The Family Issue We Don't Talk About Enough, But Should

This was the first article in a new series of personal stories about the challenges of family planning and fertility.

A few years ago I was 35, just married, and ready to have a baby. I’d spent most of my adult life actively trying to avoid pregnancy, and then, poof, it was what I wanted most. I was scared I’d waited too long because of everything I’d ever heard about women and 35 and all that.

I started asking friends and even women I’d just met how they'd gotten pregnant. Once you start getting real about this, it’s amazing what you hear.

I had never assumed the journey to parenthood was easy, though for some friends it was. What surprised me was how hard it had been for so many people I cared about.

Friends who I’d assumed had waited until they were “ready” had actually been trying to have kids for years. I heard about multiple miscarriages, and failed rounds of IUI and IVF. The legal challenges of adoption and the emotional toll of fertility drugs. The discomfort of egg retrieval and the exorbitant expense of it all. Friends told me about awkwardly running into colleagues at fertility clinics. Many women had struggled in their late 20s, a time when I'd assumed this was a lot easier.

The specifics were different but the emotional challenges were very similar. Those who’d struggled to have children had spent months, if not years, in pain. They told me they’d felt ashamed, misunderstood, and alone. They felt afraid to tell people at work why they were gone so often. I heard of feeling sadness every time a pregnancy announcement or ultrasound photo popped up in their Facebook feed. Their marriages got harder.

I wondered how many times, over the years, I’d seen friends and said the wrong thing. Or simply not supported them. Everyone told me how lonely they'd felt, and how even the people in their inner circle often had no idea what to say. Or made the mistake of not saying anything at all.

And no wonder. This topic isn’t talked about enough. And most of us aren't sure how to begin.

So many people were and are in pain and I'd like to do more to help. So, if this inspires you to share a story that we can run on mindbodygreen, please email me: kerry@mindbodygreen. (Here are our submissions guidelines in case they're helpful.)

I know that the decision to have children (or not) can take many forms and raise many questions, and I'm interested in all of them. If you have an essay about adoption, abortion, IVF, IUI, miscarriage, or surrogacy — to name just a few of the paths out there — I'd love to hear from you.

And if you struggle as a new parent, or if you've found ways to bring balance and exercise into your life, I'd love to hear from you, too. I have a new understanding of the challenges this life phase can bring because I had a baby last year.

The more we start talking honestly about family planning, and its physical and emotional challenges, the more we can help people feel a little less alone. And if you're struggling in your fertility journey, please know that I wish I could give you a hug and say the right thing. I'm rooting for you.

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