In case you haven’t been keeping up with the comments coming in from my “social experiment,” I’d like to highlight a few from women who don’t normally hang out in the infertility community but did drop by thanks to Jenn, who also got some comments when she posted the item on her Mommy Blogger’s blog.
Since this is about a dialogue aimed at trying to rationally illuminate a set of emotions and experiences I welcome your continued participation.
Dorothy writes: “While we fertiles need to be more aware of what comes out of our
mouths, I also think those who are working at pregnancy should realize
that not everyone makes a comment or talks about their baby or
pregnancy to hurt someone. You think about what’s going on in your
life. If you want to be shielded from that conversation, you need to
say something…It’s a process of education. We all have our hot buttons. I
don’t mean for this to sound insensitive, but I don’t think the
dialogue will change unless we are honest with each other when a
comment or conversation stings.”
I agree in principle with what she has to say, but I will point out that calling attention in mixed company to a subject that conjures up failed sex organs and deep emotional wounds isn’t the stuff of small talk nor is it easy to explain quickly or simply. It’s a complex subject that deserves some time and attention, but I haven’t met anyone yet who really wants to know all the gory, and they can be gory, details. Even a more matter of fact, “Can we change the subject? This is not easy for me because well, you see, I can’t have children the natural way” is often dismissed or marginalized with comments like “gee that’s too bad, but hey why not just adopt?” or “I’ve heard that stress can be a factor, why don’t you relax? It’ll probably happen when you least expect it.”
If only both suggestions were as easy as making a phone call in the former case or, in the latter, a passionate embrace during a relaxing, romantic weekend — since most would have you believe that’s all it takes to lead to successful adoption or conception…
I would also gently remind her of the adage, know your audience. It’s pretty easy to pick out of a crowd couples who don’t have children — you see, they don’t have children in tow and/or are not pulling photos out of wallets/purses or volunteering what their little Johnny or Janey did that day. You can safely assume that they either couldn’t have or didn’t want children.
So best, I say, when in doubt to save the gushing pregnancy and child stories for those who can and do have them. It helps make everyone less uncomfortable. That’s not asking a lot is it? I mean consider that for infertiles there are really very few situations or environments where we can, to use Dorothy’s term, “shield” ourselves from the sometimes very painful reminders day in and day out. Pregnant women and children are everywhere we are…
There’s also a long comment post from Mrs. G. who faced infertility after two children. She writes: “Realization that, while I know that others have gone through much worse
than I, I now identify as infertile. My two “friends” approached
their due dates, still complaining nonstop about this was sooooo hard.
I boggled at the rampant insensitivity of people, from those in my own
family asking me when and if we were going to have another child (I
hadn’t told them about the IF) to those few who knew who were still
telling me that all we needed was time and relaxation. Never
mind that I’d have preferred to jam red hot pokers under my fingernails
than have sex ever again by that point. I marvel that my marriage
She makes the point well that until you walk in someone else’s shoes, it’s hard to know the heartache…
There were also a number of other self-described fertiles who questioned what the impact of infertility would have been on their marriage. This is the subject of a much longer post in the future…
In the meantime, please do spend some time reviewing the comments and let’s continue the dialogue.
April 8, 2007 2:48 pm
I soooo agree with your reply to Dorothy’s comment. Yes I agree that we all have our hot buttons, and fertiles cannot always avoid topics that infertiles feel sensitive about. BUT, would any of us talk about the wonders of being able to walk/run/dance in the company of someone in a wheel chair? I’m looking forward to your future post about what infertility does to a marriage.
Hope your holiday is still very enjoyable Pamela! 🙂
April 11, 2007 5:32 pm
I understand that a certain amount of sensitivity has to be applied in situations where I am aware a person is not the same as me. E.g., if I’m with a blind person I would not tell them how beautiful the sunset is and boy are they missing out. But, infertility is not something that can be easily identified, simply not having children does not make me think – Oh they’re infertile. Insensitive things will be said, and while I agree most people will not be interested in the gory details – why do they have to be given? Why can’t it be, “I’m infertile and while I’m happy for you, it’s incredibly hard for me to participate in this conversation”? I have read a bunch of infertility blogs and a significant amount of the time women coping with IF do not share this information with people. It’s something they carry around with shame and then they get so angry when “fertiles” don’t understand. After reading the blogs, I now know how I would handle the situation on both sides of the fertility fence. I have learned so much about the strength and character of women dealing with IF and the incredibly stupid things Fertile women say. Perhaps, if there was more openness about infertility then those assvice comments of just relax or why don’t you adopt will be replaced with. how are you coping? What can I do or simply that’s a terrible thing to have to deal with. Just my 2cents.
Oh, and I am 36 and have been trying for 4 months to get pregnant. Not a lot of time I know, but there is some stuff in my history that makes me think that I may have serious trouble getting pg.