How to cope with the barrage of unsolicited advice about your fertility
For some reason, there are people out there (at work, on the bus, online) that want to offer their unsolicited advice to the unsuspecting would-be parent trying for a baby.
Everyone wants to get in on the action, even complete strangers!
No matter what people say, there is no silver bullet when it comes to falling pregnant.
But people like to be ‘helpful’
My own dad gave me the tip to ‘put your legs up afterwards’. AWKS!
Equally, your nanna might give you advice at the family lunch, or your work colleague might mention what a friend of hers tried to help her fall pregnant.
People like to help. They abhor silence and when they think you might be sad or might have overlooked a solution, then they will say things without thinking about how they might be received.
But for you it feels invasive and personal and ever so slightly judgy. As if you and your partner are not 'doing it' right, and if you only listened to them you'd be up the duff in record time.
Thanks Susan, you're right, I should just relax/go on holiday/put my feet up after sex. I'd have never thought of that without you mentioning it. *eyeroll*
So why are they trying to be helpful?
The thing is though, if they are commenting on it because you brought it up, you may have forgotten to set your boundaries around the topic. Talking to people about your fertility troubles with too many people is asking for trouble.
My advice – unsolicited as it may be (or is it since you've read this far?) – is to avoid sharing too much about your situation early on, except with a select group of trusted inidivduals you can rely on to not offer stupid but well-meaning advice.
This may or may not include your own parents, and that can be tricky. They can't fix this, but in most cases they will want to 'help' and often they have no idea how to help without sticking their foot in their mouths. The tricky bit is that you can't untell someone, and if that someone would take a bullet for you then it can be hard for them to let it go and not mention it.
The problem is that when someone gives out unsolicited advice – it impacts on your life, but not theirs. To them, it’s often just a passing comment to contribute to the conversation, but for the fertility challenged it is yet another painful reminder that our bodies are letting us down.
And that difference of impact can be so hard to keep that in mind before you blow up at your family gathering.
When you want to punch someone
Gotta tell ya, punching someone out won’t help, even if it feels REALLY appropriate at the time. Cliched as it may sound, I found that breathing exercises helped (though they were hard to remember in the moment), and removing myself from the situation by walking away or finding a distraction saved me from an assault charge on more than one occasion.
Whatever you choose to do to diffuse the situation, try to take a moment to notice the feelings that come up for you, and why it’s there. Are you angry? Sad? Frustrated? And what in particular is bringing that out for you?
Later, when you get a moment to yourself, write it down. Just word-vomit out exactly why their advice was so ridiculous and unwarranted. By doing this you’ve dealt with the raw feelings, but you also haven’t burned a bridge by snapping back at someone.
From HuffPost's article 27 Things People Struggling With Infertility Want You To Know: #22. "Never tell a person to relax and let it happen, or that it will happen when they stop trying — like when your friend's cousin's niece's wife's aunt's boss tried to get pregnant for a year. It doesn't work that way, and it just implies that it is somehow their fault they are infertile because they are stressing too much. The best thing you can say is, 'I'm sorry you are going through this.'" — Trina Alexa
How to respond to questions
Sometimes it’s the reverse, and people are asking you about your plans. When you’re struggling, there is no more dreaded question than ‘When are you having kids?’
You can answer this with a partial truth if you want to. You can say ‘maybe one day’ or ‘we don’t feel ready yet’ – which can be a sort-of truth if it's important to you to remain honest.
Or you might feel comfortable or confident enough to say that it’s a personal decision between yourself and your partner.
Sometimes, it is simply a friendly question in small talk. So, before you throw your drink at them, try to remember that and then you can deftly redirect the conversation back to them by asking about their life or opinion on a topic of news or personal interest. Anything other than babies, and whether you'll get around to using that uterus. I've heard it called beandipping before, but really it's a deflection technique akin to "Look! Shiny!"
Set boundaries for yourself
You cannot always be focused on this fertility thing though, because let's be real here, there is more to you than your fertility struggle, and I urge you to find and make a list of those roles you play aside from ‘future parent’.
If you focus too sharply on the one thing, your other relationships will suffer and you'll be stuck with everyone's pity questions about your progress with the doctors.
Remember, your feelings when someone gives unsolicited advice are still valid. You don’t want to swallow them down. But telling someone they’re a fuckhead is often not the best course of action.
Dealing with your feelings and working through them and more importantly what those feelings are trying to tell you can help you to cope better next time someone wants to pass on their 'knowledge' or ask you how you are.
How I can help you
Do you need a non-judgemental friend who can realte to how to feel trying to fall pregnant? Someone who will not give you unsolicited advice?
If you want:
- To have your story and journey heard and validated, without judgment;
- The reassurance that you are not alone;
- A plan for the next steps towards helping you enjoy your life now, without living 'on-hold'; and bonus thing (because I love to give value)
- Some self-care strategies and tools to help you be less reactive to the triggering things that can crop up without warning to knock you off balance. And lots more support and resources besides, then please get in touch.
If you want to talk more, then click the link below to find a time that suits you for us to talk on zoom and get to know each other better to help you decide if I'm the friend in fertility you need. https://sandifriedlos.as.me/coffeechat