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Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Call For Help #1

Finishing up a chapter and I need feedback/comments. We’ve been compiling a list of the usual suspects—comments and questions presented by the non-infertiles to the SQs and SPJs of this world. We drew these either from our own personal experience or your comments thus far on the blog. We’ll be posting a list of quotes that we’re using in the chapter when the chapter is complete.

The chapter is presented like this: the statement or question leads the section; we state what is probably the intended meaning (or why the non-infertile thinks this is a good thing to say); we state how the SQ or SPJ takes these comments/questions; and whenever possible, we give a better way to say the same thing (or warn them repeatedly to stay away from trying to say certain things in any manner).

The list of questions/comments follows below. Obviously, there are many variations that fall into each category—we’ve just listed the umbrella phrase. Please let us know if we’ve left off an important topic that we need to cover. Also, write in with any stories concerning these questions/comments. We’re trying to give many personal examples. As always, your name will be changed for the book.

Thanks, SQs and SPJs. What would I do without you?

The List

1. When are you going to have a baby?
2. Just stop thinking about it (or trying so hard) and it will happen.
3. Just relax (or you just need to take a vacation) and it will happen.
4. Unsolicited advice (have sex more/less often, lose weight, different positions, etc).
5. This is G-d’s (or nature’s) way of saying that you’re not fit for parenthood.
6. Are you sure you want to do this? Fertility treatments are dangerous!
7. You can always adopt (and the ever popular—if you adopt, you’ll get pregnant)
8. I know exactly how you feel… statements.
9. You’re so lucky that you’re not pregnant (that you don’t have kids) because… statements.

Also covered in this section is when infertile couples are not invited to children’s birthday parties.


C said...

I was actually told to "just relax" by the nurse I saw the very first time I had an appointment with my former RE. Talk about someone who should have known better! Apparently the fact that I was holding my BBT charts in my hand and asking questions about the tests she was ordering meant that I was too tense to have a chance to conceive. What was worse is that she then launched into a long story about her own family, which included three healthy boys. I really thought my husband was going to hit her then and there, but he held himself back.

We ended up writing a formal letter of complaint to the clinic director after leaving that day. She's one of the many, many reasons why I'm glad I quit going to that clinic.

Amy said...

I get alot of:

"I know someone who took 2 years..." or "I know someone who had four miscarriages..." something along those lines. It's always someone who had it worse than you. DRIVES ME INSANE!

Do these people not realize that it basically belittles our pain??

Amy said...

BTW, the comment suggestion I just made is not something that can be more appropriately phrased. It just needs to be left out of conversation all together. Infertile people or multiple miscarriers are NOT comforted by someone elses worse-off story.

Anonymous Infertile said...

The best was from a very close friend who I hadn't spoken with in a while.... when she asked her things have been I simply said that they had been stressful and she replied that this was a stressful situation that I had chosen....I was like, yes, I chose to be infertile....

Lisa P. said...

My first OB/GYN told me that I needed to "put away the BBT and just have sex on days 10, 12 and 14." Never mind that I ovulate on day 16 consistently, something she'd have seen had she actually LOOKED AT MY CHARTS.

But then again, she's the one who missed my MTHFR diagnosis, so what do I expect??

Anonymous said...

Several things stand out to me, the most irratating two are; 'but how long have you been REALLY trying?'
And 'I just know you'll have a baby'
how could she? even my Re couldn't give me that reassurance.

This time round..(I have a child and am trying for number two) I am not telling anyone!!

heather said...

in response to #9:
we were at a church easter egg hunt and we were out watching the kids hunt and one of the parents (of 3 and twins on the way) had asked us what we were doing for the summer. we said we were going home to hawaii for 10 days. he responded with "yeah, you can do that kind of stuff when you don't have kids." i'm pretty open about my IF struggles, so i came back with "actually, we've been trying for over 5 years." he apologized and asked a bit more about what we had been doing. i feel so strongly that if more people talked about it that the fertiles would know how to address IF people and would maybe be more sensitive about what they say. on the other side of that, i have a friend who is very closed-mouthed about their IF, so i know it's hard for some to talk about it too.

pa: i have a blog

Christy said...

I'm sad to say that I've heard about each and every one of these "helpful" bits of advice.

The one thing I'd say about your list is that they're all true to what usually comes out of people's mouths except for the "This is God's way...parents." While people say all kinds of rude things, I think a lot of us more often hear a variation that stops short of that full sentence and just implies the second. "It's God's way" or "It'll happen in God's time," for example.

I'll come clean here--I'm someone who wasn't much in the belief business before infertility and multiple m/c and am _firmly_ entrenched in doubt territory now; I also have some serious beefs with contemporary religion ESPECIALLY in light of the portrayal of women. But it's been very interesting for me to see how for so many women raised in the Judeo/Christian tradition, full of the ideas of children as "blessings" for the "chosen" and "barrenness" as punishment, have to come to deep reckoning with the religion that would cast them out in such a way. I just think that what would be great about your resource is that if you both kept the sense of humor and also were a kind of welcoming space to people having hard questions and finding your discussions. I've seen enough people on bulletin boards for whom this is the first moment where they begin to question both themselves and their beliefs, and it can be an earth-shattering thing for some.

People who are struggling with the "God" advice are much more likely to get the truncated version, where they're made to FEEL like they've been chosen against for some inner sin, even without the church ladies every voicing it quite so bluntly.

Anonymous said...

I guess, what I want to hear, as someone right now in that 2-week waiting period, is "It's gonna happen - it's gonna happen very soon." I just want everyone to be positive, to put out that positive vibe because I need all the positive "mind-set" I can get. Things like, "It'll happen in Gods time" or "You can't control this, so just relax", only serve to make me feel like I'm doing something wrong and that it's not going to happen. BTW: LOVE THIS WEB SITE. It's been so helpful, supportive - just a great place for me to read and feel "not alone" during this time. Thank you!!!

aah0424 said...

The one thing that I hate is that I am very open about TTC and IF, but it really annoys me when people who do know our situation ask, "Any news on the baby front?" or something along those lines. If I knew and we were ready to tell I would have told and if we weren't ready to tell, asking isn't going to make me blurt it out. However, more then likely there is no news so please spare me from having to answer this redundant question!

My blog also has a few recent posts about rude comments that were recently made to me -

Heather said...

I hate all of those things but #8 is probably the worst one I deal with all the time.

I work with a woman who used Clomid for like two months and so she "understands" infertility.

She trys to belittle what I am going through because she had fertility problems and it wasn't that bad.

I know I haven't been through what a lot of women have been through. I don't have any fantasies of being an expert at this. It just drives me nuts that she pretends to know what I am going through. She doesn't have my condition.

Royalyne said...

I'll try this again, the site errored on me lats time and I lost my rather eloquent, slightly long message. Time for the quick recap:

My husband had a son about 3 years before we got married. My stepson is amazing, I love him with everything that I have. Then my in-laws jump in with "well, he got *insert the wench's name here* pregnant, so it'll happen to you eventually." Hmmm, nope, his body made good sperm back then. Now it doesn't make enough, and they swim crooked. His sperm won't impregnate anybody, not even that super-fertile tramp he's stuck dealing with for 18 years. (ok, so this isn't such a short version, but I'm impressed by my creative choice of words, eloquent or not)

The most common phrases I hear are more along the lines of "you will have children when you are ready" (yeah, because the house, dog, stepchild, happy marriage aren't enough, somehow I'm still not ready) or "you don't know God's plan" (neither do you, I just choose not to point that out when you complain about pointless stuff that you have no control over).

None of the above have a "polite" or "politically correct" phrasing. They are all rude and mindless and make me want to stab you in the throat with a yellow hilighter (I couldn't come up with a suitable weapon, there's a yellow hilighter on the coffee table, you do the math).

I swear I was *slightly* less snarky with my first attempt, apparently retyping makes me cranky.

Watson said...

Re: the 'just adopt' advice that people so helpfully dole out, I had a very bright, well-educated friend suggest that I PRETEND to adopt, as in, start the paperwork in the hopes of 'tricking' my body into getting pregnant.

Errr...thanks, now why didn't I think of that!?

The other very hurtful thing I've heard again and again over the last few years, from people who know I'm struggling with IF, is: 'spend a weekend with MY kids and you'll change your mind! Har Har.'

Honestly, that one hurts the most.

Ella said...

I feel like I've heard them all, but the ones that stick out in my mind are: 1. Why don't you just adopt? 2. Are you guys REALLY even trying? 3. Lots if people have miscarriages, what's the big deal 4. So and so took time off from IVF and got preggos right away 5. You need to prop your legs up after sex for 20 min (yeah, like that restore my uterus!) 5. at least you can still enjoy alcohol and sushi. oh the list goes on.

Zee said...

The question that irks me the most is a version of number six: "Are you sure you want to do this. I mean, at your age..." (I'm 40) There are variations on the ending, including: "'s so dangerous," and "...don't you know you're more likely to have a Downs Syndrome baby?", or "'re more likely to have twins." UGH!

My real life girlfriend, also in her 40s, also struggling to conceive #1, commented that you can often tell the people who resent having had kids and the ones who are happy to have them. The former tell you all the horror stories and the latter tend to be more encouraging.

For me though, the worst is the fact that people who used to ask stopped dead when I turned 40. It's like, now I'm dead in the water, so there's really no point. (But maybe they're just trying to be sensitive. Who knows? I suppose I'd be pissed off either way. There's just no appeasing these bitter old infertile chicks...)

Denise said...

I have been struggling with secondary IF for about 18 months. Knowing that people can be insensitive if you give them a chance, we have chosen to keep this struggle entirely private with one exception. I told a BFF that we were trying to have another child and that I was undergoing some treatment with an RE for my lifelong ovulation irregularities.

My conversational summary of the last year and a half of IF was about three sentences long ... I didn't try to communicate the depth and breadth of the struggle (that would be like trying to dig a ditch with a spoon -- pointless). I wasn't looking for much. I was just looping her in a little bit. No one else knew except my online support friends (strangers to me IRL), so speaking about it at all was a great measure of my confidence in her.

Her stunning, lightening reply, "Why are you so *desperate* to have a baby?"

Time Out: Since when is it *desperate* to seek treatment for a medical condition? The only other conditions that I can think of that stigmatize the patient this way are mental illness (and isn't that part of what my friend's remark implies?) and maybe ... bariatric surgery?

My God ... the breathtaking ignorance and condescension. The salt in the wound. *Every* choice we have made in this journey has been a delicate balance of financial, logistical, spiritual, ethical and medical concerns. And those hairs are NOT easy to split. SISTER, I AM THE OPPOSITE OF *DESPERATE.* I've been playing King Solomon with my choices and my family's life since I set foot in the RE's office and it ain't over yet.

I suppose because I have two children (for whom I am utterly grateful) and because I am >35, then the desire to expand our family is merely frivolous. I just didn't realize it until my friend enlightened me. !!

Note: This woman is someone who struggled for a little while herself to conceive #2 and finally gave birth again (without ART) two years ago at 40. So while she has not experienced IF first hand, I (wrongly) assumed she would have at least enough sensitivity to my situation to be able to hear three sentences on the subject without clubbing me for my revelation.

This person also has a bias against conventional medicine ... and she is independently wealthy enough to throw buckets of money into alternative practitioners (napropaths, $$$ experimental drops, etc.) when something ails her or her kids. (Would that I had those buckets for IVF.) Her next comments referred me to some new age fertility concepts because, of course, this worked for *her*. Good for her. She has NO idea how LUCKY she is. I don't reject alternative medicine, but at my age and in *my* circumstance, I would never rely on that alone to treat *my* fertility issues. I just don't believe at this point that lack of positive energy is my whole problem, thank you very much. Would you presume to suggest that a diabetic patient to 'work on her attitude' in order to make more insulin? *You* try feeling positive with people talking down to you like that.

I suppose the notion that I should just "cleanse my energy field" falls under the "Just Relax" category or "Unsolicited Advice." And the "desperate" remark is probably just a slightly less righteous version of "This is God's way of telling you He doesn't intend for you to be a parent (again) ..." It brutally judges your IF and your choices while utterly failing to empathize with the inherent anguish ... NTM utterly failing to recognize the "There but for the grace of God" yourself factor. It's like a rich man chiding a poor man for looking hungry and thin.

Piccinigirl said...

I have heard all of them and to be honest, they all hurt. I guess the ones I can't stand the most are "Just relax, it will happen" because it's been 3 years now and it hasn't. and "you just need a vacation" we have been away a total of 10 times (6 of those to week long Carribean places) since we've been married.
I also cannot stand when people will tell me stories about other people and what worked for them (I mean I love to hear that someone who was infertile got PG ) but the whole idea that her way will work for me is just too much.
And for those people who tell me that Maybe God has other plans for me...I have taken to saying.."well maybe He has other plans for you too"(In a somewhat nasty voice) it has gotten the point across.

AFC said...

I don't mind when people tell me stories about how they got pregnant or knew someone who got pregnant after IF. I find it interesting and encouraging. I have been asked a couple of times, "Why do you want to get pregnant so bad?" Yes, all the questions you mentioned are annoying, so annoying I could scream but this, I mean, what do you say? I guess I should have asked if they wanted children, if so, why? If not, why not? If they already do, then why did you have them? The longer I deal with this IF (almost 3 years) the snarkier I get. And I agree with a comment someone already left, the more IF'ers are willing to be open and educate people the better it will be in the long run. I found that by opening up and not keeping it such a secret I was able to reach out and talk (in real life) to people who have dealt with the same thing in their own right and it made me feel less alone and less ashamed. And I should mention-- I am totally in love with you for writing this book, for obvious reasons. Also, you can add me to your blogroll, won't hurt my feelings none.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I didn't notice on your list are the comments along the lines of: "it WILL happen for you." I always hate that, because how do they know it will happen?

Anonymous said...

I didn't see this one on here so I thought I would add it. The "well, you'll be able to deduct to cost of IF treatments from your taxes". Which really makes me feel good since I live in a mandatory coverage state but my employer is exempt from the mandates. Not that I mind spending the $$$ but we'd also prefer to be spending it on something else if we had a choice and to hell with the tax deduction.