Dear Mary: Friends won't butt out of our struggle to have a baby

My husband and I have been trying for children for years. We made a pact a long time ago that if we weren't successful we wouldn't endure fertility treatment and we still hold that rule. Over the years we have tried different natural methods to no avail, as well as a couple of surgical procedures to fix some problems found.

Hearing yet another family member was pregnant yet again used to hurt like hell, but I am now past that, and have sort of resigned myself to the fact I will never have the opportunity to be a mother.

In the past year, my husband and I made the decision to be more open about our struggle to have a baby as people were (rudely) telling us to get a move on with the baby making.

We got sick of not only their intrusion on our relationship, but also their barbed comments about my being more in love with my career than my family, as I have been successful in my career to date.

Telling people helped us to begin with, and family and friends were initially a lot more sensitive.

Now, however, their impatience with us is again showing, with one member of my family falling out with us because we will not go down the route of fertility drugs and see different specialists and endure IVF just to be parents.

Others also call up intermittently with the same suggestions without listening to the fact we have made our minds up.

I think this is actually worse than when we deflected their make-a-baby comments. I feel we are losing some friends over a deeply personal decision.

What do we do to mend these friendships and get them out of our business? I know we have made this mess by sharing our struggle, so we need to move forward and keep them at arm's length from what is essentially a very personal journey for my husband and me.

Mary replies:

While we can control most things in our lives, whether or not we get pregnant when we want to is beyond our control. Some people go down the IVF route, which has roughly a 26 per cent success rate; others, like yourself, get things medically sorted out that are likely to cause infertility and then have no further interventions.

Over the years I have seen countless couples who were unable to have children. I was always struck by the effect that 'well-meaning' family and friends had on them, whether it was continually asking if there was any news on the baby front, or sometimes going as far as to suggest that they knew a good doctor where they could get help.

This was without ever inquiring if there was a problem in the first place. Many tears were shed in the counselling room as a result, and I try as often as possible to remind people to be sensitive to others, and not to pry into something as deeply private as their sex lives and the possibility or otherwise of them procreating. You simply do not know what is going on for other people.

However, your dilemma takes things a step further. To stop the unwanted comments, you took people into your confidence, and this has made things even worse. I'm so glad that you wrote to me, because by having your letter printed you are reaching a very wide readership of about a million, and making your point very well.

Other than that, all you can do is remain true to your original decision and emphasise to friends that this was the right choice for you and your husband. You should also explain how hurt you have been by their interference, and their inability to listen to your point of view. Ask them how they would feel if you were to start telling them how to run their lives, because essentially that is what they are doing.

By highlighting your situation, I believe that you have done a great service to a large number of people with a similar problem, and for that I thank you most sincerely.

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