Coming Out of the Infertility Closet: Telling Others You're Infertile

Talking About Your Infertility With Friends and Family Members

Woman shouting into megaphone by the sea
Talking about infertility not only can help release shame you're holding onto, but also can help others break their silence.. Alan Graf / Getty Images

Are you ready to tell others about your struggles with infertility? This can be an empowering moment. The secrecy around infertility can increase your sense of shame and outsider status.

Speaking up about infertility can help you show shame the door, and give you people to lean on when you need support.

As much as it may be an empowering move, it can also be anxiety provoking. And it may not go as smoothly as you’d like.

Here are some things to consider when coming out of the infertility closet.

Consider Your Partner’s Feelings

Unless you’re a single woman trying to conceive, you likely have a partner who is also facing infertility with you.

They may or may not be ready to come out when you are.

If they aren’t ready, take the time to talk about your reasons for wanting to stop the secrecy, and listen (truly listen) to their concerns and fears about coming out.

You may be able to agree on a limited number of people you can come out to. Or maybe he or she prefers you share limited information when you do talk about your infertility.

If you can’t agree on how to handle the situation, consider couple counseling.

Counseling is actually a good idea for any couple going through infertility, and will help you in the long run.

Remember You Don’t Have to Come Out on Every Detail

When you tell people you’re dealing with infertility, expect some to start asking you way-too-personal questions.

One of the most jarring questions?

“So who’s fault is it?”

Know this: you do not have to share more details than you want to. And you definitely don’t have to answer that question.

You don’t have to share why you’re struggling. You don’t have to share every detail of your family building plans. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to.

You also don’t have to answer obnoxious questions, like “Why didn’t you try for kids earlier?”

Telling people you’re going through infertility is not an invitation into your personal medical records and life history. Even through some people may act like it is.

If a friend or family member starts to ask questions you’re not comfortable talking about, say so.

“I’d rather not get into the details. But I appreciate your support.”

Think Twice About Sharing an Anonymous Blog With Close Friends and Family

Coming out to your friends and family doesn’t mean you should or need to share an anonymous blog with them.

There are, in fact, a lot of reasons not to share your fertility blog.

Your blog may be your place to vent and get support from those within the infertility community. If you share the blog link with your mom, what happens when you want to write about an uncomfortable dinner conversation regarding your infertility?

Or what happens when your friend figures out it was she you were talking about four months ago?

(Or your friend assumes it was her you were talking about!)

Now, this is just my personal opinion. Maybe sharing your blog with friends and family is exactly what you’d like to do. Maybe you reserve venting for forums or in person conversations.

But it is something to consider carefully.

Choose an Appropriate Time and Place

Many a Thanksgivings have been ruined for you by an unplanned pregnancy announcement. So perhaps you’re thinking that this Thanksgiving, you’d like to come out about your infertility.

This may or may not be a good plan. So much depends on your family dynamics.

Will your mom be offended she found out at the same moment as your third cousin? Do you have relatives who you know are going to make inappropriate comments?

Also, be prepared that whenever you share, the people present will probably want to ask you questions or fish for more details.

Make sure you’re in a place where you’ll feel comfortable sharing or setting boundaries on what you’d rather not share. And make sure there will be time for thoughtful conversation.

Sending an Email Is Acceptable

Sometimes, it’s just easier to write something down and send it than share it face to face. This is true when sharing with one person or with many

One down side of this: you may feel anxious waiting for them to reply.

If you’re anxious about waiting for a reply, you can text or call the person you’re writing to, and let them know you’re sending a sensitive email you’d like them to read as soon as possible.

You can also let them know in your email that you want a reply or phone call soon after they read. It’s okay to ask for that.

Social Media May or May Not Be the Best Way to Share

Social media may be a good way to come out to a large group of your connections, but not the best way to come out to close friends and family.

For one, they may not see your post. Facebook doesn’t show every post to every one of your friends, and this isn’t one you want them to miss.

Second, you may not want your entire social network to know – especially if your social network includes coworkers or your boss.

On the other hand, if you’ve already shared with those closest to you, and you’re ready to “go big,” social media may be a good way to shout out your no-shame approach to infertility.

If you’re considering crowd funding for infertility, announcing your struggles on social media is practically necessary if you want to be successful at fundraising.

This is one of the possible pitfalls of crowd funding… but it can work for you, too.

Be Prepared for Them to Say All the Wrong Things

They don’t mean it. Really, they don’t.

But odds are, when you first open up about your infertility, your friend or family member is going to say something that sounds (or is) insensitive.

“At least it’s not cancer!”

“I know someone who got pregnant once they tried to adopt. You should try adopting.”

“You’re lucky you don’t have kids, trust me!”

Believe it or not, people fall back on these common statements because 1) they don’t know what else to say, and 2) they want to say something… and this is the first thing that comes to mind.

The basic instinct of most people when faced with another person’s pain is to get rid of the pain. They can’t handle your pain, so they try to dismiss it or give you a quick and easy solution so they can feel they are helping.

If and when they say these things, it doesn’t mean that you made a mistake in telling them. But it does mean you will probably need to educate them on what not to say.

You may want to email them these articles:

Be Prepared to Tell Them How They Can Help

“How can I help?”

This is the best response you can hope for when sharing with a friend or family member.

The best thing for you to do is give them a way to help you.

Think of how you might answer this ahead of time.

Maybe you just want someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, when things are tough. Tell them that.

Maybe you need someone to watch your kids when you go to the fertility clinic. Ask them.

Maybe you’re trying to raise funds to pay for your treatments. Carefully consider asking if they’d be willing to help.

Don’t be afraid to share what kinds of support you can use.

You can also share with them this article:

Coming out about your fertility challenges isn’t easy, but it can be a great relief to no longer be keeping your struggles a secret.

Also know that when you talk about infertility, you are advocating for others in the infertility community.

The more people there are talking about infertility, the less shame there will be surrounding the issue.

That's not only good for you -- it's good for everyone.

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