone, was important.  I didn’t have to pretend I was cheerful, or to sound upbeat.  The words could do it for me if I needed, and I could type with tears streaming down my face. 

So when I tried IVF, I didn't tell anyone in my family.  There were dozens of women on the support group who knew I was injecting myself daily with drug, but only one real life friend.  I knew I couldn’t cope with the expectations, the questions to see how it was going, how I was coping, why I wasn’t feeling optimistic, or getting “over it” etc.  I’d seen others under enormous stress from their friends and family, expecting positive results, and I didn’t want to deal with that.  So I blocked everyone off, and I did that to protect myself.  I needed to be selfish, and concentrate on what I was going through at the time.  It worked for me.  It doesn't work for everyone, I know.  A lot of women would be shocked that I didn’t involve my family.  But it was right for me, and really, that's what was important at the time.  And to be honest, almost eight years later, I don't actually know if my family know.  I can't remember if I told them in the end, and we've moved on.  I guess if they read this, they know now!


  1. I completely get that, to me there's a massive chasm between the phone and emailing, and the phone is on the other side, always has been. I know of at least one friend who apparently still tried to ring me despite me trying to be as clear (as you possibly can once you've watched your hopes and dreams disappearing with each flush of the toilet) about not wanting to chat on the phone.

    Knowing what works for you is half the trouble I reckon. You've totally got to look out for yourself in this game, huh.

    PS I can't remember how I found your blog, but I'm following now

  2. Makes sense to me. I tell my family some stuff, but not everything. It's frustrating that you can't untell unsupportive people!

  3. If I lived anywhere near my family, I would have shared so much more with them... but a few minutes over the phone or three line emails just don't cut it for me. A lot of family members never knew about our trials until my mother asked them to pray for me when I was bleeding to death. She told them I had colitis. I was grieving for the loss of my baby and dealing with calls and letters full of diet recommendations and herbal supplements of constipation. Totally surreal.

  4. Hi, I'm here from ICLW. I had two ectopics too. Very few people understand. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to deal with infertility, who you tell and who you don't. Whatever made you feel more comfortable was the right way.
    Love, Fran

    ICLW #131

  5. Hi, I had an ectopic too (last year). I didn't want to tell people (except my partner) but the nurse persuaded me it would be a good idea (she said, "I think your mum should know that you are having a life-saving operation."

    I asked my other half to tell my mum and his. Before I knew it, his mum had told all and sundry and I had people coming up to me after the event saying things like, "sorry to hear about your pregnancy" out of the blue. They're being nice, but I don't want to talk about it (especially at a family wedding).

    We have since been referred for IVF, we are telling no-one except a couple of really close friends. Maybe we will when we come to the end of our journey... people can be insensitive sometimes.

    I have just started an infertility blog of my own for therapy, hope you don't mind, I have put a link on it to your blog.

  6. I absolutely get keeping it to yourself. People love you and would support you, but then, on some level, you need to take care of them in their need to take care of you...and there isn't always energy for that.