How to navigate uncomfortable questions on your infertility journey
When you’re trying to conceive, it can be challenging navigating various social situations, whether it’s an office party, a family gathering or a friend’s baby shower. You might feel like your boundaries are constantly being pushed.
While your inner voice may be screaming “I SO don’t want to go to that baby shower!”—you ignore it and find yourself politely saying yes to the RSVP.
Your heart sinks as you imagine strategically avoiding all the awkward personal questions about when you’re going to have kids. You’d love to relax this weekend but instead you’ll be rushing around buying another gift for someone else’s baby and feeling exhausted by the thought of holding back your emotional pain.
Sure, some parties are fun and you’re happy to celebrate the occasion. But which events are you going to because you feel bad saying no? And which are you going to because you’re excited to say yes?
Which projects at work are you eager to take on at work? And which ones are causing you health-compromising stress?
In other words, which yes’s and which no’s are truly in alignment with your boundaries?
Boundaries aren’t just important for your mental health and overall life balance. Healthy boundaries are a sign of a healthy liver. (When I say liver, I mean the liver energetic system from a Chinese medicine perspective, not literally the the liver itself.)
Liver health is vital when it comes to your fertility. My acupuncturist friends and I have a little joke that goes, “All roads lead back to the liver.”
In other words, when the liver is unhappy, every other system will be, too. When the liver is happy, everything else begins to run smoothly.
In Chinese medicine, each organ system has its own spiritual, emotional and mental responsibilities. One of the primary duties of the liver is to maintain healthy boundaries.
Let’s face it: Most women have a tough time saying no. And what happens when you don’t express your true inner urge to say ‘no, thanks’? You might grow resentful. Or maybe you feel overextended and exhausted. Or maybe you get angry with yourself because you feel you don’t deserve to honor how you truly feel.
Any one of these has the potential to disrupt the flow of liver energy.
The liver energy system, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, is responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle, balancing hormones and circulating blood to the uterus. An upset liver will take a toll on all other systems by weakening your digestion, disrupting sleep and hormones, compromising your immune function and taxing your adrenals.
Expressing healthy boundaries feels good. It might take a little getting used to, like using a new muscle. But if you release the need to feel guilt and embrace how good it feels to be authentic and true to yourself, you can enjoy how empowering it feels to be in control of your life and love yourself enough to listen to and honor your inner voice.
So do your liver a favor and say no (or yes!) only when you really want to.
Sample Polite Boundary-Setting Scripts
Here are a few scripts you can use to help politely set boundaries for different situations:
Your boss or co-worker wants you to take on too much of a load...
"Wow, that's an interesting project. I'm really busy with the XYZ project at the moment, so let me know if you want me to re-prioritize."
You’re invited to a party that you don’t want to go to...
"That sounds like fun and I appreciate the invite, but I can't make it this time. That week is already packed for me."
You’re pressured into helping organize an event that will over-extend you...
"I know I'm going to disappoint you, but I've decided I can’t help out this time because I fear I'll end up feeling resentful. Is there any way to get some of the others to step up?"
When someone asks you why haven’t had kids yet or anything related to TTC...
If you don’t want to be open about your fertility struggles:
“When we’re ready.” Then change the subject.
“We’re still practicing.” Then change the subject.
“About 9 months after conception.” Then change the subject.
"I appreciate your interest in me, it's very flattering. But instead of talking about that, I'd like to talk about..."
"That's a great question, but instead of diving too deeply into that, I was hoping we could talk about..."
"I appreciate you asking, but I'm trying not to think about that right now."
If you’re willing to be open:
“You know we’ve been trying and it’s been a difficult journey. While it hasn't come easy, we haven't lost faith and are not quite ready to seek alternative options like surrogacy or adoption.”
What to tell your boss if you have a miscarriage...
“I have to have an unexpected medical procedure that requires a couple days off.” They legally cannot ask what it is.
Telling work about undergoing IVF...
“I’ll be having a number of appointments for medical reasons over the next few weeks and I’m going to do my best to be on time, but there is a possibility that I might be late sometimes. I want to make sure you know that so you can schedule accordingly.”
Healthy Boundary Affirmations:
I have the right to choose how I spend my time.
I enjoy making healthy choices for myself.
I honor my feelings, my energy levels and the needs of my physical, mental and emotional health.
I process my feelings and share them with others when I am ready and comfortable.
I support my health, my feelings, myself.
I enjoy my choice to say no or yes.
I am in alignment with my decisions.
My words are in alignment
I express my boundaries with love and consideration towards others.
I am responsible for my feelings.
I accept that I can’t control others’ reactions.
I give myself permission to be honest with myself.
I give myself permission to have needs/wants/feelings/preferences.
Heidi Brockmyre is an acupuncturist, herbalist and fertility and pregnancy specialist with a background in Chinese medicine.
She has over 10 years of experience helping women grow their families. She's supported hundreds of women in her clinic in San Diego, and thousands of women around the world in her online community.
Heidi focuses on helping women create total fertility wellness by preparing the mind, body, and spirit for fertility and pregnancy through her virtual fertility self-acupressure programs.