For the last six years, dating and relationship expert Andrea Syrtash has been undergoing fertility treatment to try to have a baby with her husband. But the author (of “He’s Just Not Your Type and That’s a Good Thing” and “Cheat on Your Husband (with Your Husband”) hadn’t come public about her efforts until recently, when she unveiled Pregnantish.com, the first non-medical lifestyle website devoted to infertility for singles, couples and the LGBTQ community.
For this National Fertility Awareness Week, she and I discussed the connection between dating and infertility, how her Jewish heritage affects her struggles to have a baby and what people need to know about those in their life who may be struggling with this issue.
As a relationship expert, what inspired you to start an infertility website?
Infertility is as much as a relationship issue a medical one. Whether a woman is single or partnered, infertility affects relationships in the deepest way: the relationship a woman has to her body, her partner, her date, her work, her friends, her community.
As I’ve gone through this experience of being “pregnant-ish” – super hormonal from treatment, or pregnant but not maintaining it, or with embryos in the freezer – I realized the information out there wasn’t speaking to me. I either landed on message boards which are supportive but have a lot of misinformation out there, or medical sites that talked very clinically about it but not a lot of editorial. There were also parenting websites with fertility sections – but that can be the worst place to go if you don’t have children. I craved a community with real talk about the process.
Speaking of community, what is it like being part of the Jewish community and having fertility issues?
While many people’s families are interested in what’s going on with them, what happens in the Jewish community (and probably other close-knit ones) is that it’s not just your family but your aunt’s friend and her friend – word has traveled about your situation. (Not just infertility! My friend broke her engagement and had to deal with her mom’s synagogue friends.) People knew about my issues long before I came out about them two months ago.
There’s a lot of support and care in the Jewish community. One of my goals is to de-stigmatize infertility – the taboo of it. What I appreciate about the Jewish community is they want to have a conversation. Anytime I talk about my issues, someone shares what they went through or what someone they know did.
What did your families go through?
We’re Canadian, but we’re both the children of refugees. I’m the daughter of a Holocaust survivor: my dad was born in hiding in Budapest. He was a child in hiding. I have a deep connection Jewishly to my roots, and I also want to expand my family because he’s lost so much family. My husband’s family is from Egypt and they escaped in the 1960s.
What would you tell people who are dealing with the reproductively challenged in their lives?
They should know when they give well-intentioned advice, it could be hurtful, it could feel like you’re casting blame, like when you say, “It will happen if you just relax and think positively.” Oh you think so? Because I have medical issues. And people from war-torn countries get pregnant.
Sharing stories of someone who suffered through worse infertility isn’t helpful either. As a relationship expert I say, “Heartbreak is heartbreak is heartbreak.” It doesn’t matter if you have one miscarriage or ten, you might be gutted from it, you’re in your own experience.
Take your cues from the person and how much they want to disclose. Some people are private, so don’t take it personally if they cut off the conversation. Maybe they don’t want to cry at the dinner table.
This interview has been edited and condensed.