In 2014, I stumble-scrolled onto the kind of social media post guaranteed to send me into a spiral of sadness: a pregnancy announcement from one of my cousins. Within weeks, three more cousins (all siblings of each other!) followed suit with announcements of their own, prompting me into a spiral so bad I needed to take a social media detox. It was factually incredible that all 4 siblings were expecting at the same time, but as much as I wanted to be happy for them, all I could feel was uncontrollable jealousy. In hindsight, I shudder to think of how envious I was, but it’s a common enough emotion among women struggling with infertility that I feel it is worthy of naming. June is Infertility Awareness Month, and there are a few things you should know about infertility.

Infertility is unfair

I was older than all my pregnant cousins (I’d even changed the youngest one’s diapers). I had a loving spouse, a college degree, a stable career, and generally had my life together. Why was it happening for them, but not for me? It felt so unfair. But fairness is not exactly one of the hallmarks of infertility. 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility, and it doesn’t choose its victims based on their worthiness as parents or their life circumstances.

It’s not that I couldn’t be happy for my cousins, or any of the other pregnant people that seemed to be on every corner when I wasn’t getting pregnant month after month of trying everything; it was that I was so incredibly sad for myself.

Infertility is expensive

My health insurance policy said it covered fertility services, with a long string of asterisks behind it. Turns out it covered diagnosis (a doctor saying yes, you are infertile and here is why), but after that, we were on our own. We were, of course, in a position of incredible privilege to even be considering IVF, and were told we were excellent candidates with a good chance of success, but we still had to put off buying a house by a year to do our one IVF cycle – most couples require multiple rounds before achieving pregnancy.

With IVF and other assistive reproductive technologies facing increased scrutiny in the Texas legislature, as well as the inherent danger of a high-risk pregnancy in a state that women’s healthcare providers are fleeing in alarming numbers, many Texas couples are questioning whether the juice is worth the squeeze (unintentional male factor IVF joke).

Infertility is slow

I used to think I was lucky that I never got pregnant with any of my exes – some of whom I was more careful with than others. Because I was a honeymoon baby and my family history (case in point – the 4 cousins pregnant at the same time) didn’t suggest any reason I might experience infertility, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. It wasn’t until we’d already been trying for a year that my OB agreed to refer me to a fertility specialist… and even that took some serious goading/advocating on my part. That year of living from 28-day cycle to cycle was hands down the slowest year of my life.

When I received my diagnosis (yes, I was the problem, so I got to add guilt to my menu of infertility emotions), I found out my condition doesn’t typically get diagnosed until 12 YEARS after the onset of symptoms. While I’d suspected problems going all the way back to my teens, I’d either ignored them, or brought them up with my doctors only to have my concerns dismissed as “common,” as though common and normal were the same thing. Even after my diagnosis, there were still months and months of waiting ahead, because a clinic can only handle so many IVF patients at a time.

In 2015, after one IVF cycle and a single frozen embryo transfer, we got our first positive pregnancy test. A week later, we got the shock our lives when we saw two little flickering heartbeats on the monitor and were told we’d be welcoming identical twins in 8 months (that turned out to be 7). My infertility story started as a mystery, but became a thriller with a happy ending. So many of the 1 in 8 don’t.

Infertility loves company

Because infertility affects so many people, chances are your friends and family are among them, and you may be wondering what you can do to help. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts from someone who’s been there and shared rides with many people on the same emotional roller coaster.

DON’T try to give them advice on how to conceive (unless you happen to be a reproductive endocrinologist qualified to dispense such advice). Chances are they’ve already tried everything and it hasn’t worked for them, and hearing “just relax” for the 1000th time is just going to make them want to punch something (it might be you, especially if they’re on Lupron).

DO listen. Infertility is a process that has a weird way of consuming all your thoughts and it’s frustrating when it’s all you can think about, but no one wants to talk about it. The more open conversations we have with each other, the more we can lessen the stigma behind infertility. And if they want a chance to think and talk about something (anything!) else for a change, offer up an alternative activity. I saw the same funny movie in the theater three times in the neverending year when I needed to get out of the spiral of sadness.

DON’T tell them they can always adopt. They are already aware that there are children in foster care and there are babies waiting to be born to parents who can’t raise them. Adoption and fostering, while noble and valid paths to parenting, are not simple prospects that replace the idea of bearing and raising your own children. And don’t tell us we can borrow yours any time, either. We don’t want your kids. We want our own.

DO offer to help by tagging along for an appointment or bringing food before or after a big procedure. REs offices run notoriously late for appointments, which are frequent, and there is only so much internet one can consume in a waiting room before going crazy. In the days leading up to my egg retrieval, I was so sick and uncomfortable that just going to the door to meet the Favor guy was a feat. I’d have given anything to have someone bring me food while my husband was at work (even though he had to hold back my hair while I threw it up later).

DON’T be offended if we decline the invitation to your baby shower or gender reveal party. It’s not that we’re not happy for you, we just want to be in your shoes (swollen feet and all!) and these events are highly triggering. DO invite us anyway, because we don’t want to be excluded just because of our infertility, and we already know all the best gifts to get for you.

Kelly I. Hitchcock
Kelly I. Hitchcock is a literary fiction author, humorist, and poet in the Austin, Texas area. She is the author of three books and has published poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works all over the country. Raised by a single father in the small town of Buffalo, Missouri, Kelly has fond memories of her poor rural upbringing in the Ozarks that strongly influence her writing and way of life. She’s a graduate of Missouri State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. She has six-year-old identical twins and a full-time job, so writing and picking up LEGO are the only other things she can devote herself to. You can find all Kelly's work at


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