I went for a jog this morning and as the music from my iPod provided something of a soundtrack I started thinking about infertility’s affect on those around me — how it has changed the relationships with my family, my friends and the lively social network I once cultivated. And then (world in shock) I started thinking about someone other than me. The term ‘collateral damage’ came to mind.
Infertility has also caused suffering for my parents. I had my first really in-depth conversation with my mother about infertility a few months ago during a visit over the holidays. That’s not to say that it was the first time we’d ever discussed it, but our conversations a few years earlier had been somewhat stilted — mostly because I couldn’t talk about the subject without getting choked up. Time and distance from the treatments and my writing has made it easier to sort out some of the inter-related issues.
In fact, the book I’ve been writing gave my mom and me a safe place to start the discussion. I provided a draft of the story to her and asked for her thoughts. A day or so later over lunch we talked, tentatively at first, about how much the whole infertility experience had changed not only my life but hers as well. Once she realized I wasn’t going to dissolve into tears or fall apart, she began to explain how painful it had been to know her daughter had been suffering such anguish. She talked about how much she had wanted to share in her daughter’s pregnancy. She talked about how she had wanted to be on hand to help provide care in the early days of a new grandchild. She talked about how hard it could be for her to have to listen to other women describe how they helped their daughters and grandchildren.
Ever since that discussion I’ve been realizing just how far and wide infertility’s reach can be. It’s also been good to think about someone other than me.
April 10, 2007 7:23 pm
The only thing that could make these situations more difficult is if there is no clear communication between the couple who has struggled and their parents.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the pain of infertility when our peers easily impregnant is painful, but I felt a punch to my heart thinking about my parents having to listen to their peers brag up about their brood of grandchildren.
I have to admit, I never considered it before, but what if the couple were “onlys” in each of the families? Oh, god, how painful that would be especially if no one ever talked about it and shared their fears.
Infertility is certinaly not a ripple affect (diminishing as it travels away from point of impact) in all cases. For too many, it could be a tsunami, picking up force and momentum.
April 10, 2007 10:49 pm
I have talked to my mother in law about my infertility and she told me that it was very hard for her too. She has a good friend that she goes shopping with but she had to tell the woman she could no longer go into any more baby stores with her because it hurt it too much. I know how dearly she would have loved to have a grandchild by her favourite son.
My own mother, who has dementia, always lights up in the presence of children and her bulletin board is plastered with pictures of her grandson from my younger sister. I wish I could share that joy with her while she is still able, but when she asks me when I am going to have a child I just smile and let her know that she is like my child and I have to take care of her now.
Pretty soon I am sure my closest friend will be pregnant and as happy as I will be for her, I know it hurts her to not be able to share the experience with me.
In a way I feel grateful to have never lost an actual child, but still it hurts to to grieve a dream.
April 11, 2007 12:03 am
I know that infertility has definitely affected my whole family and my very close friends. Everyone wants to see us pregnant just as much as we do. They are just as upset and crying with me when my I get my failed IVF’s. They seem me in such pain and I know they feel helpless. They all think its just as unfair and don’t understand. My sister and friends were in tears crying so hard when my last one didn’t work. They all wanted it so badly for me.
I’m so glad you were able to have deep talk with your mother. I think its so great that you are close and were able to share something so painful and intimate together. I hope its another positive step in your healing process.
April 11, 2007 12:38 am
Since I’m very close with my parents, it’s felt natural to let them know all along that we have been trying, with assistance, to concieve. They are very sad about our infertilty but extremely supportive. I really could not ask for better parents — and thus I grieve that I may not be able to give them a grandchild.
I like the term “gram-infertility” introduced by DD. The book “Unsung Lullabies” has the best description of IF’s effects on our parents that I have ever read. I’ve been put off by the flimsy treatment of this topic in other IF and childfree/childless books, as though infertility wasn’t of that much personal consequence to the couple’s parents.
April 12, 2007 12:25 am
This is so hard as an idea for me, but it does ring true. I know grandparents who have paid for fertility treatments when the money has run out, so they can one day have grandchildren. And if it doesn’t work, it’s a loss for them after being so closely involved.
Have to think more about this…
April 12, 2007 1:58 am
I do share my journey with my dad slightly, but I can hear he feels uncomfortable talking about it, and I know its because he hurts for me too. I want so much to be able to give them grandkids but I guess as much as it may hurt them, at the end of the day they probably do care more about us and our own sanity. We are THEIR children after all. x