What to Say to Someone Going through IVF
I Don't Even Know What To Say And I'm Going Through It!
After being unable to have kids for the past 5 years, I started the IVF process in June of 2016, and I was feeling like quite the trail-blazer since none of my close friends or family members (at least that I know of) have gone through the process.
It wasn't that I wanted to hide that I was doing IVF, but I was a little hesitant to tell people, because I had no idea how they would react.
- Would they congratulate me on being unstoppable in getting pregnant?
- Would they give me a tissue and expect me to cry for not being able to conceive "the old fashion way"?
- Would they think it was too premature to share this ... and advise me to wait until after my 1st trimester to even speak of babies?
I wouldn't know until I asked... and so, I decided to start with seeing how strangers reacted before moving on to friends/family in order to "test the waters."
I decided to do my "first test" at a women's networking luncheon, where I sat at a table of 10 with a group of strangers. The moderator asked us to go around the table and introduce ourselves in two ways: 1) by our business 2) by one "interesting" personal fact.
As luck would have it, I went last. And the 9 women before me, each said their business followed by something as (highly?) personal as "my favorite color is blue". When it was my turn, I said my business followed by "something interesting is that I'm going through the IVF process right now."
Even though I said it in a neutral tone, all side conversations stopped; women put down whatever they were about to pop in their mouths; and all eyes were on me!
After an agonizing moment, the woman next to me broke the silence by saying: "You don't even look that old!" (which I think was a compliment?)
Then, the woman across from me, started scribbling on a napkin frantically. She folded up her napkin and passed it to me, and it read "I had 5 kids using IVF... but let's keep this between us because I've never told them."
Before I left the event, another woman approached me with a suggestion. She said "I can refer you to a sex-pert (which I'm guessing is a sex expert), so you don't have to "settle for IVF being your last resort" (which I think was meant to be thoughtful, but sure didn't feel like it at the time).
The good news was after those reactions from strangers, I felt more prepared to handle anything friends or family would throw me.
Here were some of my favorite friend reactions:
- "I'm so happy for you! I think it's awesome that you can do genetic screening and pick the healthiest embryo and even the sex of the baby. I know the sex I would choose!"
- "Let me know if you need anything. I'm always here to walk and talk with you"
- "I don't know anyone who has done IVF, so I don't know how to respond to that." -- which was actually really refreshing and gave me space to think about how ideally, I wanted people to respond and why I was telling them in the first place. My revelation was that I didn't want advice -- I just wanted an outlet to share what was going on in my life -- and why i might be more hormonal than normal (grin)
Telling friends also opened up opportunities to address any misconceptions smack on!
For example, one friend -- who is also a Mom -- asked me: "Does that mean it is uncomfortable for you to be around kids? Would you rather not be around kids right now?".
We ended up having this great conversation about how the OPPOSITE is true for me. Being around kids, keeps my passion alive for having kids. I'm so glad we discussed this assumption, because it would have been way more painful for me -- not to be invited to something with her kids -- and feel "shut off" from the very family events I'm committed to attracting in my life.
Priceless: Pharmacist Reaction!!
My FAVORITE reaction to IVF was from my Pharmacist, who I totally felt like having some fun with.
As part of the initial protocol, I was put on birth control pills for 10 days. Yes, I did say birth control. (Birth control medications can decrease the chances of cysts and better allow the doctor to control the timing of the cycle)
An e way, in order to get birth control -- like any other medication -- you have to re-assure the Pharmacist that you understand what you're taking. So, after explaining birth control pills, the Pharmacist said -- "do you have any questions?"
I responded: "no. I'm just excited about using these to get pregnant."
The initial look on his face was PRICELESS! (My guess was he was probably thinking -- if anyone needs birth control -- it's a woman that thinks like this... LOL)... although he did eventually get it.
My mom inquired: "Is this is a secret... or can I tell anyone?" To which I responded: "Would I really tell anyone if I didn't think it would be repeated?" (especially since "family secrets" is the best example of an oxymoron)
Plus, it is important to me for people to know I'm going through IVF, because I want to be here for other people going through the process in the future and turn IVF into something that women don't feel embarrassed to talk about in public.
Within a day of talking to Mom, I started receiving text messages -- from both numbers I recognized and numbers I didn't -- including "we're praying for you"; "we're thinking of you" and "best wishes". And I was thrilled to get all the prayers and thoughts we can get!
I felt very lucky to have both sides of our family be very supportive.
So What Should You Say to Someone Going Through IVF?
After writing this article, I realize that "what should you say" is the wrong question. The better question is "how should you be?"
Although some people said things that unsettled me, if I felt like they were "being" loving and intending to support me... I couldn't fault them. After all, as I said in the beginning, I didn't even know what to say about IVF until I was going through the process. (I wish I had more role models who went through the process -- or spoke out about it -- and so yes, I'm stepping up to be one for any other women who are going through or considering IVF)
Moreover, my biggest takeaway is that it's not even about how other people are "being" to me, but most importantly, how I am being about IVF -- which totally influences how people react to my news. When I was "testing the waters" and neutral -- it was more likely for people to react in a way that didn't appeal to me, as I hadn't given them any "cue" about how I felt about it and gave them a lot of power to control where the conversation went.
However, when I later told family and some friends with excitement, it seemed to transform their listening and how favorably they reacted.
So, just maybe the lesson is not only to set the stage on how to react to IVF -- but to set the stage for how I want others to react to other things in my life.
As my friend candidly said: "I don't know how to react" and waited for me to tell him.
What if we told and/or "cued" people on how we wanted them to react, as opposed to letting their emotions or immediate thoughts take the conversation in a different direction? After all, you can't control what others say; but you can potentially control how likely they are to say it -- based on how you're being.
And future baby -- one day, when you read this article -- you'll know that how i'm being about you is excited, hopeful, and ready to get pregnant!