How to Navigate Your Relationships When Facing Infertility
A conversation with Andrea Syrtash, the Founder of Pregnantish.
Andrea Syrtash, author, TV personality, and relationship expert recently joined me on The Egg Whisperer Show to share the news about her new web magazine, Pregnantish. Syrtash has spent seven years going through infertility. At the end of January 2017, she decided to share her experience on Facebook and admits it was one of the most vulnerable steps she ever took.
“I’m writing this not to overshare but because I know many of you who are reading this are going through infertility or know someone who is,” she wrote. “You’re not alone. I’ve had so many shots that my stomach is black and blue, but it’s my heart that is the most bruised. Don’t judge a Facebook by its cover.”
The response to her emotional vulnerability relieved some of her pain. It also made her see that there are so few resources available to support the emotional and psychological aspects of the infertility journey. “The content out there is largely medical and clinical, which is very important,” she told me. “But there’s a whole other side of this process. Infertility is as much a relationship issue as a medical one.” The experience motivated her to launch her lifestyle platform, which aims to support singles, couples, and the LGBTQ community in managing the overwhelming process of infertility by removing the taboo and starting an honest and open conversation.
In the beginning, you might feel really rocked and triggered by what people say to you. The best thing to say to someone struggling with infertility is: LISTEN.
EW: How did you learn that getting pregnant may be challenging for you?
AS: When I first got my period, my doctor told me that I might face infertility. I was diagnosed with endometriosis and spent time in the hospital. So when we got married, I said to my husband that getting pregnant may be an issue. I joke now that I said, “It might take us a year, and we should time sex to have a summer baby.” It was so-so ridiculous. In reality, I’ve gone through 18 treatments including a laparotomy to have a massive fibroid tumor removed, and I’ve lost several pregnancies.
EW: How did infertility affect your relationship?
AS: I always say it’s a deep relationship issue even with our bodies and ourselves. It’s been soul crushing. For me, I’d say my relationship with my husband has strengthened because we’ve had open communication through it, but we’ve certainly hit walls where we haven’t felt aligned. Anytime you’re in a relationship going through infertility, you’re not always going to be on the same page, and just like any issue in a partnership, you have to communicate and negotiate.
EW: What’s the best advice you have for couples going through this?
AS: I tell couples that you should not be each other’s primary support. Because it’s so hard to deal with infertility on your own, whether you’re a man or a woman, you can’t be each other’s only outlet. We’ve had to say to one another “I can’t support you right now. I’m crushed. I have nothing in me to give to you to make you feel better.” Don’t make unilateral decisions without talking to your partner first. You can tell your best friend because you need an outlet and that’s fine, but when it comes to big family announcements, you have to go in there together.
EW: How did you handle these conversations with your family?
AS: Our families are supportive and amazing, but early on they didn’t know how to talk to us, and we had to teach them. In the beginning, you might feel rocked and triggered by what people say to you. The best thing to say to someone struggling with infertility is: LISTEN.
Infertility is not something that everyone wants to discuss at the holiday dinner table. But it’s amazing how many times it will come up once people know, and that’s the tricky part. Because you’re going to have to update people all the time once you’ve shared it, it’s crucial to pick trusting confidants in your family and among your friends.
Remember, that you can set the boundary. Let people know that you don’t always want to talk about it, but you will when you have news to share, and you’ll be sure to ask for help when you need it. This way you’re steering the conversation instead of dreading seeing people because you don’t want to talk about it. The two sentences you can say when you’re feeling put on the spot are:
1. I don’t always want to talk about it.
2. I’ll let you know when I need help.
EW: What about for single people?
AS: If you ’re single and dating, people will say, “Hey, when are you getting married? Or “Have you thought about having children?” We need to make it clear that these are inappropriate questions, especially in public, to pose to anybody. It’s hard not to take it personally, but you can set boundaries in all your relationships, and you can teach people how to talk to you.
EW: When do you think a woman who has frozen her eggs can tell her boyfriend?
AS: I wouldn’t say it on date one, like “Hey, I just froze 18 eggs. What’s your name?” If you see the big picture with someone, you’re going start having conversations about parenting. I think at that point; it’s important to talk about fertility and frozen eggs. Studies have shown that egg freezing may improve your dating life because it takes the pressure off. You can look at the menu on your first date and think about what you want for dinner rather than if you can marry and have kids with this person right away.
EW: What would you say is Pregnantish’s most important message about relationships and infertility?
You’re not alone. I’m with you. I get you. We all need to practice self-care. We put way too much pressure on ourselves. You don’t need to know the when, the how, or the who. You need to know that you’ll be a parent and I believe we’ll all get there.”
You can also catch more of me and topics like this through the Egg Whisperer Show. The episodes are live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter and on Wednesdays at 7 PM PST. Subscribe to the podcast too!