The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What If All They Have Is Lemons?

Josh came home this week with a crate of lemons and asked if I could do anything with them (please don't ask how he ended up with a crate of lemons).

When life gives you a crate of lemons, most people would make lemonade. But I used them to make the world's worst and most complicated lemon cookies.

Thanks a lot, Rachael Ray. They will be going into the garbage soon enough--all eight dozen of them.

But the baking process--of which there was over 45 minutes of just prep time to zest all of those lemons and juice them--gave me time to think of a new what if.

What if a close friend or family member couldn't withhold judgement on your infertility/pregnancy loss decisions (for example, they were wholly against IVF and you chose to do IVF or they thought you needed to wait after a loss and you wanted to try again or they thought you should keep trying IVF with your eggs and you wanted to use donor eggs)? What would you want them to say in order to protect your relationship while still continuing with your decisions. Would you rather have them be honest, or would you rather have them slip off the face of the earth for a bit rather than tell you the truth?

Subsequently, is there any way that a person could tell you that they couldn't support you during infertility and didn't want to hear the details of your journey that would still keep your relationship in tact?


pink said...

There's another side to this: what you choose to share. The reality, as my dear sainted mother would say, is that opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one. Luckily a lot of hot button topics are touched on in one way or another before the issue actually arises--ie, if you know your MIL is a staunch pro-life Catholic, you might not want to talk about selective reduction with her. It's very difficult when you're in an emotionally-charged situation to not talk to those to whom you are closest, but sometimes you have to pick and choose your confidantes. Recently, when we were going through pre-natal testing we deliberately skirted the issue with my MIL while I was a lot more open with friends. My MIL, in turn, was sensitive enough (not always the case with her) to keep her opinions to herself. I guess what I'm saying is that you can't expect people to change their opinions because of your situation. You can, however, choose what you share and expect that they will respect your choices. And if they don't, then you tell them, politely or otherwise, mind your own damn business.

Bobby and Ivy said...

I think this is a situation in which if a person has the mind to question your decisions then they need to be prepared for you to be completely and utterly honest. Many people were shocked to find out that I was adopting instead of going the IVF route. It was strange to them that I did not try harder for "my own." Well, I'm not a person who sugar coats things. I basically told them all that first of all my children, adopted or not, are my own. Second, it's my decision, it's what's right for me. You can make your own decisions about your life and body, leave mine alone.

I honestly feel that no one, and I mean NO ONE can tell you what to do with your body, especially when it comes to infertility. It is terribly disrespectful and hurtful to question someone who is already hurting so badly. I am not one who wants to have regrets in my life and if I had listened to everyone, I would have a lot of regrets. It is up to myself and my husband to decide what is right for us. Period. Everyone has a choice in life and we should be given the chance to make our choices about starting a family for ourselves. Moms, Dads, friends, etc can't do that for us. They're not in our position, they have no idea what we are going through, they have no clue what we need.

I say, let them be ready to get smacked for questioning a decision about infertility. Otherwise, be as supportive as possible, and say, "No matter what, I'm here for you." That is just what the infertile person needs. Not opinions, not questions, but support, love, and encouragment.

Journeywoman said...

It's happened.

One of my friends told me that I was dead wrong to adopt internationally and that all the problems I am having with it is because Gd knows how bad it is.

I don't speak to her anymore. When we HAVE to be together (she's married to one of my husband's best friends) we talk about the weather--no joke.

I had another friend who thought that I should do IVF as many times as necessary. She is a fertile myrtle and doesn't understand adoption. We've drifted apart.

Stacie said...

When going through IVF I kept it pretty quiet. For one thing, I was teaching in a Catholic school and I suspect IVF was a firing offense. For another, I didn't want people to be sympathetic if it failed and murmer how they understood when, frankly, they didn't. However, if someone in my life knew and was not able to be supportive, they would no longer be in my life.

Anonymous said...

Good what if!

I frankly don't care what someone else is or isn't comfortable with in terms of our own decision making. It OUR decision to make; no one else's.

And, like pink, I tend not to spend a lot of time sharing information with the kind of people who couldn't withhold their opinions or judgements on our decision.

I suppose the ideal would be if someone gave me the caveat that, though they didn't agree with our decision, they supported J and I 100% anyway. Even though they didn't agree with what we're doing. And that they're sorry we had to make a decision in the first place because of infertility.

Because then I can keep in mind that their love and empathy for us in this situation is stronger than their disapproval of our choices in how we go about building our family.

Jane said...

Good Question. Don't know the answer. That is why the internet is a great place to vent these feelings. You can find your community and discuss things with people who KNOW.

Michelle said...

It is a good question. And many thoughtful answers so far.

Sorry about the cookies. You zested enough lemons for 8 dozen cookies that are bound for the garbage? Ouch.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, the people with opinions don't tend to hold back, or ask if you want to hear them. They just charge right in, and tell you that maybe you weren't meant to be a mother, or whatever else they want to say, before launching into the reasons why what you are doing is wrong. And while sometimes you know in advance who will hold strong opinions and can just keep quiet, sometimes you don't. So I have found it is better to just back away after the fact, that is, AFTER having told them that while I thanked them for their opinion, I was going ahead anyway.

But then one friend got offended with me not wanting so much contact and said that, although she didn't support my decisions, she'd be a shoulder to cry on if I needed it. Funnily, I haven't found that I've needed that particular shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Wow, before lunch I started to write something and I came back and Serenity took the words right out of my mouth!

TeamWinks said...

I don't hide my infertility, and therefore, get a lot of people with opinions and advice. I haven't regretted coming "clean" to a single person (no matter how ignorant they can be.) When it comes to opinions and support, I guess it depends on who the person is as to how much it matters. I'd like to say that the only opinions that matter are my husband's and mine, but it just isn't so.

I am in no way saying that I won't go against the advice, but I will weigh what the person has to say. Here's an example, my husband and I want to adopt. My parents want us to at least try ART once or twice. So, we are trying and IUI this month. The advice comes from a place of love, it isn't against my values, it means a lot to them (they think I would kick myself if I didn't later,) and who knows it could work. Will we try a second to appease them, who knows. I doubt it. Call it what you will. Some advice just plain matters, no matter how much you try to say it doesn't.

karen m said...

What pink said. I didn't talk a lot about our infertility adventures at the time; mostly because our families were...less than supportive, let's say. My mom was downright hostile to the whole idea of my getting pregnant at the time. Later I found out that she was worried I would die during childbirth, like one of my other relatives who also had a hell of a time conceiving. My mother-in-law had a ton of a**vice for us, all the usual stuff. If she were *that* worried about our sex life, all she had to do was ask to see the videos...

Having said all that, I wish I had known about infertility blogs/bloggers when we were going through our own RE adventure. It would have made life a lot less painful having somebody else to talk to.

Anonymous said...

I guess if they weren't supportive, then I just don't want to hear it. what we are doing is our decision. But this is why we haven't told everyone, particularly the people who we think might not be so supportive. There are actually times when I wish I hadn't told as many people as I have - but I don't want any more pity. I just want to be normal.

Anonymous said...

If it makes it any better, at least the cookies *look* good on the screen. And what an amazing "what if".

I agree with much of what's already been said - the bit about being careful what you share, and about how it is possible to respectfully disagree with someone's choice - to feel that it should have been done otherwise, but to support them all the same. I also think disrespectfully disagreeing (like the "friend" who said those things about international adoption to journeywoman) will get you a swift ticket out of Friendville.

I like honesty. I like it better on days when I am not too emotional to deal with it. I would like for people to find out if I'm in the right frame of mind for honesty before being honest with me. Then I would like them to use my grandmother's stock phrasing. She never witholds and opinion, she never expects you to take it into account, and she never says, "I told you so" when you ignore her and do your own thing anyway and it all turns out badly.

What I've often heard her say is this: "Is there any reason you're not doing it *this way*?" And she will accept an answer of any level of detail, from "Yes," to "Well, let me explain all the pros and cons to you at great length..."

But I don't see a way for a person to tell me they didn't want to hear the details or support us through our journey, and still remain friends. I understand some people have religious beliefs against IVF, and things only get more controversial from there (PGD, donors, etc etc) but if their beliefs are so radically different to mine as to preclude their support - not their understanding, just their support - then I don't see a way to be friends.

(I believe I could still be amicable with family members/friends under these circumstances, but we wouldn't be "close".)


Anonymous said...

Also, what teamwinks said about weighting advice according to who's giving it, and giving each opinion its full due (and then making your own decision on how to act) rather than dismissing it just because it came from outside your unit as a couple.


The Town Criers said...

I think I was wondering the what if with more people who you couldn't dismiss from your life--mothers, fathers, siblings. People who would one day be in the life of your child. And with information that couldn't be withheld necessarily. Of course you could always choose not to tell someone about IVF (which can be a veeeeeeeeeeery smart thing), but it's a bit more difficult to hide an international adoption. The comments don't always just come before the fact--they can come afterwards too. Our worst comment came after we thanked the person for helping us (unknowingly) during treatments.

But what would you do if your mother or MIL said, "I think adoption is a terrible idea!" Or "I cannot stand by you while you do IVF because Jesus will punish me too by supporting you." How do you proceed from there? Especially because that person will play a role in the life of your child. You will either need to let them see their grandparents or you'll need to one day explain what happened if you do choose to cut yourself off from them.

The only people who have ever voiced disdain over our choices have been people who I wouldn't even consider friends. They were easy to dismiss. But what would one do if it was a parent? Is there any way to salvage that relationship? And after something is said, is there any way to patch up that relationship now that you know their true feelings? Can it be fixed and can people move on from there?

My heart is going out to anyone who is living this what if--and if you can offer advice, please share.

Anam said...

wow... interesting topic. i have family who suck at understanding infertility - i nod and waolk away and cry - i just dotn tell them any more becuase i am losing the ocntrol over wanting to punch them on the nose for being arsewipes. luckily my inlaws are the best - they dont ask too much but want to know the basics and try to support. wehn we first were told no kids ever, go for adoption we told them (we werent married) and they just said once they were x (their surname - we were getting married that year) then they are ours - end of story. and i have sinc elearnt that my inlaws stand up to tohers for us. so they make up for the crappiness on my side.
i have found that i tend to not involve certain people in any discussion ro inforamtion about soemthing and i have had the 'why didnt you tell me about x' to which i reply becuase you wouldnt understand or be supportive etc like you were before. normally that kicks them into relaity that they messed up and if they dont change slowly they fall out of our lives.
only once have we cut someone dead in the water - becuase they said stuff they hadnt a clue about like IVF works for everyone, i cant get pregnant becuase i'm x or y or z, or even better - we arent ever going to be parents becuase my hubby has long hair and i have tattoos and talk too much.
so i tend to agree that people who dont support are just left out of the information loop.

M said...

Interesting post. My FIL and husband's aunt were dead set against us doing IVF. They thought it was immoral. So, when we got pregnant, we lied and told them it happened naturally. We chose to lie rather than be tormented for years to come about our choice

Manuela said...

Hmmm... good question.

For me personally, I would want them to be honest rather than skirt the issue as I'd probably pick up on their true feelings anyway. BUT... I would then certainly distance myself from them after that. I wouldn't want any type of negative influence around me during treatment. It's stressful enough as it is.

Ruta said...

My in-laws have played lip service to our adoption (home 3 years now) but it's never gone deeper than that, and their actions have shown a lack of support (e.g., they have a second home 10 minutes away from our son's orphanage, spend 6 months of the year there but refused to visit him during the 4 month period between referral and court date). Further, my FIL does not appear to interact much with our adopted son while doting on the bio boys.

I don't have an answer yet on what to do with them. We shut them out for 2 years, until MIL apologized for her refusal to interact with our son. We're now trying to build a relationship of some sorts. Still not easy and it may not stick ... but we're trying.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a what if for me, it happened. In one of the rare conversations I've had with my FIL, he said that it was wrong. All sorts of weighty phrases were used -- "against God's plan" being my favorite.


lunarmagic said...

I honestly expected to have to argue with some family members, but surprizingly everyone has been supportive. My mother HAS disagreed with me over a great many things I chose to do with my life, and voiced them often and loudly, and every time I would step further away from her. I imagine I'd do the same thing about IF. If someone cannot support me, I really really don't have the mental energy right now for it. I need support. I need friends and family helping me out, cheering me on, picking me up. People who would poke holes in me really hurt when I'm vulnerable.

I'm really scared if it ever comes to us getting pregnant with higher-order multiples. I would do selective reduction, for many reasons, and I am VERY sure that a LOT of people would be upset about that and probably think I was doing horrible things. I found myself in the middle of a discussion about abortion and it hurt more than it usually does, because I kept thinking - would people think that about me if I did selective reduction? I know it's an extremely hot button. And honestly I couldn't take it. It would be horrible, horrible to go through as it is. I don't think it would really matter if they were blunt or if they hid it - if they honestly thought I was a horrible person it would change the friendship deeply. I pray it never gets to that, that it's never an issue.