A wise friend, a man who has also had to come to terms with infertility, recently suggested to me that in writing on infertility, the one thing I should guard against is creating a new “political correctness” around the topic. In other words, those who can or do have children should not feel as if they need to completely hide their expectant or familial joy since it might be hurtful to those who cannot conceive.I couldn’t agree more.
I’m fairly confident that infertile people, yours truly included, don’t want “PC behavior” from others. Instead, all we ask for is some understanding and awareness of our situation. For example, no one would think it appropriate to brag (or even complain) about a pregnancy or a child to parents who recently
lost a child. That’s not about superficial political correctness, that’s about empathy.
A close cousin to empathy is sensitivity. In other words know your audience. It’s a safe bet that a man or woman in your work, neighborhood or social circle without children is probably struggling somewhere on the infertility continuum. Another good analogy: it would be considered common courtesy for a newly engaged bride or groom to avoid sharing chapter and verse on wedding plans around friends who’ve just ended a relationship or who may coping with the loss of a spouse. That’s not political correctness, it’s kindness.
Although infertile people will at times be jealous or envious of pregnant women and parents (come on my fertile friends ‘fess up — don’t we all feel desperate at times about what we can’t have? – we are human after all), it doesn’t mean we can’t take joy in others’ joy.
Even if we sometimes aren’t emotionally up for the task, we always wish we were.
P.S. A thank you to my wonderful spouse who contributed to this post. He once reminded me in the midst of our infertility treatments: “Pamela, remember a child born to other couples doesn’t mean there are less available to us.”