March 22, 2008

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO YOUR SUB-FERTILE FRIENDS

I came across a link on MSN to an article called We Can't Get Pregnant and It's Driving Us Apart. I read it with fascination because I can relate to many parts of it. And while our troubles aren't necessarily driving us apart, I can absolutely see how they might for some people. It is stressful, it is all-consuming, and it is heartwrenching. And if you deal with your emotions differently, it can be an awful process. My husband was strong and optimistic all last year, but lately he's been the one who's getting hit the hardest every month. We're trying to be a comfort to each other, but we're both stressed and disheartened. It's really rough.

And this paragraph, this just resonates.

Throughout this three-year ordeal I've felt perpetually sad. I've become a hermit because I don't want to hear friends who got pregnant easily say, 'Just adopt.' I want to watch my belly grow, feel my baby kick and give birth. Normally, my mom would be my support, but she keeps telling me supposedly inspiring stories about women who went through multiple IVF tries before conceiving naturally.

Everyone has a story to tell you. Everyone knows someone who had that Miracle Baby™, and they think that will make you feel more optimistic. It doesn't. And everyone says "just relax and it will happen." Everyone thinks they're being helpful, when really they sometimes cause more pain.

Two weeks ago I was at work when a young mother apologized for her two year old's behavior. I said it was no big deal, and I laughed and said that I like watching parenting styles in action. This girl asked if I have kids, and then followed with, "Well, why not? You have a wedding ring on; why don't you have a kid?"

Ick.

And even the people who are a lot less boorish than this chick, even they can punch me in the gut. My husband and I have finally taken the steps needed to start getting fertility testing done, to see if we can figure out what's going on. We don't mind telling people that we are taking this step, though we have decided that we are not going to discuss the details or results of the tests with anyone. But when I gingerly told a friend the other day that we have an appointment to get tested, she said, "Oh, I bet there is nothing wrong with you." Funny, I didn't realize you have a medical degree. Thank heavens you have determined that there's nothing wrong with us.

Other people have said that we just need to get drunk and have fun. To which I replied that if all we needed to get pregnant was booze, we'd be the fricking Von Trapp family by now. Also not helpful.

There's really nothing you can say to a couple who is disheartened and discouraged. But for starters, don't say things like, "You're lucky; I get pregnant every time my husband and I are in the same room!" For couples trying desperately to have a baby, being told they're lucky is a slap in the face. They don't want to hear about your husband's super-sperm and how fertile you are, because even though you don't intend it this way, it comes off sounding like you think you're a better human specimen than they are. For already fragile egos, hearing you talk about your hardy genetic material is painful. And they sure don't want to hear you refer to your fertility as a curse.

My two-cents is to never speak in declarative sentences. Don't tell them what you did as if it's the surefire way to get pregnant (got drunk, stood on your head, waited for the full moon, went to Hawaii). If it's worth a darn, they've already tried it by now. Don't say that you're sure it will happen for them soon, because you are not at all sure of that. There's nothing worse than having someone tell you they are sure you will have a baby; there are no guarantees in this process. And don't ever ever ever tell them to "just relax." I am ready to kick the next person who says that to me in the crotch.

Instead, play Obama and tell them you "hope" everything works out for them. Tell them you hope the testing brings them more understanding, that you hope that they don't obsess about it too much, and that you hope that they know that you care about them and are wishing them the best.

And then just be a friend. The couples going through this, they are miserable. They think about it constantly, and it is right in their face every two weeks. Their entire outlook on life -- what it means to be a parent, what one's role is on this earth, etc -- has changed because of this process, and it's a very vulnerable time. Please don't make it worse by telling them your best friend's sister's neighbor got pregnant unexpectedly and so of course they will too.

But these are just my thoughts; your mileage may vary. I am ultra-sensitive to anything that smacks of criticism or ignorance these days, and hearing that I should try to time the baby for winter because I'm a knitter just makes me want to slap someone.

Though I did get a big laugh when one friend said that we have too much money and education to get pregnant, and that our best bet is to start doing heroin and attending local high school proms.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:37 AM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
Post contains 947 words, total size 5 kb.

1 I never know what to say. I have two real life friends who have gone through this. One friend eventually had a baby, one didn't and got a boob job instead. I feel strange talking with either of them... my perspective has changed but I still don't have a damn clue what to say. My friend who eventually had a baby was absolutely amazed that I didn't do a pregnancy test the day after my period was due. She said in her circle of friends, everyone had to try so hard and had been through so much, that they knew to the moment when they could test. I felt like an ungrateful heel at that point, even though I didn't mean anything bad and neither did she. I still believe that in whatever capacity you one day become a mother, you are going to be an extraordinary one. (I hope that's ok to say and I don't get a swift kick to the crotch when I finally meet you.) Oh, and I am TOTALLY with the heroin/prom idea. If that's not a surefire road to getting knocked up, I don't know what is.

Posted by: Sis B at March 22, 2008 06:26 AM (0ZS+T)

2 I was getting the same kind of crap from the fertility doctors as we were being tested. A lot of, "these tests will all probably come up normal." Which always makes the process feel worthwhile. I even had one doctor, during the same appointment, tell me that I should consider myself lucky after three miscarriages because at least we know I can get pregnant and they had people who couldn't even do that, AND that because all my miscarriages were so early, that 'some doctors' wouldn't even count them as pregnancies. Unfortunately, people say stupid crap--sometimes they're trying to be helpful (at least, that's what I HOPE they're doing) or just out of ignorance. Just know that you have every right to tell them to mind their own business or to drop the subject.

Posted by: Ann M. at March 22, 2008 09:10 AM (HFUBt)

3 Count me in the "don't know what to say" column, but "wants desperately to help in any way possible". I remember when I was having miscarriage after miscarriage, no one could really say anything that would make me feel better, either - even if they had been through the same thing already themselves. And doctors - they generally suck at the nice. I particularly like hearing, "Your body thinks that your male fetuses are intruders and attacks and expels them much as it would a cold virus." Great. I'm giving myself abortions? Thanks so much for the info doc. Could work on that bedside manner a bit, maybe. We joke about AFG's surgery, that we "finally figured out what was causing all those kids", but the truth is we wanted more, and were told that my body just couldn't do it anymore, there was too much damage from the number of miscarriages (I check the 9+ box when I go to the doctor, but that's just because they don't have my number actually present on the form). For my part, I truly am sorry if I inadvertantly say something that is hurtful, it is certainly not meant that way. It just comes out that way because I do so want to help, and do not know what to do.

Posted by: airforcewife at March 22, 2008 11:04 AM (mIbWn)

4 I LOL at the heroin and proms joke. I'm glad that you can laugh about something in this process because you are right, it's quite an ordeal monthly! I knew I could have had it much worse. The first specialist we saw told me at our initial visit, "don't worry, you are a known commodity, you already had one." that always bugged me! I hope I never say anything stupid to you, because I also hate stupid platitudes--like i never say things when someone has died that that person is in a better place or other dumb stuff like that. i try to only say things that are more like this: "i'm sorry for your loss." So I leave it at that.

Posted by: Kate at March 22, 2008 12:24 PM (576n8)

5 Well, you've finally run me out of supportive things to say--they don't really apply. Just know I wish I could fix whatever is making this so hard for you. Hang in there and don't let this do you in. *hugs*

Posted by: FbL at March 22, 2008 12:28 PM (rW1/8)

6 I hate to know that I am probably in the "said the wrong shit, and the wrong time club"... I am guessing I am one of those folks, but I do hope the Drs. find out something. Anything... And I want you to to have a baby and name him Fred... or Frederica whatever... No go find the herion

Posted by: awtm at March 22, 2008 02:55 PM (i0YYY)

7 What I hated hearing after my miscarriage was, "Well, at least you know you can get pregnant!" As if that was the only step to having a baby. :\ We now have our baby, but if you don't count the two months he was home after a four month training (during which we decided we would try to start a family), just before the fifteen months he was deployed (the first month in which I miscarried), it took six months to finally conceive, and I didn't lose the fear of miscarriage until after I could feel Baby moving regularly. Now that Baby's out in the open, there's a whole new world of stress and terror – but I won't go into that, because I don't want to join the "Scaring Sarah" club (if I haven't already). I don't have advice. It just happens when it does. Don't lose heart . . .

Posted by: deltasierra at March 22, 2008 03:43 PM (7uphd)

8 I'm sorry.

Posted by: Allison at March 22, 2008 07:28 PM (2PnS2)

9 I'm SURE I have said the wrong thing at the wrong time countless times even though I should know better since I could have written this post myself a few years ago. I've been trying hard to just listen rather than talk, but I haven't quite perfected that either yet. I appreciate you not chucking me in the back of the head, though, and giving me a chance to prove I can be a decent friend. P.S. If you need help finding a Prom dress, let me know...I bet we can find you something phat...or def...or sick or whatever it is these kids say nowadays.

Posted by: Guard Wife at March 24, 2008 07:01 AM (BslEQ)

10 Hearing 'Just relax.', 'You need to relax.', 'If you would just relax . . .', etc. was my absolute worst nightmare. It is a great concept. It might be true. But my mind has a mind of its own. And it is a better woman than I to not be un-relaxed dealing with wanting and trying to have something everyone else seems to know just how to get. All the best.

Posted by: wifeunit at March 24, 2008 07:59 AM (iUJSf)

11 Forgive me but I am very curious about a point relating to all this - and that is how people get so caught up in the "having children" thing. I am a very black/white thinker. Not a lot of grey which may also = less emotion. I knew the odds were against me (age) and when the unexpected yanking out of the innards came, I surrendered to it. Wasn't going to happen. Ever. So for those people who cannot/have not/may never conceive - isn't there a point at which you just have to surrender to it and live your lives together even if it is childless? I mean no harm in the question. For me it simply wasn't something to dwell on. Even when it was possible I didn't watch the calendar or fret. Perhaps that need to parent isn't in me...but do you ever just let it go/surrender to that possible reality? Mind you, that doesn't stop us from spoiling our friends' kids terribly. With the best wishes and hopes for you both...

Posted by: LauraB at March 24, 2008 11:41 AM (edQ4y)

12 Wow! Cool news!Sounds a little weird, but interesting anyway. what do you guys think about it?

Posted by: ryanstiles1 at April 06, 2008 11:37 AM (htmWW)

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