‘Fertility isn’t funny’: Why you shouldn’t pretend to be pregnant on April Fools’ Day
But the joke isn’t funny for people who can’t get pregnant.
“I had two fake pregnancy announcements on my feed today. I was like, ‘Seriously?'” Vidya Ledsham told Global News. She works as a volunteer at Fertility Matters Canada, and she and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for nearly seven years.
According to Statistics Canada, roughly 16 per cent of couples — or one in six couples — in Canada experience infertility, and it’s a condition that can take a serious mental toll.
“When you’re facing infertility, pregnancy announcements are difficult. Even when they’re coming from people you love and they’re true pregnancy announcements,” Ledsham told Global News.
“You’re happy for the people who get to expand their families, but you’re struggling with that happiness because you’re so sad for yourself.”
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For Ledsham, seeing a pregnancy April Fools’ prank on social media sets off an emotional roller-coaster.
“When other people get to announce their pregnancy, you [wonder], ‘When will I?’ Then to have someone joke about it, you deal with all of these emotions only to find out it’s a joke,” said Ledsham.
“It’s such a flippant comment for some people, but it’s not [always] easy to get pregnant.”
READ MORE: How can couples handle infertility?
It took Ledsham and her husband two years to conceive their son, and they’ve been trying to conceive again for the past five years.
“It was much harder before I had [my son]. I didn’t deal with it well,” said Ledsham. “It was very taxing on my marriage… Our marriage was difficult because we weren’t being totally honest about how we were feeling and it was creating disparity between us.”
Ledsham felt completely isolated during this time.
“You find yourself closing off from people,” she said. “Your [friends] are talking very candidly about… having a family, and then they do it and you’re left behind,” she said.
WATCH (Oct. 30, 2018): Women should wait a year before getting pregnant again — study
Jokes about getting pregnant can make those struggling with infertility feel abnormal and like a failure, says Erica Berman, a psychotherapist who specializes in helping clients cope with infertility and pregnancy loss.
“People will say that they feel defective, and there’s a lot of shame around it,” said Berman. “We often throw around things related to fertility, making light of it, [but] fertility isn’t funny. If you want to get pregnant and you’re able to successfully and you have a child, it’s a huge deal. It’s a miracle.”
According to Berman, infertility can be just as distressing and disruptive to people’s lives as things like a cancer diagnosis or divorce.
“[But] on top of being just as traumatic, it’s not recognized by the wider culture so people are often treated insensitively. It’s not life-threatening, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not devastating,” she added.
Everyone’s experience with infertility is different, but there are some tools you can use the next time you see a pregnancy prank on your feed.
Remember, you can only really understand infertility if you experience it yourself
If you’re getting frustrated by the pregnancy pranks popping up on your feed, try to remember that your friend probably doesn’t understand what it’s like to struggle with infertility.
“I try to remind my clients that people [usually] aren’t trying to be malicious,” said Berman.
“The unfortunate reality is that most people won’t be able to grasp the emotional implications of infertility unless they have personally been through it themselves.”
WATCH (Oct. 11, 2018): Women share experiences for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
Try to see your body in a different light
Infertility is especially difficult because it can take aim at your understanding of what it means to be human.
“It’s something that’s seen as fundamental to who we are: we’re mammals and we need to be able to reproduce,” said Berman. “It can be particularly devastating when others have either an easy time conceiving and make light of that without appreciating how fortunate they are or, even worse, when people have an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. It’s just a reminder of how unfair it is.”
Ledsham does CrossFit, an exercise program, as a means of making herself feel better about her body.
“You feel like your body is failing you all the time, and exercise is a way to see your body in a more positive light so you’re looking at it for what it can do for you and not what it can’t do for you,” said Ledsham.
Talk about it
Know that any jokes about fertility are probably coming from a lack of awareness.
“It’s actually mind-boggling how little people know about infertility. There’s just this general assumption that if you want to get pregnant, you can — you just have to have unprotected sex,” Berman said.
However, you don’t need to tell people about it if you’re not comfortable — it’s really up to you.
WATCH (Jan. 18, 2018): Women are taking multiple pregnancy tests, even though they are pregnant — here’s why
For Ledsham, infertility felt like a taboo topic that no one wanted to talk about because no one around her was experiencing it.
“Unless you’ve gone through infertility treatments or faced infertility, you don’t understand it. So you’re walking around your life and nobody understands what you’re going through, and that’s really lonely and isolating,” said Ledsham.
However, Ledsham found that this wasn’t true. Once she started being open about her infertility struggles, she discovered a community of other people with the same experiences.
“If it’s affecting one in six couples then there are people you know who are going through it who might not be talking about it as well. Being more open about what you’re going through, you might be surprised by the kind of support you find from people you know really well and love,” Ledsham said.
“If you don’t have people to talk to who have experienced it, reach out and find those people through support groups. Through that experience, you’ll find that you’re not alone, even though you feel alone.”
Prepare a response for if/when someone asks you about your baby plan
“It is never OK to ask a woman what’s going on in her womb or what she intends to do with her womb. It’s nobody else’s business,” said Berman.
But it is common, and, in Berman’s view, it’s better if you have a response at the ready.
“Don’t wait until you’re in the moment. Have a comeback you’re comfortable with. One of my favourite ones is to be honest so that we can start to talk about infertility more,” said Berman.
“But if [you] aren’t comfortable coming out with the truth, you could say that’s private information or… that it’s none of their business or that they should never ask a woman that. All of those are, frankly, true.”
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.