As an OB/GYN who struggled with infertility, I’m all too aware of the well-meaning “comforts” friends and family will sometimes say to someone who is having difficulty getting pregnant.  I say “well-meaning” because they usually are—but dang! They usually cut deep and can leave a woman who’s already feeling inadequate because of infertility feel even worse. This week is National Fertility Awareness Week, and my blog post this week is in honor of all of us girls who heard far too many pointed, personal questions from our loved ones.

  1. Maybe you’re just too stressed. Um, well, yes! I am stressed, thank you for acknowledging that. When you’re busy working full time, trying to time the optimal days for ovulation and then waiting with baited breath hoping Aunt Flo doesn’t come, who wouldn’t be stressed? I’m dealing with it the best I can. Self-care during this time is essential—a yoga class, a long run, massage, or just journaling. But I don’t need people constantly reminding me about my stress levels. For me personally, my favorite retort to these types was “Hey, when was your last pap smear?” That usually caused them to run the other direction. Wink.
  2. Are you having sex? What? WHAT? I have to have sex to get pregnant? This feels like this conversation is getting fairly private and invasive. My sex life is what it needs to be right now. Thank you very much. When did couples TTC (trying to conceive) become the new public fodder? Is this what the Kardashians have done to us?   Must I make a sex tape to prove that this step is in the works? I do get that is how babies are made. We can thank Mrs. Pugh in my 6th-grade health class for beating that point home. ‘Nuf said.
  3. You’re young. You’ve got all the time in the world. Sadly, I didn’t hear this comment as much, but I have patients who get this all the time. Age is a state of mind, but in the world of fertility a woman’s time clock is beating hard against that concept. When you’ve been buying ovulation predictor kits in bulk from Costco, trust me, time isn’t your friend. Most women who are TTC have an enhanced awareness of how time passes us by. And while the “young” comments are appreciated when we’re 40, it’s downright paternalizing at any other age. If a woman can be a CEO at 25, she can be a mother at any age. We want what we want.
  4. You can always adopt! Well, yes. We’ve all heard that. And for some of us, that may be a viable option. But a lot of us yearn for our own And adoption is expensive, like really, really “J. Lo” expensive. Foreign adoptions can cost upwards of $100,000 but can be quicker. U.S. adoption can range from $20-40K, but there’s no guarantee. Most women elect this as a last resort if they really want their own genetic offspring. Adoption is beautiful and admirable but not something every woman who’s infertile wants to hear.
  5. My cousin Jenny tried “Fill in the blanks with something crazy!” Oh yes. The feng shui counselor. And the shaman from the West Indies. And keeping the space below the bed clean and free of boxes and such to avoid “energy blocks.” Trust me, my sisters. I’ve tried a whole bunch of things. But please don’t entice me to spend more money on another jade dragon when I’ve got three at home I don’t know what to do with. I’ll stick with the things I know make me feel good—like meditation, yoga and eating a good clean diet. But chances are, Jenny got pregnant when she did because she did. Not because she ate yak’s blood cheese for 3 months straight. But thanks for another thought that will stick in my head for the next two weeks. Wonder where I can get yak’s blood online? I bet Amazon…

For those of us dealing with the assault of these comments, the best thing to do is smile, and stay your own course. You know what’s right for your body. Desperation won’t help. Neither will yak’s blood.

–Dr. Heather Bartos