Don't feel guilty for your fertility

Kerri Sackville knows how hard it can be watching a friend struggle to fall pregnant

Practical Parenting / July 18 2018

Up until quite recently, I took my fertility for granted. Even though I suffered a number of miscarriages, I always fell pregnant easily, and never had to wait more than a month for those two little blue lines to make an appearance on the stick.

“I fall pregnant when my husband looks at me lustfully,” I’d tell my friends, and really, it was close to the truth. As someone who couldn’t take the Pill, my challenge for years was not getting pregnant, a battle I finally won when I had a tubal ligation after my third child was born.

Not so easy

So when my friend Amy told me a while back that she and her partner were trying for a baby, I was excited. I figured she’d get pregnant as easily as I did, and looked forward to having a new baby to play with. For months I eagerly awaited the good news. But it didn’t come. She didn’t fall pregnant.

Now, 18 months later, Amy is on the IVF rollercoaster. She endures innumerable doctor’s appointments, injections, blood tests and procedures, she allows herself to hope, and is then shattered at the end of the month when her period begins. Some days she musters humour and positivity. Some days she’s just barely hanging on.

Don't feel bad

So what can we, as friends who are lucky enough to be parents, do to support friends dealing with infertility? The temptation, of course, is to promise them that they’ll get their baby eventually, but that would be irresponsible. IVF is no guarantee of anything. Even doctors can offer only statistics and probabilities.

Watching a close friend deal with infertility is strangely confronting. I almost want to apologise for my good fortune – it feels so desperately unfair that my path to motherhood was relatively easy when Amy’s is so fraught. I also want to stress to Amy that even for me it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Friends bond over shared experiences and I want to give us some point of connection.

“I understand,” I really want to say. “I remember how awful it was when I had a miscarriage.”

But I don’t say that – none of us parents can say that – because we can’t understand. We have our babies, and so we have no right to claim knowledge of what someone struggling to fall pregnant is going through. None of us can truly understand the pain of infertility, except other women who are in the same boat.

What we can feel, though, is appreciation for our tremendous good fortune in being granted the gift of children. Even 16 years after first giving birth, I’m reminded of how lucky I was, and how lucky I continue to be.

I’ll support and encourage Amy for as long as she needs me. And in the meantime, I’ll honour her struggle to have a baby by loving my children as hard as I can.

And I’ll wait, hopefully, for the time she has a child to love, too.