The Daily News

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Monday, October 23, 2006

As It Turns Out..

Because I am Out, with a capital "O", with everyone from family members to the woman trying to buy green beans at the supermarket, I get many people who come to me with questions. These conversations usually start out with "I think there's a problem" and then goes into probing about how we knew we were having trouble conceiving and when we first visited the RE or had testing done. And they ask for details about the different tests and procedures and ask what we know about certain medications or paths to parenthood. And usually these people update us once or twice during their journey and we're ultimately happy for them when they either conceive through treatments or third-party reproduction or adopt.

But twice I've had these conversations lead a few months later with the person telling me, "it turns out we didn't have problem conceiving at all!" With the emphasis on the word "we." As in, we are not you.

I'm not sure why the person needs to share this with me. Do they also walk up to mothers who have children with an illness and point out that their baby is healthy? Do they walk up to poor people and say, "I don't know what to do with all of my cash. We're just roooooooooooooooolling in it."

And in this same category are the people who did use reproductive technology and then tell me that "thank G-d we didn't have twins because we were so freaked out that we were going to end up with multiples." Again, why would you say this to a mother of twins? And why would you talk about it as if you dodged a bullet and I ended up with a curse rather than the blessing of multiples? I think I'm quite clearly in love with the idea that I'm a mother of twins--I've never expressed sadness over this fact--so I'm not sure why the person thinks I would ever nod my head and say, "man, you really lucked out having a singleton. I can't even stop and talk to you more about your pregnancy because I need to get back to my shitty life."

And the only people who top those other two categories are the ones who know that we used treatments to get pregnant but tell me, "oh, we don't have that problem at all. I got pregnant on the first try."

I am well aware that the majority of people in this world, myself included, speak before we think. No matter how thoughtful you try to be, you will end up saying the wrong thing at some point if you engage in enough conversations. But just because I understand it doesn't mean that I'm not hurt when it happens. And because thoughtlessness is so commonplace and unavoidable, I almost never address it. And I wonder if I'm perpetuating it by not addressing it or if it's impossible to eradicate regardless so why even try.

The two times when a person told me that they were not infertile, I pulled out a top-quality, Seher-like "that's so nice." But I didn't explain to them why their words made me feel like shit. While I understand that human impulse to distance yourself from anything considered imperfect, it still negates any emotions they felt up to this point as well as just emphasizes that I'm damaged goods while they are perfect, Grade-A babymakers. And I'm not sure why that emphasis needs to be made (but that is now making the wheels turn for a tangent post since this one seems to be getting too long).

For the people who make comments about how they dodged a bullet by having a singleton, I usually just smile and say, "my husband and I don't really see twins as the devastating hardship that you apparently do." And this either makes them back-pedal and say, "but what I meant was..." or stops that branch of the conversation entirely. But, again, I'm not really addressing how it made me feel and I'm sure the person didn't truly get the message as to why those words are offensive. And, again, I'm not really sure what is gained by pointing out to another person how you don't have their (perceived) shitty situation. It's like walking by widows and saying, "thank G-d I still have my husband. I really dodged a bullet because I was worried I would end up with one who would die young from an illness!"

And the last category...well...I'm not even sure what could be said to them because they're either completely clueless and can't empathize with anyone outside their own experience or they do subconsciously know what they're saying but are so insecure that they need to point out how they trump you--at least in the babymaking department. Because there's never a reason why someone would need to know that you got pregnant on the first try. Unless a person asks outright. In reality, there's no explanation that needs to be made--no tears at a baby shower or secret trips to the clinic that need to be explained. There's just no reason to pass along that information unless you're flaunting it. And when you're flaunting it to an infertile woman, well, that's just thoughtless at best and mean at the worst.

When these situations arise do you address them? Do you let them go? And what do you say? Have you ever handled it very well and can pass on tips to others? And if you choose (like me) to not inform people how it made you feel, why do you remain silent?

P.S. To my sweetest friend who did get pregnant on the first try, but not only didn't tell me, but made me believe that it happened for you after months of trying...thank you. For sparing my feelings with your white lie. Because I know exactly why you told that to me--you knew that the truth would be obvious once numbers were calculated. And even though after math comes into play, the white lie has so many holes that it's ridiculous, I still love you for pretending.


Thalia said...

I think I'm so scarily out (for a british person) that no one dares to say anything like that to me - probably the pain I've been through is too palpable. The closest I've got is a childless friend telling me "I could never do IVF." How she knows, when she hasn't yet tried to have children, i don't know. But I've never called her on it. DO you think it's different for you because you do have children, so people aren't as careful of your feelings as they are of mine?

Anonymous said...

Like Thalia, I am WAY out to my family, friends and co-workers too - and, surprisingly, I have minimal comments made, except by one person.

This person (a wife of a long-time friend of DH's) is just a moron to begin with - and a hypocondriac to boot. Most of the time, I ignore her. She barely even acknowledged my last loss - and my second loss was acknowledged by a second-hand "sorry" through my MIL.

I have lashed back at her - and shut her up proper. ;) Back in June, there was a gathering at her house - it consisted of DH and I, Dh's friend and the moron (who had NO trouble getting PG), another friend going through secondary IF/IVF and another friend who needed Clomid the first time and was lucky enough to get PG with #2 without a problem. All of us were talking about our IF problems and the topic of my m/c's came up - up to this point, the moron really didn't know what I had really been through because I just don't trust her with any of it. As I went through it all with the ladies, she sat there, for the first time in the 9 years I have known her, absolutely speechless. The silence was heavenly - and the point was clearly driven home to her how stupid she has been over the past few years.

I think, with my experiences, I am just tired of dealing with the crap and if someone is going to be truly ignorant or intentionally hurtful, they are not going to like what they get in return. Bitter? Maybe. But justified.

kathryn said...

Most of the time, I just let things go. Why explain something to someone who is just not going to get it? I do say something to very close friends/family who I know would never intentionally try to hurt me, but may do so out of ignorance. Even in those cases I only say something if that person is a repeat offender and I just can't take it anymore. I get the "I'm so glad to just have one" comment all of the time and I just reply with something along the lines of "I'm so sorry that you will miss out on being a mother of twins. It truly is a blessing." They usually look confused and then move on.

I have another category of comments that really annoy me. I don't know if I could call them hurtful...maybe that depends on my hormone levels at the time. I have a friend who walked with me through much of my first attempt at trying to conceive. She and I worked side-by-side and, as a result, she knew every step of the journey. About 2 years into my IF treatment, she decides to start ttc. She says to me "I feel like I've already been through 2 years of IF with you." Okay, there's no way you could feel like that when you haven't even gotten one negative pregnancy test, never once let your husband stab you with a way-to-big needle or let every doctor within a 10-mile radius poke around in your hoo-hoo (yes, that is a scientific term), but I'll let it slide. She eventually conceived on cycle 4, which is great for her (sucked for me). Here's the hurtful/annoying part. She claims infertility. When she talks about ttc and pregnancy to people, she acts like she was infertile! Four cycles! No meds! Infertile?? Just the other day, I was talking about the funny comments that I get from people when I'm out with the twins and she says "Remember all of the idiotic comments we'd get from people when we were going through IF?" We??? I usually just roll my eyes and move on, but I'm left feeling like the pain - emotional and physical - has been minimzed and disregarded.

aah0424 said...

I have started become more free in my feelings when people say hurtful things. I'm out to all my friends and family and I will discuss it with anyone else if the opportunity arises. I don't know if I always handle it in the best fashion, but I've learned if I bite my tongue I agonize about it more then if I just let people know that what thay are saying is hurtful or out of line. When I had a girl tell me how hard it was to try month after month for 8 months and it was going to the islands that did the trick for her--I simply said, "Wow, 8 months is rough try 19" and she quickly back peddled. I think in order to save my own sanity I have to let people know how I feel about what they are saying.

I also know there is a time and a place for it as well. Today in my blog I wrote about a hurtful conversation I overheard at my grandmother's 80th birthday celebration. I chose not to comment because it would have done more harm then good.

ASheggy said...

I can let some comments/remarks slide but I personally can’t stand when someone that is PG whines about it!

During a co-workers recent pregnancy she CONSTANTLY whined about it. What makes this more surprising is that she has PCOS and had to be medicated to get PG (I kept asking myself why would someone that worked so hard to get PG whine about it????) It got to the point that I couldn’t even stand to be near her because every time she opened her mouth something negative about pregnancy would come out.

After many months of avoiding her I finally came up with 3 little words that made her shut up and think. The magic words are “CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE”.
Each time she started whining about being PG and all the wonderful things that go with it I would look her straight in the eyes and say those 3 magic little words. It was amazing how fast her head would suddenly emerge from her a** and her attitude would change.

Each time I was pregnant I felt truly blessed. The first time I was so sick I lost 20 lbs in 4 wks – but did I complain? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I thanked God for every twinge just because I knew at that particular moment in time I had life growing inside me! The potential to be a Mother was there…. even if it was only for a short time … and I feel truly blessed to have experienced it!

Anonymous said...

Tricky questions. I'm mostly "in" except with close friends and family, so it doesn't come up very often.

Except sometimes even these trusted folk say the wrong thing. Because of our relationship, I can tell them, calmly and knowing their intentions were good, that they said the wrong thing and here's why. My education isn't lost on them. They learn, because they care.

But when I think about having to "educate" people who don't care, and won't learn, I end up deciding just to keep my mouth shut and not tell them. The task seems exhausting. That they would make these comments out of thoughtlessness, and not simple ignorance, is too much to bear. I'd rather shake my head inwardly at their ignorance, thankyou.

In my imaginary conversations inside my head, I deal with thoughtless offenders in the same calm, yet direct manner I treat close friends and family. I acknowledge the goodness of their intentions, but stick up for my right to be treated kindly and thoughtfully.

As an aside, I'm worried about twins myself, mostly because I would be twice as worried about the pregnancy - not because I think twins are bad.

To be charitable, people who say, "Thank goodness we don't have twins!" or "I could never do IVF!" might be heard to say, "I think you're more brave and accomplished than I ever could be."


~r said...

My personal favorite reaction is to give them the Infertile Glare, saying nothing, until they realize what an arse they have made of themselves. (because, I am pretty Out also, most people understand what the look means)

I have to admit, though, it's very rare for anyone to say anything that tactless to me... actually, I tend to get people who apologize to me because they got pregnant quickly... which is an awkward conversation indeed.

Carol said...

I think it is impossible to eradicate, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't tell people how they have made you feel. Just know that you can't change them.

Since I am not 'out' to very many people, I don't actually have to deal with this problem. The few that do know are extremely sensitive about it, and I very much appreciate that. But I think this is a large part of the reason why I am not very 'out' - because I know most people just wouldn't understand how it feels.

C said...

Back when DH and I were first seeing an RE, an acquaintance of mine who knew about our issues decided to share her TTC journey with me. No one else in our circle of friends knew that she and her husband were trying. Conversations about how boring TTC sex can be, CM ickiness, etc... gradually became more emotional discussions about how hard it was to see BFNs month after month. She'd only been trying for three months, but emotionally she was in full-on panic mode, which was pretty much where I was at after 11 cycles. We shared a lot of very personal, very private things, and I felt like at least this rough experience had given me a great new friend.

Well, she got pregnant her fourth month TTC. She was very considerate about how she shared the news with me, but it still stung. What hurt worse was that she completely cut off contact after that. Oh, I'd get the occasional pity e-mail when she learned that another cycle had failed, but that was it. She went from being one of my closest confidantes to a virtual stranger almost overnight. The worst part was how I felt shunned by someone I'd shared some of my darkest fears with. Like I was a leper and now that she was pregnant and happy, she didn't want any of my negativity to infect her.

It hurt. A lot. Even without hearing her say "I'm so happy we weren't infertile," I knew that was what she was feeling and thinking every time we happened to run into each other. I don't blame her for thinking it--I certainly know that I'd probably feel that way in her shoes, but I do blame her for letting it wreck what had been a good friendship.

Anonymous said...

I was out with my family initially, then friends later.

You forgot the 'we got pregnant, and we hadn't started trying yet' announcement. One made to me by my sister - she told me that after knowing we had just miscarried.

'But you just told me you were taking prenatal vitamins for six months before then'

She quickly said that she'd only been taking them as a good
'all rounder'women's health.

Yeah, so I believe there are LIARS out there!

It's always baffled me that women use fertility in this one-up-(wo)manship way.

K said...

Ugh, I may be an asshole in this category. When we did our IVF, we transfered two. When only one stuck around, I said more than once that i wasn't sad we were only having one. Mainly because i know many people who don't have kids that seemed to romanticize twins, and I knew as great as it would be, it would be hard work. (as if one isn't hard work...) Of course I'd never say it the way you posed, but perhaps i'm still an asshole. All i ever say to my close friend with trips is how amazing she is, and how I admire her parenting. cause Seriously, i can't fathom how she rocks it so hard, with THREE babies.
but back to your question. at this point, I'm so out, I'm the poster child for IF and my hubby is the poster boy for sperm analysis. Christ, he tells random strangers to get an SA. So I get lots of questions and requests for referrals. I usually just suck it up and say nothing, then rant like hell on my blog. Yeah. I'm healthy.

Anonymous said...

Weeell, I'm going to be the one with the weird exception stories. I have a friend, who went through secondary IF, had multiple losses after IVF, then finally had twins through IVF. The twins are now 6 and she regularly tells people that having twins can wreck a marriage. That the strain of medical needs, and endless work can tear apart a couple, no matter how strong they were before. She told me this for years, and they are now getting a divorce.
I don't have twins, so I mever know what to say to her, but I know she loves her kids, I think she just wishes they came one at a time.
Maybe lots of people are thinking of her story when they talk to you, unbeknownst to both of us? (Just sayin' there are different opinions.)

As for being "out", I come out to strangers, medical people, friends, family, & the only people who have ever acted like jerks are political people. I knock on doors for them, I am on a first name basis with them, but it doesn't make them any less uncomfortable. Even when I couch it in very professional terms, and tell them exactly what to do to make lives better for all moms and babeis, they all want to run and hide. Annoys me to no end.
Young people are the worst, middle aged people and old people are the best, mostly because they have actually been through something in life. Invariably they will tell me about a loss they had years ago, or at minimum, say about my story, "I'm so sorry."
I actually have taught my children what to say, because I find teens and twentysomethings, to generally be tongue-tied and I don't want my kids to be that way.

Anonymous said...

I'm having another bad spelling day. That should be "never", not "mever", and "babies", not "babeis".


Josefina said...

I'm not that out, well and I still haven't had any treatment (just 15 months of eternal waiting with one early m/c somewhere in between)...but I really don't know well what to answer to those annoying comments such as "you have to relax" really pisses me off so much, but my answers are "it's not that easy", said in a nice and ashamed tone, like I was doing something bad, worrying so much you know??
Anyway I've been progressively more and more assertive, saying things like "you can't imagine what's like, you haven't had any problems getting pregnant, so it's difficult for you to imagine what it is to go month after month trying and not having any results"...but I think they still don't get it...

Anam said...

hehehe i could have written that - and still can evry day write those very same sentences :)

I am really open about my If - becuase it is mine and i am open about everything else.. i'm not so open about the hurt or the upset that people cuase either on purpose or by accident.

I used to egt so angry about it - not to those very good friends who try and dot he little white lies or try to include without pushing it - i am deliriously happy for them - i want them to be happy - i just want to be there with them.

I remember once ro twice when after many eyars of heartache we had our daugther and people were like oh you can forget everything and my hubby said, no our daugther does not wipe out all the hurt and sadness but it makes it easier but our daugther helps other people deal with their guilt about what they have done to us.

I now have 2 reactions to people - if i like them and they say something stupid - ie not intentional - i say 'oh, really?' thats normally a heads up that they need to reword stuff.. i mean not child is an angel and i'm not an angel parent but she is precious to me. if i dont like them or they have said stuff to hurt delibertly - i either let my hubby go "well that sentence just proves you are both stupid and ignorant." or i'll make a smart comment about how the 5 years of heartache before my daugther has still not prepared my for the current 2 years of heartache - twice broken sucks. or if i'm really bitchy which is currently i'll go along the lines of so when did you get a IF specialist degree?

so i feel with you - not for you - with you.