Buns on the Grill but Not in the Oven: Summertime Infertility Struggles

By Jennifer "Jay" Palumbo — July 10, 2018

4 min read

Some hot dogs, some macaroni salad, and a side of children running around while you’re sweating your brains out from taking hormone injections. Nothing like “band aid tan lines” on your arm from blood draws or the one-piece bathing suit you’re sporting to cover the bruises on your stomach from those daily shots. Oh yeah. Infertility in the summertime. I’ve been there.

This Fourth of July my husband and I were reminiscing about our favorite past Independence Days, and the only one I could remember was the time I knew for sure I was ovulating. I realize that probably sounds super weird to those of you who aren’t trying to make a baby or aren’t a part of the infertility community, but stick with me here. This particular July 4th was back in the day when I thought I was fertile and I was regularly peeing on ovulation prediction kit tests. I used to use the ones that would either give you an empty circle or a happy face. The happy face meant you were ovulating, which come to think of it, was a little like, “Oh yeah… it’s go time.” After trying to conceive for quite some time, that happy face slowly became less salacious and more sarcastic.

One thing I love about winter is that all the big coats hide all the pregnant bellies. When it’s summer, though, you can see just how many pregnant women there are and when you’re knee deep in IVF, these women serve as reminders of what you’re struggling so desperately to achieve. Adding insult to injury is that summertime is ripe with get togethers. It’s sunny and some people (not me) have pools that they invite others over to swim and frolic in. They are also fertile (again, not me), so their children run around in their big backyards (no backyard here) and surround you as if to say, “My parents conceived me on their honeymoon without even trying!” And when these get togethers don’t have children (which is rare), they have people who ask you when you are going to have children to help populate their future BBQs.

Over the years, whether it’s an office party, a family get together, or the holiday season, I’ve written about this a lot. If you’re there with your partner and are of reproductive age, people just can’t help but ask you about the future of your uterus and when you’re going to start growing a baby in it. Don’t ask me why. They simply feel there’s enough room in your business for everyone.

If you love a good hamburger or long for a dip in a pool – don’t deny yourself these possibilities just to avoid the baby question. Infertility makes you miss out on enough things, and summer fun shouldn’t be one them. My advice is to simply talk to your significant other ahead of time and decide how you want to handle the “when are you going to have kids?” topic when it inevitably comes up. By being on the same page before you even get there, you may find you’re able to relax more easily knowing you have a plan and you have each others’ backs. So decide, are you answering questions? Will one of you be the official spokesperson? Will one of you feign a mock coronary to create a distraction?

If you’re not talking about it, will you be honest about why or no? If so, a simple, “We’ve been having infertility issues, so today we’d actually like to take a vacation from talking about it. That’s a lovely sundress by the way. I’ve never seen such a stunning yellow!”

If you don’t want to get into the nitty gritty, might I suggest a reply along the lines of, “That’s on our agenda but certainly not today as it will draw focus from the macaroni salad our host made! Speaking of which, have you had any? It’s delicious!”

If you are all for getting into it, then I say go for it. Make it a teaching moment for the person asking, as in, “Very unfortunately, we’re having difficulty conceiving, which is more common than I even I realized. It’s basically a bit of a sensitive subject for me and probably others like me so probably best to change the topic.”

Just know that once you open the “infertility honest can of worms”, you open yourself up to advice or anecdotes about so-and-so’s sister who did this or that and is now pregnant. That being said, you may also end up opening yourself up to another “one in eight” who went through treatment or is going through treatment at the same time. I remember I was at a function one time and I shared that I was going through IVF and the person I was talking to confided in me that she had just had a miscarriage. That’s one thing that never ceases to amaze me: The more I shared my story, the more I discovered that all of these people, who I wrongly assumed were fertile, healthy, and carefree, actually had their own struggles. It was both an unfortunate yet strangely comforting reminder that I wasn’t alone.

I know if it’s hot outside or you are taking hormone shots, it might be easier to make a snappy or sarcastic comment back to someone who asks the dreaded, “When are you two going to have kids?” but really, I’d recommend resisting if you can. Not only will you probably feel badly about it later, but as annoying and hurtful as it, odds are they sincerely don’t realize what they are asking is painful. Those lucky seven in eight that don’t have to deal with this truly are the “ignorance is bliss” type of people. We were like them once, weren’t we? Need I remind you of the happy face of my ovulation prediction kits?

Another piece of advice I always love to offer is to have OTHER subjects and recent events you’re proud of or happy about in your head to bring up before you go anywhere. If you just went on vacation, saw a movie you enjoyed, heard a joke you peed your pants at, your adorable pet, you got a new app on your phone you love – really, anything you can change the subject to one that reminds you that there are other things in your life besides doctor appointments, cervical mucus, and sperm counts. I don’t care if it’s as simple as, “You guys… have you tried the new Frappuccino at Starbucks? It. Changed. My. Life.” I have a friend who could talk passionately about a recent game of mahjong in a way that would have everyone on the edge of their seat. If it brings you joy, makes you smile, or you enjoy talking about it, work it into a conversation.

Look, infertility issues are not fun but getting together with friends should be. If there’s a way you can put on a bathing suit, kick back for a few hours and try to put all ovary-related matters aside for a few, I recommend it. We all need mental breaks from time to time so I say, prepare, enjoy, and (most importantly) bring Tupperware so you can bring home leftovers (infertility treatment isn’t cheap so might as well have some extra food for the next few days!)