In this installment of the Barren But Beautiful series I’d like to address how to respond to the uninformed or those who are so self-absorbed they’ve never give a moment’s thought to what it might mean to have to face infertility. Sometimes a cold shower is just what’s needed to get their attention and cause them to consider that not all people on this planet can reproduce at will.
While we’re reeling from the life-altering diagnosis of infertility and trying salvage our self-esteem and dignity after probing questionnaires and medical exams … while we’re trying to find our equilibrium as we sort through the range of confusing emotions and treatment alternatives we also have to contend with a society that doesn’t care or doesn’t want to know we exist.
It’s just easier for them to assume we’re culpable and to blame us accordingly since conventional wisdom has taught them that the lowest life forms on the planet on up seem to reproduce effortlessly … clearly we don’t know what we’re doing or we’ve brought this on ourselves.
As if contending with faulty biology was not enough on our plate, we have to explain ourselves to those we’d just as soon relocate to another solar system.
This brings me to the next step in the Barren But Beautiful campaign: building your arsenal of retorts. We’re often made to feel ugly or less than. Don’t fall for it. You’ll need a few retorts when you find yourself put in the unenviable position of having to contend with a set of bragging mommies and daddies who don’t notice that you’re not participating in the conversation. The next time someone asks you:
1) Do you have children?
2) Why did you decide not to have children?
3) Did you wait too long to have children?
Or some other variant on the question, you can turn to them, head held high and reply matter of factly: “My husband and I have evolved to perfection. Clearly your family tree needs some work!”
Then you can excuse yourself and move on to another conversation or activity that enhances your sense of worth rather than detracts from it. Next question?
p.s. Note to bragging mommies and daddies: I’m not entirely opposed to bragging…heck I’d probably do it, too, if I had kids, I’m only asking you to consider your audience.
December 8, 2007 7:26 pm
Hey, off-topic but thx for the bling and the very thoughtful note:-)
December 8, 2007 7:51 pm
I love it. This could put a stop to some – but then, there are the truly clueless who won’t realize what has been said.
December 8, 2007 8:03 pm
Oh, where were you when I needed these retorts?
December 8, 2007 8:28 pm
December 8, 2007 9:42 pm
I’m thinking along these same lines today as I read the Newsweek article on the connection between diet and fertility. Now I have my diet to beat myself up for! Did I eat too many “fast” carbs, not enough protein from plants, etc.??? It is endless, the questions we can ask ourselves with guilt and remorse – or worse yet, be asked by others…
December 8, 2007 9:58 pm
I have just a thought about the aspect of bragging and remembering your audience.
I had a mild taste of IF (18 cycles) before conceiving my first. Afterwards, I was able to remember the small IF journey I had taken. That I knew it could have ended a complete opposite way than it had. Then I won the lottery and got preg w/ #2 quickly. The thoughts of IF were pushed even further back into my mind.
With two kids and a whole different life, I’m sure I did NOT remember my audience like I should have. I did at first, but after not dealing with it for a year and a half, I’m sure I wasn’t being careful anymore.
But now I’m feeling it again. 15 more cycles and a 4th uterine surgery later, I remember it too well. And now, my audience is in the forefront of my mind. I still brag, but I always know who I’m bragging to. And I definitely don’t assume anything.
December 9, 2007 4:28 am
I love that response.
December 9, 2007 5:06 am
Totally love it but I totally lack the balls to say it!
December 9, 2007 2:03 pm
I LOVE the response. Love it!!!
December 9, 2007 6:22 pm
I have enjoyed your posts on Barren but Beautiful. I second motherofnone – we beat ourselves up enough for not doing everything perfectly – we don’t need others helping us.
December 10, 2007 2:40 am
hmm … how about, spend some time thinking about all the wonderful, beautiful things you have done – helped out a friend in need, volunteered at the soup kitchen, visited the elderly, looked after a sick relative, been friendly with the person at work that everyone else ignores … you get the picture.
Then when someone says “having kids was the best thing we ever did” you can say something about “well, what *else* have you done?” maybe it would steer the conversation elsewhere anyway. it’s possible they have boring, self-absorbed lives and haven’t done anything else! (I’m not saying all people with kids are like that but some are. and if they are not boring & self-absorbed, they’ll be able to talk about something else).
I’ve really been pondering since your last post – what makes us beautiful? For me there is a quality of person, the inner self that so influences the outside. There’s a person I considered to be ok, until I got to know her, and now I think she’s beautiful – though her appearance has not really changed.
What is inner beauty? HOw do we let it shine through? Is it following our passions, doing good things, looking afte ourselves physically, mentally, emotinally, spiritually? Is being at peace with ourselves & our lives? And how do you come to be at peace with huge struggles like being single when you want to be married, being CF when you want to have kids, having a debiliting illness – especially something unrecognized like CFS, where people think “it’s all in your head.”
I think, when you are living in a constant state of tension it’s hard to relax and let your beauty shine through. But I have to say that the IF sisters who have shared the journey (at any stage) are amazing examples of strength, courage, resourcefulness, and friendship. What is more beautiful than that?
December 10, 2007 6:21 am
Wow, what questions… I’ve not had the pleasure of having to back peddle in the face of such insensitivity, but I know it’s out there. I will consider myself well-armed.
I’ve finally started writing about it all again. You may or may not want to read along, and I will completely respect and understand whatever choice you make there. But I’m linking to you anyway… 😛
December 10, 2007 12:45 pm
(still laughing!) I wonder if that response will work for those staring at my biracial family? 🙂
December 10, 2007 4:14 pm
I’ll admit – I literally laughed out loud at the response. Scared the kitty right off the chair! 🙂 Very good – better than the list I have. Thanks!
December 10, 2007 4:50 pm
Excellent response! I’ll have that ready for the christmas parties I have to go to this week!
December 10, 2007 5:30 pm
You know, I wonder if the urge to blame the infertile couple for their predicament has some sort of protective quality for the dickheads asking the questions. Can’t help it, as a psychologist, I am compelled to try to understand rather than simply vilify the asses doling the assvice (yet still completely willing to label them asses, of course).
I wonder if the blame game helps to place them in the “right.” As in, “Well, we didn’t have problems, so we must be good people or have done the right things…” No one ever likes to admit to the unfairness or the unpredictability in life.
It is like viewing cancer as resulting from poor lifestyle habits or even a curse from an angry God… at least then there is a culprit who can be appeased or evaded.
In reality, everyone could be a victim, and no one wants to accept such a reality.
Whoah…did I ever get a-ramblin’ on that one!
December 10, 2007 6:05 pm
I think you’re on to something here. There is fundamental avoidance at work on subjects like this. It’s just easier for some not to have to put themselves in someone else’s shoes where suffering or loss is involved. And, yes I know I shouldn’t vilify, but dang, some people can test my patience!
December 10, 2007 8:44 pm
I love this! HAHA T and I have a similar joke. They broke the mold when they made us, you can’t better perfection :).
December 11, 2007 1:26 am
On the weekend, a woman I haven’t seen in a while in my Buddhist group said, oh, how’s your daughter? After I blinked, I said I don’t have a daughter. I think I know what she was talking about, she had heard me talk about the daughter I wanted so badly, she had actually thought I had one. So I just let her blather her way out of it. She didn’t mean any harm, but after that homestudy visit last week, I didn’t really need to hear any more.
December 11, 2007 3:06 am
I like this response, I’ll be holding onto it. But gotta say, Sarah’s comment might’ve nailed things too – why DO they blame us? I’ve always felt like it was a “we don’t get it so it must be your fault” thing but yea, maybe it puts them in the right too… Interesting.
December 11, 2007 5:43 am
I think most people are compelled to have strict order in their own personal universe. There has to be an answer or a reason for everything. That is why they seek to assign blame. Knowing the cause makes things alright again. It’s ridiculous but it makes them feel better.
December 13, 2007 11:25 am
You made me laugh…thanks!