Sarah Graham Photography
As soon as I got married, the questions came rolling in.
“When are you going to have a baby?”
“How many kids are you going to have?”
“Are you pregnant yet?”
They were everywhere – the nosey parkers who think they’re entitled to the private goings-on of a young woman’s uterus.
And every time they asked, two of my own questions came to mind:
“How do you even know I WANT to have children?” and, perhaps more importantly, “How do you even know I’m ABLE to have children?”
The latter is what prompted me to write a story in this week’s Journal about infertility — a devastating reality for more families than you probably think — roughly one in six Canadian couples.
Those affected quickly learn the ins and outs of the reproductive health system — AHR, IVF, IUI, medications, injections, and so on.
They’re not the ones who need to be educated — it’s the rest of us, said Jocelyn Smith, board president for the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada (IAAC).
“The person who gets pregnant very quickly doesn’t understand what their friend or colleague is going through, because they just don’t get it,” Smith said. “It’s those people who have never been through it, who need the awareness.”
For Beth Janzen and her husband, it took three years, hundreds of dollars, and countless trips to London before they had their son.
“It was hard to see all of my friends getting pregnant, knowing that I couldn’t,” said the 29-year-old. “Some people just don’t know what to say, or they don’t know any better.”
There are no infertility support groups in Sarnia-Lambton, but Smith said it’s as simple as contacting the IAAC for help on how to get one started.
“Our community could definitely use it. This really affects your mental health,” said Janzen, adding that mounting stress and costs have forced the couple to take a break from trying for a second child.
“My husband doesn’t talk about it with his friends. I don’t know how many tears he’s shed in silence behind closed doors.”
Couples who suffer pregnancy and infant loss should not be forgotten, either.
The Canadian Federation for Sexual Health estimates that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and in 2011, Statistics Canada reported 1,810 infant deaths and 2,818 stillbirths.
“It’s a horrible thing to go through,” Smith said.
Plans are currently in the works to launch a peer-led support group in Sarnia through the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network (PAIL) — the first of its kind here.
Even just lending an ear is a good start, said Brittany MacPherson, who tried with her husband for three years before they were finally able to conceive through In vitro fertilization (IVF).
“That’s the biggest thing — just listening,” said the 30-year-old. “And try to understand.”
So next time you have the urge to hound someone with pregnancy questions, try asking how they’re doing instead.
As the old saying goes, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”