I stood in the middle of our kitchen, hands clenched at my side, tears running down my face. “I just can’t do it anymore!” I sobbed repeatedly to my husband, who looked speechless. It was the end of a long week, and I was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. When yet another problem piled on top of the already-daunting infertility heap that day, I cracked. 

I don’t crack. It’s not my M.O. Friends describe me as positive, calm, and even-tempered. While I’ve been through other life things- some very hard- I actually found them easier to navigate than infertility because I knew the power to change my circumstances was within my control. With infertility, the majority of the situation is completely out of my control. 

My husband and I started trying to have a baby when I was almost 37. With every month that passed, I became increasingly disappointed to see a straight line instead of a plus sign on the pregnancy test. We were referred to a fertility clinic, where blood tests and ultrasounds showed I had a diminished ovarian reserve. My doctor told us getting pregnant naturally would be tough, so we began IUI (intrauterine insemination).

What I didn’t predict about infertility is how much it would impact my relationships with literally everyone in my life. First, I am so fortunate to have an amazing partner, a close-knit family, and wonderfully supportive girlfriends and coworkers. However, no matter how great your people are, chances are good about 95% of them have not walked this path, and therefore can’t understand the experience you’re going through.

While it’s impossible to keep infertility from affecting (read: causing problems) in your relationships, here are three ways I’ve found to deal:


This one touches all of your relationships- from your boss to your best friend to your husband. Again, the majority of people in your life will not understand what you need when you’re undergoing fertility treatments—unless you communicate. I chose to be open about treatment at work, with my friends, and even on social media. By sharing what was going on in my life, I was able to ask for and receive support, be it a card from a friend or understanding from my employer about missing work for medical procedures. The unexpected benefit has been that transparency and authenticity have made my relationships even stronger and deeper.

With my husband, I initially expected him to just “get it” when I was sad. As my therapist reminded me, no one—not even my partner—is a mind-reader. If I need or want something from him, I have to speak up. Sometimes nothing new or of significance has happened, but I’ll be having a bad day while he is having a good one. It’s not always obvious to him why I’m in a funk, so I have to explain how I’m feeling and what kind of support from him would help. Sometimes that looks like asking for time alone, sometimes that looks like talking about it, and sometimes that looks like asking him to distract me and take my mind off things.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

When you’re on fertility medications, you’re really not yourself. I can only speak to being on drugs like Clomid, Letrozole, and Ovidrel as part of the IUI process, but my friends undergoing IVF cycles assure me it gets much worse as you stab yourself in the abdomen multiple times a day with more intense cocktails. Clomid made me extremely moody, irritable, and ready to snap at anyone, for anything, at any minute. As you can imagine, this has not been great for my relationships, particularly with my husband. 

I feel guilty that he has taken the brunt of my emotional outbursts, although I know he understands I’m not operating with a normal hormonal balance. When I’ve stepped out of line, I apologize as soon as I can. It doesn’t always excuse my behavior, but I ask him to cut me a little slack until I’m in a more stable emotional place. I also have to cut myself some slack as well when I act irrationally or say something I regret. When you read the science of how fertility drugs affect your body, it’s pretty clear sometimes it’s the Clomid talking—not your real self.

Set Boundaries

This one has really come into play with my family, friendships, and work. When you’re going through infertility treatments, setting and enforcing boundaries is key. A few women in my life, both family members and friends, are currently pregnant. I love them and am wholeheartedly happy for them, but I recently declined a baby shower invite. I knew it wouldn’t be healthy for me to attend, so I drew that line and communicated with my friend who completely understood.

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At work, I’ve always been a go-getter and a little too preoccupied with minor details of projects that I want to be “perfect.” Lately, I’ve learned going through infertility is not the time to push myself to take on new work or obsess over email chains that don’t directly involve me. It’s hard for me to set aside my perfectionist tendencies and set boundaries like leaving work early for an acupuncture appointment or taking the day off after an HSG. But, I know this is one phase in my entire big-picture career and putting myself and my health first is critical and necessary.

People told me infertility would affect my relationships, but I really didn’t have an idea of how it would come to play out in my life. I’ve “cracked” a couple of times around girlfriends, my sister, my husband, and even at work. I know it’s okay. It’s indescribably difficult trying for something that is so easily attainable for many others under normal circumstances and yet completely out of your control. It can break you down. 

But, I’ve also learned that we are strongest at the broken places- they toughen us and offer us a chance to deepen our relationships. I am trying to continually communicate where I am and how people in my life can help support me. I try to cut myself some slack and ask them to do the same. I set boundaries that allow me to take the best possible physical and mental care of myself so I can be present with others.

Infertility is a difficult road, but I’ve learned you don’t have to travel it alone— supportive relationships can really make all the difference.

Jenna Bennett Williams is a 37-year-old marketing professional living in Minneapolis who has been trying to conceive with her husband for one year. She has a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve and has been undergoing fertility treatments. Jenna loves hanging out with her husband, dog, and cat and is obsessed with coffee, yoga, and ice cream. She hates needles but is gradually getting over her phobia. You can visit her blog at www.jennabennettwilliams.com and follow her on Instagram @jennabennettwilliams.