Support is crucial at every stage in the game, so much more so during infertility! Unfortunately its way too easy for that to backfire, as all it takes is a single ill-phrased question to turn a caring friend into a despicably selfish yenta. (Tip: don’t be that way! People make mistakes, caring friends included..) Here’s a couple of pointers that I found helped me navigate this maze –
- Prepare This is especially important at the beginning stages, which is typically when couples all too often slip up, share too much with their families, and – oops! the cat is out of the bag. You can always add more info later, but words that are spoken can never be taken back. Prepare beforehand with your spouse. Outline what you will say, what you can say, and what you will never say. How much is too much? That’s up to you, but caution is always in place.
- Boundaries Once you’ve prepared boundaries and set them in place, you’ll have a much easier time sharing information, without compromising the privacy or respect of your relationship. You also won’t need to worry about slipping up, since you’ll have clearly outlined your boundaries beforehand. But, this will only work if your boundaries are at the forefront of your mind whenever the topic is open. Consider them your safety net – just like a gate around a roof allows people to venture to the edge safely, your boundaries will allow you to maximize your sharing experience without the risk of going too far. And of course, don’t be scared to reinforce your gate by clearly stating, “that’s not something I feel up to sharing” or, (way more my style) “you can ask whatever you want, so long as you’re ok with me not answering”
- Bluff What happens when you share a little, but they ask a lot? Or when saying “I can’t share that” risks setting off WWIII? The simple answer is: bluff! The nice thing about IF is that unless someone went through it too, they really will have little to no idea re how these things work. Of course, usually, the best way is to be open about your boundaries, but sometimes that doesn’t work – which why bluffing was invented. Case in point: Friend – “What’s the diff between IUI and IVF?” Me – “So In IVF they take out the men ingredients, the lady ingredients, shake em up with some vitamins and put them back. In IUI they skip the lady ingredients.” Lol. True story.
- Balance Somedays you may feel like being chatty and somedays not. It’s important to realize that you don’t alway have to share equally or consistently. You may also choose to share random details that’ll make life simpler. For instance, the week of our first transfer (with complications!) I kept being called on for a certain community commitment. After a while, my being incommunicado was getting out of hand and I realized I had to ‘fess up. I simply called the coordinator and said “I’m really sorry but I had a procedure this week and don’t feel up to it right now.” She was gracious, understanding, and didn’t say a peep. Of course, this can only be done with the ‘right’ type of respectful person, but look for such opportunities. They’ll make your life so much easier.
- Revise It’s ok, and even better, to revise your plan of action from time to time. It’s possible in the begining you’ll feel like sharing more, and then later the need for privacy will kick in. Or maybe you’ll be private from the onset, but then desperately need support before your first IVF. What was once best, might no longer be applicable, and don’t feel stuck in your game plan. You made the rules, you can break them, so long as your spouse is on board. Things change, and our coping mechanisms do to. And that’s ok.