top of page

Updated: Jun 25

As featured in Motherly magazine.

During my infertility journey, I dreaded baby showers. I was happy for my friends, and I wanted to celebrate with them. Afterall, a baby shower is meant to be a joyous occasion.

But dealing with infertility, baby showers always meant one thing: being surrounded by excited squeals and endless reminders of the one thing I didn’t have and desperately wanted. The one thing I was fighting so hard for. It was excruciating.

I found that it depended on what I was going through at the time or where I was at with my treatment. A week before one friend’s baby shower, we lost our baby. I couldn’t go.

I could barely get through the day without sobbing, let alone attempt to attend someone else’s baby shower. I had to put myself first. When I spoke to my friend about it, she understood. In her words, “Why on earth would you put yourself through that?!”

With my very good friends, I often did attend. Their baby showers were intimate, understated and beautiful. They would also check in with me before and after to make sure that I was OK. But outside of those close friends, I did not attend.

I often felt guilty and selfish. Why couldn’t I put my feelings aside and be happy for them? Why did I cry before and after? Why did I often feel the sharp sting of jealously?

From talking to other women dealing with infertility, I discovered that it’s extremely common to get upset, and often jealous, about others’ baby showers. If your infertility journey makes it hard for you to attend baby showers, you are not alone—and it is OK.

How to manage baby showers when dealing with infertility

1. Know that your feelings are valid

Infertility is hard. You’re going through something incredibly difficult, emotional and all-consuming. It’s OK to feel upset.

2. Know that it’s OK not to go

If you are not close to the person, I doubt they will miss you. They’ll have plenty of other friends, family and work colleagues there to celebrate with them. And if you are close to them, as a good friend, they should understand.

3. Speak to your friend

If you decide not to go, speak to your friend—or send a text message if you’re not very close to them—about why you’re not coming. Most people will understand. Most will emphasize. You can also send along a gift with someone else who may be attending.

4. If you decide to go, have a plan

  • Is there a friend attending who knows what you are going through? Stay close to them.

  • Allow yourself to have a good cry before and after.

  • Plan a self-care day for yourself if you can, preferably the very next day. Whether that’s getting a massage or going for a long walk—do whatever makes you feel good.

  • Drive yourself. This way, you can leave at any time you need to without getting stuck there.

  • Give yourself a job. Sometimes being trapped in the kitchen making endless cups of tea or passing food around can be a life saver. A job can keep you distracted and can help the time go by faster.

Dealing with infertility is hard. It’s all consuming. It’s unfair. So if you are feeling upset or jealous about baby showers, know that it is OK. Your feelings are valid. Be kind to yourself, because that’s what you need to surround you during such a difficult time.

  • Writer's pictureKirsten McLennan

An extract from Chapter 2 of my debut book 'This is Infertility' where I talk candidly about IVF and what it means to me.

There’s no sugar coating it, IVF is hard. It can be gruelling and demanding. It can take multiple cycles, sometimes years, for it to work. You often need to be in it for the long haul. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” one friend had warned me early on.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you’ll get success within one or two transfer cycles. But I doubt you’ll feel lucky at the time. Relieved maybe but not lucky. If you’re undertaking IVF, you have most likely fought infertility for a while. So, whether your treatment takes you a couple of months or several years, it can all be incredibly difficult.

Chances are most people know someone who is going through fertility treatment: a friend, family member or work colleague. Today, it’s estimated that one in six couples worldwide battle infertility. One in six! According to the World Health Organisation, “Infertility is a disease” and “…between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals have infertility globally”.

And yet, it’s often a silent heartbreak. Silence is perhaps one of the reasons that research has shown women dealing with infertility suffer high depression and anxiety levels. One study by Kristin L. Rooney and Alice D. Domar showed that infertile women experience psychological symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, at the same level as cancer and cardiac rehabilitation patients. The study concluded by calling women undergoing treatment “infertility survivors”.

Reflecting on my own experience and talking to others who have struggled with infertility, the findings don’t surprise me. The old truisms of, “the more you put in, the more you get out” and “the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get” just don’t apply.

I had always been taught that if you work hard for something, you’re more likely to get it. Hard work equals reward. Then along came infertility. It doesn’t matter how hard you ‘work’ at it. So much of it is outside your control.

Looking back, the only thing in my control was being my own advocate. During the second half of our journey, I realised the importance of speaking up and challenging specialists when I needed to. It was my body, after all. So, I started to make sure I was always prepared for appointments and brought a checklist of questions. Besides being prepared, I also think it’s important to get a second and third opinion if you feel you need it. I regret not advocating from the start but better late than never.

The other thing I always grappled with is that there are no guarantees. Fertility treatment only guarantees the chance of having a baby. Knowing this can often make it impossible to stay positive and continue treatment.

And finally, IVF is a roller coaster of emotions. You can feel despair, anger and guilt. You’re often bracing yourself for something to go wrong. I seemed to have a permanently clenched jaw during our treatment. Somewhere along the way, my dentist gave me a mouthguard to stop me grinding my teeth at night. It didn’t really work. But you can also feel optimistic and full of elation. You can experience highs of adrenalin. Whenever we received positive news, such as having a high egg collection cycle, I always had a rush of adrenalin. Because it was hope. And hope is so powerful. It’s intoxicating.

But excitement one week and dread the next—working through those contrasting emotions, often for years—is mentally and physically exhausting.

You can buy my new book 'This is Infertility' here.

  • Writer's pictureKirsten McLennan

Loved chatting to Ali @InfertileAF recently about my infertility journey.

You can listen to the episode here.

From @InfertileAF:

“On the latest episode, I’m talking to @straight.up.infertility Kirsten McLennan, the author of ‘This is Infertility’, which tells the story of her six year journey through IVF and surrogacy.

Kirsten’s son Spencer was born through gestational surrogacy in 2019 in Utah. But it was a long, long road to get there.

Kirsten and I talk about all of the significant challenges and setbacks they went through, their very real experiences with IVF and surrogacy, how she went through treatment in Australia, Canada and the United States and so much more ❤️”

bottom of page