Being able to get pregnant naturally within a few months was a blessing for us, but it’s not something people can guarantee or sign up for, meaning it can leave others feeling disappointed or depressed over things they can’t control.
The most important thing I learned from my own conception journey is to be mindful that so many people are experiencing conception struggles - and you likely don’t know about it or the depth of the hard things they’re dealing with.
These days it seems like most people I know have some kind of conception story to tell such as IVF, IUI, and fertility medication, or must-do’s/dont-do’s and other hardwired beliefs about getting pregnant.
I started our own conception journey anticipating we would have issues because it felt like almost everyone did. I don’t advise having that mindset when you start, but mine was already there because of the stories friends had shared with me, so by month 3 of our conception journey I wanted to be proactive and started reading all the things about conception struggles and fertility issues.
That is when I uncovered the secret chats feature in my period and pregnancy tracker app, specifically the Trying to Conceive Struggles section where thousands of women were anonymously posting their stories. I cried in my kitchen as I read through them one after another.
There were stories of multiple miscarriages, women trying for years to get pregnant, women who couldn’t afford the expensive fertility treatments or experienced other cost-related barriers, women who had adverse reactions to the fertility medications but felt they had to keep trying no matter how sick it made them feel, women whose friends and family had said awful things to them about their inability to get pregnant whether directly or indirectly, women whose partners had left them because they couldn’t get pregnant, and the list went on and on.
My heart was broken for these women across the world going through a deep emotional pain and my eyes were opened to these often secret conception struggles.
As a society we don’t talk about conception struggles enough and because of that we often say things that are triggering to people who are trying to conceive without knowing it.
Simple phrases such as “We got pregnant and we weren’t even trying” or “We didn’t even want to get pregnant but we did” or “Don’t worry it will happen” to people who have been struggling with conception can be painful for them and often they’ll never say anything about it to you.
Of course this doesn’t mean you need to hide your own feelings or experiences, not at all.
Two simple phrases I’ve learned to use before sharing about conception or pregnancy are:
“Is sharing my conception journey ok with everyone here? If it brings up negative feelings or associations I’m happy to skip over it.”
“Before I answer her pregnancy question, I wanted to check and see if talking about this will make anyone uncomfortable? I know trying to conceive is a difficult journey and often not shared with others, so I’m happy to just follow up with [the person that asked the question] directly so it doesn’t have to be a group discussion.”
These phrases work, and you will be surprised how many people will raise their hand. Often however, many people are then empowered to talk about their struggle and after they do I can tell they feel lighter, but also comforted and encouraged by the support of others.
Even if you’ve never thought about having a child yet, or know you don’t want to have a child (and that is perfectly OK and I hope more people feel comfortable admitting that and living that truth!), you can still be supportive and kind to others. Everyone has hard times in life and the greatest thing we can do as humans is to be compassionate to others when they need it most.
By month 4 of trying to get pregnant, I thought we’d be starting down that same path and I made an appointment at a fertility doctor for 2 months later since the guideline is to wait until at least 6 months of trying before you get a consultation.
We found out we were pregnant in month 5 of our journey and the joy was indescribable. After about 20 minutes the surprise started to settle and immediately I remembered how many women and their partners were hoping to receive the same news one day. I took a few minutes to reflect on that and promised myself I would help other women in these struggles however I could.
I am grateful to have discovered those anonymous stories and I feel it’s my responsibility to share that realization with other people so we can all be more mindful that conception is hard, emotional, and not something you can control. When it comes to these topics, be careful with your words and when in doubt, just ask if it’s ok to share or to discuss further.