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Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Stirrup Queen's Sliding Scale of Happiness

Just in case you were still guessing how selfish, petty, and small I truly am (as opposed to how selfish, petty, and small Grey's Anatomy insinuates I am), I wanted to clear up all doubt by introducing you to the Stirrup Queen's Sliding Scale of Happiness.

The Sliding Scale of Happiness (otherwise known as the SSH) is how happy I am to hear about your pregnancy. It's the factors that go into my reaction--whether I'm racing to the kitchen to bake you a celebratory cake (with my infertility-induced professional cake-baking mad skills) or smiling widely and then locking myself in the bathroom to cry. And I know I'm small. And I know you're probably rubbing your growing belly and thinking, "she's so selfish. Why can't she just be happy for me?" Well, you answered that yourself. Because I'm selfish. And because I have a sliding scale of happiness. And because you didn't tell me in the way I wanted to be told for maximum happiness floated your way (see my answer to question four).

So how does one rank on my sliding scale? Let's pretend it's a numerical scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being a three-tiered cake, 5 being no-reaction, and 1 being a and-she-sobbed-sobbed-sobbed-all-the-way-home. And I say "let's pretend" because the sliding scale is literally done automatically as if my heart is a cardiac calculator able to compute happiness in a split second. And interestingly enough, perhaps like women who live together and start getting their periods at the same time, my husband's sliding scale clicked into sync with mine during infertility and now when I tell him that someone is pregnant, he either says, "that's great!" or a snarky "good for them" at precisely the same level as my heart registered the information.

SQ and SPJ automatically make it into the 8--10 range. With true dancing-around-the-living-room happiness for the people who have been trying for years, going through multiple treatments, having multiple pregnancy losses, and are now either pregnant or adopting or using surrogacy.

All other people have an actual calculation that takes place. Is something else crappy happening in your life that evens out the playing field? Or are you someone who breezes through all major milestones unscathed and then got pregnant on the first try? And it's terrible, I know. Let's just take a look at celebrities--

Courtney Cox: 9 (IVF and multiple miscarriages AND was upfront about her fertility treatments).
Gwyneth Paltrow: 7 (no problems getting pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy, BUT she just lost her father).
Katie Holmes: 2 (do I really need to explain--y'all felt the same way).
The two Dixie Chicks sisters: 10 (because you did IF treatments AND you had to sing lullabies written by the other Chick to her son--and I know you love him and feel like an aunt to him, but that has to be hard).
Brooke Shields: 9 (just because she didn't do treatments for her second child, she did them for the first and was still had a SQ's mentality during the second pregnancy. PLUS, SQs have a higher rate of postpartum depression than the general population and her book brought a lot of attention to that fact).
Gwen Stefani: 2 (she would have been higher, but she had to announce how it wasn't planned).

And--like Gwen Stefani--your initial ranking may drop if you tell me that (1) you got pregnant on the first try, (2) it was a happy accident, or (3) complain in any way about the timing of the pregnancy or the pregnancy itself. These are things that no one who has been trying for a long time wants to hear. No one truly wants to hear about how easy things are for you because I can guarantee you that the person you are speaking to is struggling with something (if not infertility then something else) in their life.

Many more people clear the bar and rank in the 6--10 range than receive my tears. I mean, how many people can you point to and say they're not dealing with something in some other aspect of their life and deserve something to be easy for them? So those other factors raise their ranking and make my feet start dancing for them. And I'm well aware that someone may be silently battling something--information that I'm not privvy to that would raise their ranking. But like the bitch I am, I say: if you're willing to share all of the ease in your life--the pregnancy on the first try--you should be willing to share the difficulties too.

Oh...and please please please...if you don't want to fall off the scale entirely, don't use the words my co-worker told me: "I know exactly how you feel because it took us three tries and I cried so hard with those first two negatives."

Thud (that was the sound of a pregnant woman falling right off the round number zero).


Anonymous said...

Great post! I love your closing comment, about the co-worker who told you about her "difficult" time in getting pregnant, ooooh how I hate that. And I can very much relate how even though you were pregnant when you learned it, and now have your two amazing babies, that it still hurt. It didn't matter that you were pregnant - you're still infertile, even with the belly. Crazy isn't it?

I have a similar scale, and let me tell you a case where my heart and my scale were both very confused recently. I have a friend with PCOS (verrrry irregular periods) and a thyroid condition, and she was always told she'd have problems getting pregnant. Guess what? They got an "oops," they weren't trying but are thrilled anyway. I was alternately happy that she got lucky with so much stacked against her (she was a potential infertile after all!), and angry. Yes, angry. How dare she get pregnant so easily, and how dare she tell me she was 11 weeks pregnant the night I was set to tell her that I was 10 weeks along! All I could think was, what if I didn't get pregnant, where would I have been in my cycle, and how fast could i have rushed to the bathroom to cry?

Thanks for your great words, and all the great comments that come after.

~ Lisa

serenity said...

This is GREAT. Well said!

Don't forget everyone's favorite - Britney. Her first was probably a 5 on the SSH, but her second was most definitely 2 material. No sobbing, but a LOT of snarkiness.

C said...

This is so true, and nothing bothers me more than fertile women who go on message boards and bitch about how their infertile friends/family members didn't take their "Oops, we're pregnant!" news very well. If you can't understand why I'm not jumping for joy that you're pregnant without even trying and I'm going through intense and painful treatments just to have a chance to conceive, you fall off the sliding scale entirely.

The best way I've discovered to explain the sliding scale and my reaction to many pregnancy announcements is that while I *am* happy for the parents-to-be, grief about my own infertility is a much stronger emotion.

The Town Criers said...

Oooh...Britney. I forgot about her. Yeah, she's definitely a 2. Or a 1. And interestingly enough, if Reece Witherspoon were to get pregnant again, I would rate her around a 7 or an 8. She isn't an SQ and I don't know of any other factors that would push her automatically above a level 5, but she rocks as a mother and as a woman with her comments. And I have a lot of respect for someone in the public eye who truly draws attention to the fact that they are a real person and not the person created by the media.

aah0424 said...

Great post! I too had a co-worker that had PCOS and when she decided to try she went straight to the doctor to get Clomid w/ both of her kids. Needless to say both were conceived during the first round. She would always tell me she felt like we had a special bond because of it. I hope this doesn't offend anyone, but WTF! She has no idea what I go through, she never even really tried! She is definetly one of those on the lower end of my scale! What is even more sick is she bought her son a shirt that had something to do with his twin. I asked her why he had that and she said, "Because he was suppose to be twins," to which I felt like inserting foot into mouth and said I was sorry. She said, "Oh I wasn't actually pregnant with twins, we just figured that since I did Clomid that he would be a twin."

This GLAMOUR article was posted yesterday on the board I frequent. It isn't exactly about a sliding scale, but sort of relates to part of your post. It's more about how the celebrity baby craze is harmful particularly to infertile ladies. I hope the link works!

aah0424 said...

Sorry, lets see if this works:

mandolyn said...

It this post available in a pocket sized laminated version? I think I need it to refer to when I hear someone's news from now on. "Yes, yes, congratulations... Number Three"

Sparkle said...

Love the sliding scale.
One thing not mentioned - what about the pregnant ladies that go so far as to pretend that they didn't go through IF (famous examples: Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker)?
Unfortunately I have examples in my real life too ...

Ann said...

So true. I recently ran into an acquaintance at a party who had an 8 month old. She proceeded to tell a group of us women that, not only did she get pregnant on the first try, it was also terrible timing for them. Granted, it was terrible timing (they were living in Russia, and were planning on flying back to the US the month she was due, but oops, you can't fly international your last 2 months), but then what were they doing trying then? Anyway, when I mentioned that it had taken us 22 months to get pregnant, she had the gall to say, "well at least you had fun for those 22 months, right?" Heh. No.

I think it's because of this sliding scale that I've felt the need, every time tell someone that I'm pregnant, to add that it did take us a while, and quite a bit of medical help. Even to people that really don't need (or probably want) to know. I just don't want to rank low on someone else's scale.

Manuela said...

chuckle... Stirrup Queen... I LIKE it!

Emilie said...

Oh, SO much truth to this! I remember a woman I know who said she wanted fall babies — but not in the same month of fall — so that's exactly what she did, two perfect years apart. And then she talked of neighbors down the street who were trying for so long, and her voice just dripped with ... I don't know ... pity, or something I never would have wanted directed at me, which is why I never confided in her about my own problems. Her baby shower was HELL to attend, though DH and I did go.

Zee said...

Thank you for writing this. It makes me feel less small and mean for having a sliding scale of my own. I don't think you should be morally obligated to be happy for people who get what YOU want easily (or accidentally!) when you're working so hard for it and still getting nothing. You should never wish them ill, but you have no obligation to celebrate their good fortune.

Dee said...

I think the 1st time I realized I had a sliding scale was when my best friend of 32 years (automatic 10) called me on Christmas (-4) to tell me she was pregnant with their 3rd child (-1). We had been trying for about 5 years at the time (-2) and I'd had a m/c just a couple of months earlier (-2). I love her and all her kids dearly (+3) and she'd had some real issues in the past (early 3rd trimester loss (+3) and some secondary infertility while trying for #2 (+1), so it was strange to say the least. I think, without me even realizing it, my heart made all these calculations. I was pleased for her, but I hated that I felt conflicted by my own issues.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

I don't belong to this group (I don't know anyone here, I just came across it) but I just wanted to say that you guys are amazing. I don't know how it will go for me when I try for children, but I would never say what those people say. People take so much for granted, children included. I hope every one of you is blessed with everything you want and deserve from this life.

Anonymous said...

I feel that it is hardly for anyone on the outside to know what tribulations ppl really go through; or for us to count if ppl are worthy or not of sympathy. We don't know their existential struggles but at the same time it is true that years of infertility and the fear of not being able to continue ones genetic legacy is a life trauma. I hear your pain and appreciate the honesty.