The Top Ten Things I Learned About Infertility
By Susan Bisno Massel
Published in Resolve for the journey and beyond, Summer 2013
After three years, I am stepping aside as the leader of the Chicago Northside Fertility Support Group—a group I deliberately called a Fertility Support Group (vs. Infertility) to focus on the positive side of this journey.
I looked into being a volunteer host after my son was born because I felt like a bit of a fraud when I hung out with other new moms. To them, I was just another lady with a baby. But, of course, there is so much more to our story than that. I see now that leading the group was a way for me to support other women struggling with infertility and also a way for me to find closure and move on to the next stage in my life. For me, after a five year struggle, nine months wasn’t nearly long enough to move from infertility to motherhood. Having a child doesn’t erase infertility; much as arriving at a destination doesn’t eliminate the journey.
In saying goodbye to the women in our group, I put together this Top Ten List, to share what we all know, but sometimes can’t find the words to say. Our group will continue; a new host will guide the group to keep listening, laughing, and traveling this road. Good luck, everyone. If you’ve had success and have your miracle child, or if you are still on your journey, think about volunteering as a RESOLVE leader. It may be just what you need to help others, and in the end, help yourself too.
Top Ten Things I Learned About Infertility (from a retiring volunteer support group leader)
- Infertility is linear...you don’t know how you’re going feel about any treatment or any part of it until you get there. One minute you may say “no way” to IVF, and then you find yourself giving yourself shots and counting follicles!
- Men (husbands/partners) do care, and they will be great fathers. But, in my experience, I’ve noticed that their highs are not as high nor are their lows as low on the path to parenthood. Most of them are able to picture life without children without tears coming to their eyes and can easily see how life with more money and no children can be a viable version of a happy ending. I don’t completely buy the conventional explanation of “it’s not happening to their body.” I think it’s more that many of them are Cubs fans and are used to painful disappointment for the team they love.
- There’s no dipping your toe into the infertility world. You’re either underwater or by the side of the pool.
- You cannot understand this until you go through it. Period.
- Pick a few people to talk to this about, and then forgive them if they ask you how it’s going when you don’t want to talk about it. Letting people in and talking about this pain can really ease the burden, but once they’re in, they’re in -- no two ways about it.
- Baby showers, baby pictures, hearing moms complain about their kids -- these are all things that can, and probably should, be removed from your life for the time being.
- Jealousy and intense dislike (I intensely dislike the word hate) are a natural part of the human rainbow of emotions. Feel them, forgive yourself, and move on.
- It’s likely that not all relationships in your life will survive infertility. Friends who get pregnant while you can’t may be casualties. It happens.
- Have talking points when you go to Christmas dinner....or just out for coffee. When people ask if you have kids or if you plan to, have something ready to say, so you don’t have to think on your feet. Mine were: “It doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for us.” That seemed to make people feel a little bad for asking (which I have to admit I wanted) and let folks know we’d tried, which, for some reason, I also wanted.
- Nothing stresses a woman out more than being told to relax. This is not your fault.
Susan Bisno Massel lives in Chicago with her husband and son. She works in public relations for the City of Chicago and also volunteered for RESOLVE by leading a support group for three years.
This section of the RESOLVE website is made possible in part by support from Weill Cornell Medicine.