National Infertility Awareness Week kicks off Sunday, April 24 and runs through Saturday, April 30. The week is all about raising awareness for infertility, and this year's theme is to #StartAsking. As an adoption consultant, many of the people who come to me ready to adopt have gone through a strenuous infertility process and are ready to explore new ways to grow their families. These people are all too familiar with the difficulty of trying to get friends and family to support them and understand what exactly they are going through.
For this year's NIAW, I want to encourage you, both men and women, to #StartAsking yourselves how you want friends and family to support you during this nontraditional transition into parenthood. Here are some of my tips on how to foster an open communication with those closest to you to avoid painful or awkward questions during your infertility or transition into the adoption process.
From personal experience, I have found that those who try not to keep their friends and family involved in order to avoid any discussion about the issue actually end up getting more questions that are uncomfortable or painful. However, that doesn't mean that every person you meet has a right to know your personal business. Carefully choose the family and friends whose support you most value. At the start of your process, be open and upfront with that group. Explain your situation, how long you have been trying and why you are deciding on your path, whether it is IUI, IVF, surrogacy or adoption to grow your family.
Everyone is going to have his or her own opinion! Regardless of how much you have thought about and planned your journey into parenthood and regardless of how you have managed all the obstacles that lay before you, someone is going to try to come up with a different solution or convince you to take a different path. You will hear a lot of people say "Are you sure?" or "Why don't you just try this first?" or "Why are you giving up?" These are meant to be helpful comments, but can often be stressful and guilt-ridden.
Here are some talking points that will help divert those that want to change your mind:
When you educate friends and family at the start about what is and is not OK to say or do, they will know exactly how to best support you. Be clear and specific with them regarding what you do and don't need from them. Don't expect them to figure that out on their own if they've never been in your shoes. This can be a difficult conversation to have initially, but it is one that they will ultimately appreciate and one that will save you stress, anger and pain down the road to help keep your relationships with your family and friends healthy. Here are some things you can say:
When you #StartAsking yourself how you want to handle your journey, you will be able to plan and avoid unnecessary pain and anger. For National Infertility Awareness Week, start practicing how you want to handle friends and family during your parenting journey. Learn more about NIAW and ways you can raise awareness and help!
Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months. She is also the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared toward families who have gone through infertility.
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