Sharing the load: opening up about our journey
I suppose we can blame COVID for my rusty social skills. After all, other than brief conversations with fellow dog owners that we meet while walking our pup, we haven’t had much practice chatting with people we don’t really know. And so, when making small talk at a wedding rehearsal dinner recently, I wasn’t entirely prepared for the question, “So, do you have any kids?” And I don’t think anyone was prepared for the response that popped out of my mouth: “None living.” It was accurate. But also awkward. And just not my ideal way of answering the question. Thankfully, conversation quickly pivoted to our adoption process before I escaped to bang my head against the wall a few times.
Despite the awkward delivery, sharing – to whatever degree we feel comfortable in a given situation – is something that my husband and I have done since the beginning of our infertility journey. Our families and close friends were quickly aware of our struggles and gradually we shared with our wider circle of friends and acquaintances as well. It didn’t happen overnight, nor is everyone privy to all details, but generally those who know us know that we’re dealing with infertility, that we lost a baby, and that we’re hoping to adopt. And even new acquaintances quickly hear about our adoption process.
And there’s a freedom that we’ve found in opening up about our journey.
For one, practically speaking, it means that we don’t have to continue to endure well-meaning but painful questions from family and close friends. It means that I can forego a glass of wine at a family dinner without raising eyebrows. All I have to say, in such cases, was that I am in a “non-drinking phase”, which my family understands to mean that I am in my post-ovulation luteal phase and thus there is a slight, albeit very remote, chance of being pregnant and as such I’m not drinking. It means that I can disappear for an hour or two during Christmas with my in-laws and return with red and puffy eyes. My husband can let my in-laws know that I am having a tough time due to various triggers and such, and I can return without feeling the pressure to look “fine” because I know that they know that I’m not. It means that friends and family can provide us with support at difficult moments like Mothers’ Day or the anniversary of our miscarriage.
Sharing has also created new opportunities. Our openness has resulted in conversations with other couples experiencing similar challenges, building stronger friendships as a result. Mentioning our adoption process has led to conversations with others who are considering starting the process. And many others who aren’t planning to adopt have remarked to us that they’re learning more about it and adjusting their ideas and language as a result of seeing us journey through the process.
The weight of infertility and loss hasn’t left us, but opening up has lessened it in some ways and in some places. We’ve been incredibly lucky in the family and friends that we have, that sharing with them has felt natural and supportive. But that sharing depends a lot on a lot of factors. A lot of people know the basic facts of our journey: infertility, loss, hoping to adopt. Only a smaller circle have been privy to the grief, pain and anger that we’ve journeyed alongside. And the internet/social media hasn’t been privy to any of it (other than these blog posts, which have only started three years into our journey).
Everyone’s openness in sharing their journey will look different at different points in the journey and not everyone will have a wide circle of people that they feel comfortable and safe sharing with. My hope and prayer for everyone reading is that they have at least someone that they can share with, even just a little. Because this journey of infertility doesn’t have to be walked alone. And yes, maybe the words that pop out of our mouths aren’t always the ideal phrasing. Maybe they are sometimes somewhat awkward. But even then, they can still be fertile ground for freedom.