‘How are your parents coping?’…. this may seem like a ridiculous question to ask at a time when you are feeling so low, but it’s important that your parents have an outlet for their own anguish as you embark on your fertility journey.
Last week, over a cup of coffee with my mum, we started talking about how proud she is to be a grandmother. She is doting, over generous, wonderful and way too lenient with her granddaughters! She drops everything the moment they call and laughs and laughs when she’s around them. “They light up my life”, she says. “I’d do anything for them”.
Now I’m sure these declarations of love echo all over the world, as grandparents gaze at their beloved grandchildren, but knowing that my mum kept her aching for grandchildren to herself, as she supported me through four years of fertility treatment, makes me want to cry with both sadness and joy.
During my four years of TTC, my mum gave me strength, courage and hope, (as she continues to do so).
She let me sob into her nook, she let me talk for hours, she let me just be. She never broke down in tears (in front of me), she never said she felt devastated (in front of me). She was my backbone, my rock. But looking back, not once did I ask her how she was feeling. How broken was she when my IVF didn’t work and she didn’t get the grandchild she was longing for? I didn’t ask how she was dealing with seeing friends of hers become grandparents? Did she think the day would ever arrive when she would hold her grandchild in her arms?
Not once did I think of her heartache, I was too wrapped up in my own emotional pain.
Had she actually answered and broken down in tears, I think I may actually have felt anger…after all, she has children. It was me who faced the prospect of never becoming a mother. I just wish she had had some support. After all, to comfort someone, to support them and allow them to download their feelings onto you, you in turn need someone to comfort you, to give you strength.
It can be very hard for the parents of men and women going through IVF.
For a mother of a daughter going through IVF, knowing who to share your sadness and disappointment with is difficult. When my IVF failed, I wanted to talk only to other women who had failed IVF as they knew how I was feeling. I’ve spoken before about the lack of support 11 years ago compared to the online world that we live in today; Facebook didn’t exist back then, so I didn’t have the wonderful online communities that exist today; I just had the nurses at the clinic and my husband and family for strength. My mum had no one to turn to; she had to shelve her grief and be strong for me.
Today, there is so much support for parents of ‘IVFers’
Gransnet has a forum focused on IVF and it is full of (hopefully) soon to be grandmothers all talking to each other. As I read through the conversations of love and support, I couldn’t help but feel sad for my mum. She could have done with this kind of backup and encouragement when my treatment kept failing.
Knowing what to say to your son or daughter during this tough time can be very difficult too
Grandparents.com is another great website that includes some excellent dos & don’ts for grandparents when talking to their children:
DO: Educate yourself
Your child may not have the time or energy to discuss fertility treatment in depth. Plus, talking about it can be tricky if you didn’t grow up spouting terms such as embryo transfer and intrauterine insemination. “It’s like traveling in a foreign country and not knowing the language. And it’s tough to know how to approach a topic with which you’re unfamiliar,” says Sharon Covington, director of psychological support services for the Shady Grove Reproductive Science Centers of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.
DON’T: Interrogate your child
You may be itching to ask: How much does treatment cost? What are the odds of success? Will you have triplets? Are you sure this is the best treatment? How long will it take? Going overboard and asking questions your child may not have answers to — and be wondering about herself — may lead her to shut you out completely. Instead say, ‘You don’t have to tell me if it’s not something you want to discuss,'” suggests Naree Viner, 40, a Los Angeles fertility patient. “I assure my parents that this is our top priority as a couple… and to trust that when there’s good news, we’ll let them know!”
The advice given by these experts is spot on
If your parents educate themselves about the treatment you are having and understand what you do and don’t want to talk about, it saves you having awkward conversations.
Guide your parents towards online communities that can support them and offer them an outlet for their own anguish.
Use the precious time you have with them to cuddle, cry, shout, scream, laugh and just be.