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Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's Not Guilt, It's...

We had dinner at my parent's house last night for the last night of Chanukkah. My mother told me that she was bothered by the use of the word "guilt" in the post this week on infertility diagnoses (yes, my mommy reads my blog, and she does call me every time I use a curse word. I was going to write a curse word in this space to be funny, but I know that she will not find that amusing).

(I find it amusing)

She felt the term "guilt" implied something within the person's control. She believed a person experienced guilt over knowing the right thing to do, but choosing a different path. Most of the time, infertility isn't about choices or right vs. wrong. It's about a medical condition and elements that are outside your control.

I grabbed my dictionary.

Guilt (n) 1. the fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense. Culpability for a crime that carries a legal penalty. Remoreseful awareness of having done something wrong. Self-reproach, as for inadequacy (American Heritage Dictionary).

So what is the right term to describe what you feel as you lie awake at 3 a.m., worried about finances and feeling the weight that your reproductive organs are the reason you are spending your money on fertility drugs rather than a vacation?


Anonymous Infertile said...

Well, she has a point. And, maybe another word would be better to describe how those of us infertiles
are feeling each month. But, the only thing I can really compare it to is guilt. My husband does not understand why I personally feel guilty, neither do my friends. They think along the same lines as your mother that I did not choose this so how could I feel like it was my fault. And no matter how many times they tell me it isn't my fault and no matter how many times I agree with them (to make them happy) this feeling won't go away.
I know that I cannot control that I am infertile. I have PCOS which I basically received genetically from my mother. One month while I was saying that it was my fault J asked why I blame myself but not my mother (who passed this 'disease' on to me). And, I can rationally say that I don't blame her because I know that she would have never chosen this for me. So, how can I let her off the hook but not myself?
I don't have a word for it but I am sure that one of your more creative readers will!

Paper_whore said...

It sure feels like guilt.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm having a hard time finding something that encompasses this feeling better that 'guilt' ...well something that doesn't include those swear words your mother doesn't approve of. I think at 3am, we all lie there and try to think back and see if there was a moment when we did something or should have known something or DIDN'T do something to cause this and therein lies our guilt because we can't think of anything that fits that or because we CAN. It's the maybe's that get us and make us feel guilty. Awake, sober, and relatively unpreoccupied with the current state of my ovaries, I KNOW I didn't cause this and I know I'm not to blame, but kick up the hormones, deprive me of sleep, and, baby, I'll blame myself every time. Particularly when I've been looking over last year's medical receipts.

the waiting line said...

. . . nausea and angst.

Lyrehca said...

I'd say anxiety fits the bill nicely.

Anonymous said...

It's "guilt". It's "self-reproach, as for inadequacy".

Let me add an adjective - it's *misplaced* guilt because it's something out of your control, that you did nothing to deserve. It's guilt you have the right to *not feel*. It's *unconnected with blame* except that which you apply yourself. It's not your fault!

But the feelings - whether you deserve them or not - I'd have to say guilt.

Best of luck letting the guilt go. I'm sure J and everyone else wants you to.


Anonymous said...

...and obviously, to be clear, I should add that you're not actually "inadequate" but your guilt implies feelings of inadequacy. Self-reproach "as for" inadequacy.


DD said...

I actually have a draft about this very thing, "guilt" in relationship to how many bloggers get "survivor's guilt" once they get pregnant. Did they do something wrong that they should feel guilty about taking into consideration the definition of the word?

When you compare you context with mine, I would say they both are "guilt", however I'd prefer it if I was feeling my kind of guilt.

Anonymous said...

God, She has a good point. But it's guilt. I felt guilty that i couldn't provide my husband iwith a child. Then when we found it was MF (yes I know I promised that write up by xmas, but I've been SO SICK and can't think) he felt guilty that I had to go through all of this because of his bum balls (that's what he calls it - BBS - Bum Ball Syndrome).
It's guilt, and anxiety, and failure, and self hatred. I have SO. MUCH. GUILT for failing to have a vaginal birth. It was completely out of my control. I pushed for 13 hours (yes thirteen not a typo) and she wouldn't come out. Still blame myself. Is it right? no. but it's my truth.
Just cause you can't control it, doesn't mean you don't want to.

Anonymous said...

Your mom sounds like such a sweet person! No one in my real life has read my blog... ;)

Unfortunately, guilt is the right term to use here...even though IF is beyond our control. Our very emotional side, and VERY wrongly, feels that IF is OUR fault - that we did something to cause this to happen to us...even though our brain knows that our IF was not our choice.

I feel guilt every day of my life: That my body won't ovulate on its own, that my body has single-handedly caused three angels to leave us...and that guilt so very, very hard to shut off.

Guilt - it's the gift that keeps on giving!

Bobby and Ivy said...

How funny that my husband and I had this exact concersation last night as I was cooking dinner. I apologized for having put him through so much because of my inadequate body. I put us through several years of angst trying to get pregnant. We adopt and life gets okay again. Then out of the blue, here comes baby! Of course, my body still doesn't work right and I get hyperemesis. So I told DH how sorry I was that he had been through so much because of me.

GUILT. Lots and lots of it. But you know, I think we eventually come to the conclusion that we are not at FAULT for our issues, however we are the person who has the issue. It's kind of a catch 22. No we have no control over what happened to us, but we still have put our families through hell. Money problems, hospitalizations, depression, the works.

And then you find peace with that. And even though you still carry the guilt, you also carry understanding.

Anonymous said...

Guilt. It may be irrational and illogical, but it's guilt nonetheless.

TeamWinks said...

I'm not sure it is guilt, but more sadness. Sad that things can't be different, sad that there is nobody to really blame, and that there is no magical way to fix the problem. Sad that my family is also dragged through the hell of infertility with us. So much sadness that's what it feels like to me.

Gypsyhick said...

guilt. despair. shame.

I feel I'm guilty even if I can't control my fallopian tubes pushing that embryo into the right place - like a driver who hits black ice unexpectantly and kills a passenger. Guilty? Not technically, but it lives forever in that driver's mind that maybe she could have prevented the accident somehow, some way when in any other person's mind, it was unavoidable.

I'm haunted by what-ifs.

Anonymous said...

I'd call it 'selfless love and dedication,' really.

Anonymous said...

It's not guilt. Okay, it's not just guilt. It's doubt. And finally, as Bea said, self-recrimination.

IF treatments are gambling. I mean, if you could spend $20K and be assured (money back guarantee!) that you would have a perfectly happy, healthy baby that had your grandmother's eyes and your husband's nose and your mother-in-law's curly hair, you'd do it, right? (I would do it).

But we don't get 100% assurances, and precious few guarantees. We get told we have A CHANCE. We get told we have A SHOT. We get lots (and lots) of MAYBES. We get told 40%, 30%, 20% (or in my case) less than 10%. (Roulette has better odds).

Who places a bet with these odds? Well, all of us. (At least I do). And who feels like a FREAKING IDIOT when the house wins? Me. (and maybe you, too).

So when it doesn't pay off, I feel STUPID that I took the shot, and GUILTY that I made the decision to take the chance.

But, for me, it's not just guilt.

Dee said...

Overwhelming frustration? Optionless? Despair? Take your pick.

Dianne said...

I like's definition: guilt–noun 2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

Uncontrollable and self-imposed guilt.

Anonymous said...

And on a completely different note...


Have a nice day...

mandolyn said...

Isn't it part of the (un)official definition of "infertility"?

Anonymous said...

As the mate of a person in recovery, I have to comment on this guilt issue. One of the things one learns in recovery is the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a rational response to something you did. Shame, however, is a better descriptor of what you are feeling. Shame is an irrational response to something out of your control. Much of what we call guilt is actually shame.

With infertility, the better way to describe the feeling is shame, because we feel defective and are powerless to change. Shame is about how we are defective in some way. Guilt implies that we could do something about the situation...and with infertility this is not true.

So I agree with your Mom. This is more about shame than guilt, though our confusion with the nuances of language cause us to use guilt over shame (especially since guilt sounds like we have control over the outcome).