Six Reminders of Infertility and Tips to Successfully Navigate Them

Detroit Moms Blog welcomes our community’s input on this important topic and is pleased to offer this guest post from Gloria Raines, a local infertility warrior:

Navigating through the seemingly unchartered waters of infertility seems daunting for everyone involved. Everyday circumstances unknowingly damage relationships if not handled appropriately. The list below contains six reminders of infertility that, at face value, seem harmless, but when viewed through the perspective of a person in the midst of their infertility battle, can cause tremendous pain:

1. The Stick Figure Family

AKA: The sticker posted in the back window of seemingly every mini-van and family-sized SUV, which displays a “complete” family unit.

The stickers display a stick figure mother, father, children, and sometimes a family pet. To the family, it’s a proud display of their family structure, but to a person who has struggled to make this dream a reality, it is a reminder of a dream that has yet to be fulfilled.

2. Holiday Photo Greetings

Family pictures are great keepsakes. It’s an amazing realization to see how fast children have grown over a few years. However, for a family struggling with infertility, it is a reminder of how old their children would have been and also a sad reminder of the amount of time that has lapsed since the journey began.

3. Birthday Party Invitations

Receiving or not receiving invitations to children’s birthday parties can feel awkward if you don’t have children. Being supportive of friends with children can be difficult because it requires a person who is already struggling internally to find peace to put their feelings aside.

4. Family Events

Family reunions, holiday gatherings, weddings, and funerals are places where a person is pretty much guaranteed to see family members they haven’t seen in a while. These events typically cause worry and anxiety for people struggling with fertility as they prepare to answer the all too familiar questions and receive advice from family members: “When are you two going to have a baby?,” “You don’t want to have too large of a gap between children, do you?,” “What’s taking you so long?,” “Don’t wait too long,” etc.

5. Baby Showers

Everyone loves babies! Babies are cute, cuddly, and innocent. For those reasons, the guilt a person struggling with infertility feels is overwhelming and seemingly selfish when they receive an invitation to a baby shower. Choosing to accept or make up a reason to decline the invitation feels like an epic internal battle.

6. Public Displays

Seeing pregnant women is obviously a reminder of infertility. However, the level of difficulty increases when pregnant women discuss their pregnancy symptoms and/or ailments. A person struggling with infertility has a desire to experience pregnancy. Any less than positive comments seem as though the pregnancy experience is being taken for granted.

The best way to combat the negative feelings associated with infertility is to communicate openly. My infertility journey lasted well over a decade. It became easier when I openly discussed my feelings during uncomfortable situations or when the opportunity arose. I also listened to the responses I was given.

It was my hope to bring awareness by sharing my experience and the challenges others may experience. The first step in this process was to assume positive intent; I realized no one was trying to hurt me, and, in fact, they were actually trying to help but just didn’t know how I felt. It then became my responsibility to share my feelings and the impact of their actions.

Listed below are some of the ways we can deal with the reminders of infertility:

1. Stick Figure Family

I began to imagine what my family would eventually look like by seeing other family structures and deciding what I liked and didn’t like. Instead of feeling defeated, I began to feel hopeful and operated from a position of strength because there were some decisions I could control and make by learning from others.

2. Holiday Photo Greetings

I stored the greetings as keepsakes. I realized that how I felt in the moment may differ from how I would feel in the future. Storing the greeting cards gave myself the time I needed to heal.

3. Birthday Party Invitations

I had candid conversations with my friends and family members about my decision to attend or not attend events. Open communication made receiving or not receiving an invitation less awkward and helped others to understand my feelings better.

4. Family Events

My husband and I began thanking people for their advice and changing the subject. However, we prepared ourselves ahead of time, so that neither of us would be caught off guard. Prior to the event, we would try to guess the comments that would be made and tally our results at the end of the night. This was our way to turn lemons into lemonade.

5. Baby Showers

I used the same technique as I did with receiving birthday party invitations. I would decline the invitation to the mother-to-be and provide the real reason, “I am happy for you, and I will send a gift, but I am not at a place emotionally where I can actively participate.” This method allowed room for me to heal at my own pace.

6. Public Displays

I began congratulating the mother-to-be and followed by saying, “Through it all, it’s a blessing to be pregnant. I wish you the best” while wearing a huge smile. In doing so, it brought awareness to the big picture: life is a blessing so be thankful. The more I spoke positive affirmations over those who were in my desired position, the less impact seeing pregnant women had on me.

The keys to supporting and surviving infertility are awareness and communication. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and share your feelings. Most importantly, assuming positive intent in the journey is less treacherous with a village than when traveling alone.


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