M E M O R A N D U M
To: The ‘Fertile’ Community
From: The Infertility Community
RE: Bridging the Chasm Caused by Infertility
We talk about you, and, I confess, it’s not always in a good way. We spend a fair amount of time in the infertility and childless not by choice communities sharing anecdotes about how our ‘fertile’ friends, family and acquaintances don’t “get us.” You give us lots of good material to work with.
Just a few days ago, The Wall Street Journal (who would have thought?) had a blog post, The Swell Season: Haunted by Reminders of Infertility, that provided examples of the typical casual dismissals and a few downright, huhs? in the comments section:
For instance, someone likened infertility to “an allergy that you ‘should just accept’ and move on from…”
Um, I have allergies and I am infertile. So not even in the same ballpark.
And from a woman who had an easy pregnancy: “why shouldn’t I be able to gloat? I was the happiest pregnant woman out there and only gained 15-18 lbs total.”
Is gloating ever a good thing?
Heads up, gloating girl, here’s the definition: To feel or express great, often malicious, pleasure or self-satisfaction. Now, I hope your son or daughter doesn’t face infertility because I get the feeling you’re not going to handle it very well…
To be fair, there were also some comments surmising that infertility would likely be difficult to experience:
“I think that extended infertility and/or the thought that I would never have kids would be pretty hard to take.”
Compassion and kindness
Further, in this time of brotherly love, I want to highlight and salute those who DO get us — one couple, J&J, in particular shared a level of sensitivity and understanding that truly stands apart. They are the latest recipients of the Coming2Terms Act of Kindness Award. Here’s an excerpt of the email they sent me this week:
“We wanted to send you an email to let you know how profound your book, Silent Sorority, was. Our sister-in-law has been battling infertility for years. It seems like the two of you have almost gone through the exact same experience entirely. She and her husband have ultimately chosen the same path to live life day by day and entirely in the moment. Over the years, it has been really difficult to watch and understand their perspective.
They have been there for us as we started our family and are the most wonderful Aunt and Uncle to our children. In the spirit of this holiday season, and as a gift to them, we are sending Silent Sorority out to 10 of their closest friends and family members. None of us could even fathom going through what they (and you) have gone through and we want to celebrate how far they have come and spread awareness and perspective on infertility.
We have racked our brains to figure out something proactive that we can be doing for them and realized that if we open other people’s eyes and hearts and change people’s views one person at a time we can begin to make this ‘sorority’ a little less silent.Thank you for opening our eyes and changing our perspective.
Not a day goes by that we do not think of the impact this book has had in our lives, and hopefully our sister-in-law and brother see the change in us as well. Your book has been a blessing in all of our lives.”
J&J: You are the sort of ambassadors our society needs more of … so, on behalf of the infertility community, I’d like to express our gratitude. Thank YOU for taking the time to try to understand the infertility experience and for being such warm, understanding people.
December 19, 2009 6:57 pm
Thanks so much for this post, and for informing us on the article in the Wall Street Journal. I was amazed at some of the comments, as you were; I replied under the handle “WendyinVA” should you be interested.
December 19, 2009 7:18 pm
Just read your WSJ comment. You go, Wendy!
December 19, 2009 9:36 pm
Thank you for sharing such a wonderful example of compassion. Cheers to J&J!
Because I probably focus too much on those who aren’t always so understanding, I’m glad I didn’t read the piece in the WSJ. I do not need more ammunition for people who refuse to understand the level of distress that infertility brings, which, by the way, is well documented. In fact, the stress levels of infertile women have been likened to women dealing with a diagnosis of cancer or HIV.
December 19, 2009 10:34 pm
Thanks for bringing this article to my attention! Even though some of the comments were idiotic — I’m glad to see this issue going public.
The most interesting comment was by a woman, blessed with two children, who felt her infertile law partner was difficult to work with — refused to talk to her, didn’t feel like hearing her or anyone else’s kiddie talk. If the entire issue gets a greater airing in the mainstream media — maybe this lucky mother and her infertile colleague could find a way to bridge the communication gap.
December 19, 2009 11:28 pm
I’m so glad your book is actually helping to raise awareness, and that there are people out there willing to become aware – even to help foster awareness in others! Well done to all.
P.S. It is not nice to gloat, about anything.
December 20, 2009 12:05 am
I wish my SIL and BIL were like that! What awesome people!
December 20, 2009 5:38 pm
This letter is from my BIL and SIL (J&J). It’s funny b/c they never told me they wrote this and here it is! I am so grateful to them for really trying to take the time to understand! Pamela, your book has truly been the best tool for my husband and I! This has been and will continue to be the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I (we) have had the most difficult time trying to get family/friends to understand how deep this goes. Your words have been our words…they are poignant and educational. They encompass the emotions we feel but were never able to express (due to the utter silence and misunderstanding of this). I feel truly blessed for this part of my family–all we ever wanted was understanding, sensitivity and compassion. The comfort from that makes us feel not so alone in this path we must take. I will obviously extend my gratefulness to my in laws but also want to thank you Pamela for featuring this on your blog. I only hope that others can be so fortunate to have family that will do the same for them as well!!
All the best–
Barbie and Joey
December 20, 2009 7:02 pm
Dear Barbie & Joey,
So very glad Silent Sorority has offered the opportunity to encourage dialogue and create deeper understanding. It warms my heart to be a part of *your* story, and to know that the effort that went into writing the book resulted in exactly the outcome I hoped for — a personal story that provides a safe way to explore that which isn’t otherwise easy to share. Let’s hope this is just the first of many more equally heartwarming stories of compassion!
December 20, 2009 9:58 pm
Nice post and thanks for the info about the WSJ article.
I struggled with infertility. We were finally blessed to adopt a child (the only reason this wasn’t done earlier is lack of money) in 2007 and she is the light of my life. Imagine my surprise to find myself pregnant 5 months ago.
I’ve been married 7 years. What gives?
As soon as I was no longer NOT a mother (still infertile, mind you), I felt that rejection from so many IFs. I read some really hurtful, hateful things on various blogs. Still do, all the time.
I have never gloated, I talk about things other than my children, and I have cried with many infertile friends over a negative test, most recently a couple of months ago.
Still, I find myself lumped into a humongous, generic category: formerly infertiles, often despised it seems. It hurts, I won’t lie.
I will not apologize for my parenthood.
Sometimes I feel like that’s what is expected.
I waited SO LONG to say anything about this pregnancy because I KNOW HOW IT FEELS. Thankfully, my best IF friend was amazingly supportive, overjoyed, and is happily on her way to foster and maybe adoptive parenthood as we speak.
Just like you know how some “fertiles” are okay, I know that lots of IFs are okay too. But when you’re overrun by parents blabbing about their fabulous pregnancies/offspring and I’m overrun by people who hate me because I posted a picture with Santa on my kid’s blog, it’s easy to forget.
Thanks for the post.
Much happiness to you and your readers in 2010.
December 21, 2009 6:20 pm
Thanks for commenting. I can only imagine how awful it must feel to be rejected by the very people you supported. Sigh. We humans are so hard to figure out.
You seem fit into a category I coined in a post not long ago — a MABI (Mother After Battling Infertility) — https://www.coming2terms.com/2009/02/02/the-golden-rule-applies-to-moms.aspx. This is a distinction that takes some time to sort out…
I’ve observed that when the barren babes among us are struggling in the darkest days with where and how to channel anger, sadness and grief they sometimes can’t distinguish one pregnancy from another. They just ache with raw pain and lash out regardless of how a woman found a path to pregnancy/motherhood. I know it must be hard when someone fires away at you…but know that more often than not it’s not personal.
Much happiness to you, too.
March 8, 2010 12:31 am
Yes, but you have moved into the other camp. That is one of the reasons why I hesitated to move into this arena. I am only really interested in sharing with people who are definitely no longer able to have children.
March 8, 2010 4:04 pm
That’s what you’ll find, Poppy, in A Fresh Start, a new blog for women who didn’t become mothers…those building new lives after infertility.
December 21, 2009 11:20 pm
I would like to add my heartfelt thanks to that couple as well. What a wonderful gesture.
April 7, 2010 1:01 am
That’s the nicest thing I have EVER heard!