The Daily News

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Empathy (Children Mentioned)

I'm going to take the risk of this post being taken in the wrong way and place this out there. I will warn that I'm ducking and taking cover in case words are thrown.

I was recently reading an article in a magazine... Okay, this is the part where I admit that it was People Magazine and I wasn't in a doctor's office; I was in my own house. Anyway, I was reading People and there was an article about Grant Achatz*, the chef at Alinea, an ultra-hip Chicago restaurant (I should also state that I read all my issues of People well after the fact and this particular article was in the October 22nd issue. In my world, Britney and K-Fed are still deeply in love and J Lo is still hush-hush on the pregnancy).

Achatz was diagnosed with tongue cancer and he states, "the irony of the situation is tragic to people." His mentor, a fellow chef, said of the diagnosis: "Devastating. A sick joke on someone so talented and so in need of his taste buds." The article continues with "his illness grabbed headlines and brought in crates of get-well notes."

It is a cruel situation. Cancer is always a cruel situation, regardless of age or profession. A chef--who needs his tongue in order to fulfill his passion and perform his job--is diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer just as his career is taking off. This cancer comes out of left-field; he does not fit the common profile for this form of cancer. He is commended for fighting it, supported by many, sent hope by everyone who reads his story (okay, that is an assumption on my part. For all I know, Achatz receives daily hate mail).

One who skims this post will probably jump down my throat when I now turn to examine the reception of an infertility diagnosis and say, "I can't believe she is comparing stage 4 cancer to infertility." I'm not. One is life-threatening and the other is only provable to the mainstream as lifestyle threatening (though off-record, I could form a strong argument for the many instances of how infertility is tangentially life threatening). Yet they are both classified as medical diseases.

The article in the Globe and Mail had an online comments section, and beyond the title labeling women treating their medical disorder as "desperate" the comments followed inline with that form of thinking:

"It's an old-age epidemic- not a fertility one. Why are children considered commodities? If you can't bear one naturally, maybe nature has another plan for you..."

"This will likely come across as insensitive but why is there this insane drive towards 'natural' children. Even if those children are the result of fertility treatments. There are plenty of children who need to be adopted into a loving family."

"Why stress about something that isn't happening as easily if at all like it should. If you want a child adopt one."

If you treat one medical condition, you're courageous. If you treat another one, you're desperate. I wonder which side of the fence you fall on if you're treating infertility directly stemming from cancer. Since it seems as if people need to pick-and-choose which treatments of disease they support--how would they navigate that pickle? I am feeling bitter because I've been told one too many times that my problem is apparently not a problem. Of course, this comes from people who have never experienced this problem.

The tragedy of Achatz's situation is not that he has leukemia or brain cancer--he has tongue cancer and he is a chef. It would be just as tragic for a composer to go deaf or a visual artist to become blind. When our medical condition affects our job, our passion, our raison d'etre, it is ironic and tragic rather that the more commonly used adjective in conjunction with cancer--devastating.

My job, my passion, and my raison d'etre has been to be a professional mother. A full-time mother. A career mother. Which is not to say that a mother who works is not a career mother--in many cases people hold two jobs: one which is their passion and one which is their means for existence. Motherhood is my career choice and it is a passion that chose me--not the other way around.

My job as a teacher was nice, but I could take it or leave it. If I wasn't getting paid, I probably wouldn't do it. On the other hand, I would gladly be a mother without receiving anything in return. Okay, I'd like a kiss every now and then. And a sniff of keppie. But I don't need the monetary reward in order to complete the job. Writing, of course, is a similar passion. I write even when I'm not getting paid to write. If I were to lose my memory for words, it would be tragic. I would not only be suffering from a condition, but I would also lose something that makes me Melissa. Achatz states in the same article: "I'm a chef. My cooking, my art, has kept me going. Take that out of me, and there's nothing left."

I feel the same way on a lower level about writing and I certainly feel that same passion on a higher level about motherhood.

Being a career mother isn't a respected profession. I mean, people marvel at the behaviour of my children--behaviour and kindness that is taught during my many hours on the job--and think that they're wonderful, but I am constantly asked what I do. "I'm a mother," I respond. "I know, but what is your job?"

Perhaps the lack of empathy towards infertility comes from a society that has little respect for mothers. Yes, yes, we respect mothers, we designate parking spots for expectant ones and give up bus seats so they can sit down and the like. Adoption agencies certainly expect a lot out of the parents they accept into programs, but there are no degrees, no coursework, no preparation for parenthood in general society. Motherhood isn't seen as a job, per se. It is a state-of-being: "stay at home" mum vs "work outside the home" mum. You stay at home. You work outside. It's the passive vs. the active.

Achatz is a chef and he needs his tongue in order to create his artistic visions of food. I am a mother and I need my reproductive organs and hormones to work in order to create the life that I wish to mold into productive members of society. I cannot do my job without seeking treatment for my disease just as Achatz cannot do his without turning toward his own prescribed chemotherapy and radiation.

It is common refrain to suggest adoption. Adoption is not a cure for infertility any more than other suggestions are a cure for cancer. Adoption is its own entity--and to suggest it as a solution, as a means to get "rid" of a problem--is to disrespect all families and members involved in an adoption. Especially but not limited to the child. But throwing out adoption as the cure-all is about as enlightened as calling up Achatz and saying, "I heard crushed herbs can cure tongue cancer. Stop being desperate with all of this chemo and radiation and try that so you don't pollute the world with chemicals."

Not very empathetic, n'est-ce pas?

So why would people believe that it's helpful or kind to produce a similar dismissal of the enormity of the problem when it comes to infertility?

A better response: I'm so sorry. That's terrible. I want to support you and be sensitive. Do you want to talk about it? Do you not want me to ask about treatments? I'm going to follow your lead.

An end point--I would wish neither condition on my worst enemy.

* To Mr. Achatz, if you read this: I apologize for using you as an example, but the convergence of reading your article the day after reading the comments on my article brought this issue to mind. I was pretty hurt by some of the comments and spent a traffic-light-pause of time having a brief, frustrated cry. I am sure you have also received assvice since being diagnosed--assvice that wasn't included in your article therefore I'm not privy to it, so it's easy to imagine a world where one condition is fully supported and the other is not. I'm sending many good thoughts to you and I'm looking forward to your cookbook being published so I can try out all of the recipes and impress at my next dinner party.


Tracy said...

Well said.

I still write it off to sheer ignorance. Most people just don't have the first clue.

Soupy said...

Well said, indeed!

Its amazing just how MANY people just. do. not. GET IT.


Love this:
But throwing out adoption as the cure-all is about as enlightened as calling up Achatz and saying, "I heard crushed herbs can cure tongue cancer. Stop being desperate with all of this chemo and radiation and try that so you don't pollute the world with chemicals."

There should be a book of all the analogies of what not to say to someone. It'd be a best seller.

Interestingly enough, when I read that article (in the privacy of my home, as well *tongue sticks out*), I too had a brief comaparison flash into my sight of cancer vs. infertility. I'm glad you took it a step further and wrote this out. This was theraputic for me to read. Thanks, Mel!

sky girl said...

I just couldn't bring myself to read the article's comments.

You've made some very valid points here Mel. And you've said it in a very diplomatic way. No, no one is comparing IF to Cancer but you bring up some interesting questions.

I guess that to some degree almost everyone has experience with cancer. We've all been touched by it. IFers and non-IFers. It's more understood. IF doesn't touch every one therefore one who's never experienced the pain of it, or had a loved one face it can find it easy to make such platitudes and assumptions about treatment or acceptance of it.

Jendeis said...

Amen sister (on the Christmas posts too). My SIL said some similar things to me in the past few months. I've been wanting to blog about it, but I'm just so angry that I'm afraid that I would kill the computer.

BBT went down today, so it turns out that I've been a real bitch because I'm a bitch, not for pregnancy reasons. Bleccch.

Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

YES! I couldn't agree with you more. People are so ignorant when it comes to the world of IF. I love it when someone who has 3 or 4 kids comes to me and says "well, maybe that's not God's plan for you." My response as of late has been: That may not be God's plan, but it's mine and I'll get there come hell or high water.

I think that IF is a very difficult subject to deal with because it is so personal. I think other women are almost afraid to talk about it, like my infertility will wash off on them or something.

The fact is that infertility is a disease. I may not (or may) die from it (or it's other effects), but just because there isn't an immediate risk of death doesn't make it any less devastating to me. Quite the contrary, anything that hinders me from living my normal life is quite devastating.

Death is inevitable, infertility isn't (at least for everyone).

Fertilize Me said...

i ponder on why IF is deamed different by alot of people. or why sufferers' of IF have to hide in a closet or blogosphere to receive the proper amount of support but there are all types of other disease/conditional support groups

great points

Jen said...

Your post was very well written. I agree with you.

And I feel bad that I didn't leave a nice comment on that article. I thought it was a nice article. Something I found amusing: that "regular" people had to realize that not only do we have dead baby thoughts, but we have them so often that an acronym is needed. I know those sorts of realizations didn't come to me until I started this whole journey. (Which I am still not even that far along in.) But I certainly understand it now.

Samantha said...

Some of those comments on the article were a little painful. I was glad to see also that there were people who were a lot more supportive as well.

It bothers me less that people are ignorant, than that they are just plain rude about it. They're not saying, "I'm sorry it's so difficult, have you considered adoption? It probably would be easier." You might take issue with it, but at least the spirit is of compassion. Instead they say, "You are so desperate and crazy! What's wrong with you? Can't you just deal with it and admit you're an old bitch Just adopt, dammit!" That's what really bothers me.

Wen782 said...

Mel, you're absolutely RIGHT.

My father died from cancer. My family is riddled with it on both sides.

When I was told on a few occasions that if I'd just adopt, I'd get pregnant, I asked if they could sign the "Baby Award" certificate stating that legally, that's just what had to happen. After all, "they say" it, so it must be true, RIGHT?

Both things require treatment, both take a toll mentally and physically. Both, over time, will tear you apart.

Hugs, miss. And it's ok if you're a little bit behind the rest of the celebrity slumming word. Not everyone watches Extra. LOL

Gumby said...

Yes, very well said.
I cannot begin to tell you how OFFENDED I am by the "just adopt" comments thrown at people struggling with infertility. So just because I happened to marry a man who turned out to have a genetic disorder that causes EXTREMELY low sperm production, now I am expected to take in all the unwanted children in the world?! I don't get a chance at my lifetime dream of having children with my husband like you fertiles simply because I was responsible and prevented getting knocked up before being married (or in a committed relationship for our friends who unfortunately don't have that option), and when I finally found my mate it turns out he is infertile? If I am expected to "just adopt" then why shouldn't they too? By their own reasoning there is PLENTY of unwanted children in the world so shouldn't we ALL do our part in adopting at least one? What kind of asshole does that make them that they're just sitting and doing nothing about all these unwanted children? OK, I'm done. Sorry for the rant. I should probably just put a post on my own blog about this...

B said...

Whoa. Tell it, sister!

I work at a cancer charity, although not directly with patients. I sympathize with the patients and families. I get wrapped up in their stories, and sometimes cry whilst posting their information on our web site. It makes me so sad, thinking about the parents who live on eggshells for years, the kids who don't get to play soccer or ride bikes when their immune systems are compromised, and the patients who die too soon.

And I spend scads of time thinking, commenting, and blogging about infertility and TTC hiatus. I sympathize with infertiles. I empathize with secondary infertiles. I avidly read about the joys and pain that can come with raising kids who aren't biologically related to you. I always always cry when someone announces an adoption, even though I don't plan to adopt at this point.

And here you come with this elegant analogy: both conditions prevent and/or hinder people from being who they are destined to be.

Will their experiences make them better people in the long run? Quite likely. Will their treatment decisions be peppered with assvice about nature's course and all that crap? Also quite likely.

Yet both groups deserve something very similar... the right to choose their own course. To seek the treatment they need. To talk about their conditions on their own terms. And to heal.

r_is_moody said...

Can I just show how fabulously written this is? Ok im saying it!!! FABULOUSLY WRITTEN. I am linking to it from my blog as we speak.

I read the article and the comments, and was happy to see that some comments were from IF'ers or people who had a little compassion. I do not like the word "desperate" in the tittle though. I think that is a little demeaning. But overall a good article. I think any kind of exposure is good for the cause!!

Geohde said...


so very well said...


Baby Step said...

My biggest pet peeve, waiting for my beta (for my 1st IVF cycle) is that people keep telling me - "If it is meant to be, it will happen". People don't say that to cancer patients: "If it is meant to be, you will survive". And when people tell me if I don't have kids, it wasn't meant to be, are they saying that the crack addict who has a baby and dumps it in the trash can...THAT was meant to be? But I am not meant to be a mother! Sorry, this just drives me to the brink of insanity.

harderthanwethought said...

I've actually thought a lot about this comparison myself. What I have come up with is that it might be easier to make the point (which you made beautifully, by the way, so this is in no ways a criticism) by using a disease/condition that is not life threatening. I've thought about posting about this myself but your post is just too good of an opportunity to waste!

When I've thought about trying to get others to understand infertility by comparing it to something like cancer, my concern has always been that my arguments would be dismissed out of hand because I was comparing IF to something life threatening and that would be hard for some people to overcome. I found myself thinking instead of an injury I had a couple of years ago. I hurt my wrist while at work and what at first appeared to be a minor injury eventually turned into something much bigger involving 2 surgeries, occupational and physical therapy, and more. As I was dealing with this (for what ended up being more than a year), I felt desperate to get proper function back to my wrist (and my arm and hand as well). You could say I went to extreme lengths to fix it. It was not life-threatening, but not having full function of one of my appendages did certainly compromise my quality of life, to say the least. And no one in my life ever commented that I was being desperate, or that it was "God's plan" for me to have a janky wrist. Of course not. It was a medical condition that most people would have gone to lengths to correct. And yet, when those of us dealing with infertility, a medical condition, try various different medical procedures to help "fix" the problem, we are judged for it. Definitely a double standard.

But, to tag on to Tracy's point -- a lot of these statements are coming out of ignorance. Since we made the decision to adopt and to let it be widely known that we are adopting, I've really come to realize how little most people understand about the process. I just take it for granted that people know more than they do, both about adoption and just the process of reproduction in general (not to even mention infertility). I am constantly amazed about how little people know. And most people have no reason to know any of this. While it is somewhat frustrating to discover that our friends who have 3 kids do not even really know what an embryo is, that's just the way it is! They obviously never needed to know that bit of information... oh well.

Julia said...

You nailed it right down when you said the stupid comments are from people who are not IF. Because it is easy to believe G-d has a plan that leaves someone else childless. Makes for a great way to differentiate from self. "I have children. Therefore, G-d meant me to have children." Impeccable flipping logic.
And so true, also, about adoption. Not only is it demeaning to suggest that adopted children are adopted to save them rather than to make or complete a family, but it is also incredible how it is the responsibility of the infertiles to take care of all the children in the world who need a good home. Fertiles are exempt, by G-d's plan, of course. Can we all call a very loud bullshit, please?

I have to nitpick, though. Just a tad. Because I have two passions. I love what I do for work, and I love being a mother. There is no question that if I could only pick one, I would pick motherhood, but I shouldn't have to choose in order for my desire for children to be validated in the same way as a desire of someone who does not work outside the home. My living child is also well behaved, and kind, and wonderful. And I take great care to choose who takes care of her when I am not around, who gets to teach her in school, who gets to be her coach. But we are the ones who are raising her. I think you probably agree with all of this, as I very much agree that professional mothers are very much not respected in our society. In fact, I would say mothers in general are not respected. So I guess my nitpick just amounts to let's please not separate ourselves into camps, when we are in act all in this together.

Beagle said...

All of it just makes me mad. I've thought of cancer often in comparison too. My comparison is usually in reference to people saying that they can't relate/understand/offer empathy because they have never been in my shoes.

But they don't say that to cancer patients, do they? No, they say something kind and they dig deep to try to understand.

It angers me that infertility is not considered a "real" disease. It is.

And one further ramble from me then I'll go back to my corner.

If we were talking say lung cancer of a life long chain smoker . . . does that person deserve more empathy than an IF patient? And what about health care coverage . . . do they deserve that more than an infertile couple who lives a healthy lifestyle, pays their insurance but is sh*t out of luck when it comes to getting treatment covered?

It all gets me quite steamed . . . can you tell?

My sympathies to Mr. Achatz. His condition may be more ironic, but is it really more tragic, than Joe Smith who can't boil water having the same devastating disease? I'm not actually sure.

loribeth said...

Oh, bravo (once again), Mel... infertility is never a problem until it happens to you or (maybe) to someone you love, isn't it?

The Dunn Family said...

I wish I was as eloquent as you are. Well said.

chicklet said...

You wrote it way better and with much more attention to detail than I did, but I made the same bold move awhile ago and related infertility to cancer - that if I had any other accepted illness (like cancer) people would read about it, learn about it,and support me. But cuz it's IF, they think it's a joke.

It's sad these people think this way. So very sad.

Searching said...

Awesome post!

Carole said...

Couldn't be better said...

deanna said...

The cluelessness about adoption troubles me so much because it is so often everyone's first magical suggestion when they hear of our infertility. They really want it to be the cure-all so they can stop feeling uncomfortable aroud me, and so that I can just as magically stop being bummed out about IF.

I get SO SICK of hearing public service announcements trying to warm people's hearts to the idea of adoption. It's not the IDEA of it that is the deterrant. I love adoption in theory, but i can't afford to apply it in reality. No one gets that. If they did, surely they wouldn't convict-and-hang us as selfish contributors to world overpopulation. (That comment cracked my shit up.)

Barb said...

Very well worded as always Mel. :) I understand your comparisons. I've used cancer before in my comparisons too. It's one of the few comparisons that actually makes people stand up and notice sometimes.

And people are SO dim not to understand the intricacies, emotional ups and downs and financial difficulties of adoption. AAAAAAAARGH.

And thank you SO much for bringing up the health risks with certain infertility causes!!! I think that's part of what we're dealing with here and partly why I try so hard to let people know about the CONDITIONS behind infertility. Infertility is such an intangible that people brush it off. But if you can talk about PCOS and explain what it is and why it causes certain health risks, or Thyroiditis, or endometriosis, or any of the many issues, they often have to think a little more about it. It's not like God just takes your uterus away and says, "No baby for you!"

Again.. AAAARGH.

Jess said...

I always try to tell myself people aren't asses, they're just not informed.

BUT....when people start calling IF an "old age" issue, that really steams me. Old age, eh? Like when we'd been trying to get pregnant for a yeat unsuccessfuly by AGE 21?? Or maybe not then, but it was def old age when that IVF failed at age 22. I mean seriously, people. Old age?

Sort of like now that we've gotten pg with IVF we're magically "not infertile anymore" according to some people. Yep, cause fertile people always choose IVF for family building.

And as an infertile, adoptive mother who is ALSO pregnant, I hate when adoption is thrown out as the solution to infertility. It's not a solution and doesn't cure infertility. It is a wonderful way to parent, and yes, people many times get there by way of IF, but perhaps if it didn't COST SO MUCH more people would adopt from the get-go, but the truth is that you should take the path YOU need to take and the path which will leave you with the least regrets. And people also need to remember that adoption is not EVERYONE'S answer, and IF alone is not reason that someone should just adopt instead. Maybe they aren't ready or willing to adopt---in which case, they shoudln't, and the pressure to do so is insanely idiotic. On everyone's behalf.

I also hate when people say things like "there are so many UNWANTED kids, you should just adopt" or "Babies need homes already, you're being selfish." I hate these comments because of the obvious reasons, yes, but I also hate the adoption connotations. My daughter was VERY MUCH WANTED by her birthmom, she just couldn't give her what she wanted her to have with a sick son already. And no one GAVE her UP, either...birthmom is still very much a part of her life and always wanted to be...Ava wasn't abandoned at all, and "gave up" has that connotation for me. The other day a clerk at Walmart looked at her and said, "I don't see how someone could give birth to that beautiful child and then just give her up" and I felt like smacking her. Just give her up? As if it was the easiest and most flippant decision ever. I mean really! It sounds so awful and is so far from true! She didn't abandon Ava on the steps of a hospital, she was JUST HERE celebrating Christmas with us for pete's sake! :p

Ok, I'm done ranting. Sorry.

Emilie said...

As someone who struggled with infertility as we tried to conceive our first child and then was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with our second (who was conceived by surprise - go figure), I related to this post on several levels.

Cancer is scary. Every day, I wonder if I will die before my children are old enough to remember me later in life. Every day. (My tumor was removed surgically and hopefully is gone, but there is a 40 to 50 percent chance of it coming back.) Having had cancer forces me to face my own mortality on a regular basis. It compels me to try to soak up every moment that I have with my children and husband with intention and focus, to stay in the present.

Infertility was not scary like that, exactly, but it was emotionally devastating nonetheless, and equally deserving of empathy and support. And it, too, compelled me to take life day by day and savor the good moments. While I may not have faced the prospect of a young death, I faced the prospect of never fulfulling a certain inner drive that I felt was part of my destiny. Not having been able to have children would have felt like a death of sorts, and I would have had to face that and grieve it. People who haven't been there don't always understand that.

As a side note, I've always felt that adoption can be appealing and available to any family, unrelated to the parents' fertility status. To relegate it to the infertility-fallback position makes it seem like adoption is just second-best, and what does that tell adopted kids? When people said to me (or to friends), "Why don't you just adopt?" I always wanted to say, "Why don't you adopt?" The desire to adopt is separate from the desire to conceive children, in my opinion. Yes, both are ways of building a family, but the drives and impulses are different. Sometimes, I see a family with an adopted child, and something tugs at my heartstrings — and it's not the desire to get pregnant again! It's more of a desire to give another child a home, a child who needs one badly. It's a different kind of love, I guess. I hope that makes sense.

Michell said...

Very well said. I think a lot of it is that infertility isn't viewed by those who don't experience it as a disease. It's seen as a vanity. You would never get the assvice to someone with cancer, or diabetes or lupus or something similar that infertiles receive.

Caro said...

Well said!

LJ said...

This topic that you wrote about is my biggest annoyance of the IF/Adoption world. Why are infertiles supposed to adopt the children of the world? Why are we the selfish ones? Just total crap, and you captured my frustration so well.

ms. c said...

Marvelously put, Mel.
And Mazel tov on your Canadian debut. My Canadian heart has a big space reserved for you.
As for the person who so off-handedly commented that nature has other plans for us infertiles: I couldn't agree more. Apparently nature planned for me to shoot up nightly, swallow inumerable pills and lie with my legs up in the air in order for the doc to fill my uterus with my partner's sperm. Indeed, nature obviously intended for me to meet its "friend" science.

m said...

I wonder which side of the fence you fall on if you're treating infertility directly stemming from cancer.

Well, that's me all over. My infertility was a direct result of the chemo and radiation protocols chosen to cure my childhood cancer. It was a deliberate choice by doctors who did the best they could with what they had at the time. Does that stop me from being bitter and angry. Hardly.

The side of the fence that I fall on is that infertility is a medical condition. Just as cancer is a medical condition. Just as the heart disease and lung defects that will most likely face me (and most other survivors of hodgkins)as a result of the chemo will be medical conditions.

Fantastic post, Mel. Your analogies are dead-on and your questions are right on target.

Funny how when I was a "cancer kid" I was smothered in support and encouragement and constantly praised for "being so brave." I am hardly finding that outpouring now.

MLO said...

Very nice post.

And, to those who think people aren't asses, sorry, your wrong. They do tell cancer patients "it's God's will." I've seen and heard it. (Burns my britches, too.)

Of course, they usually save the brunt of the "God's will," or "Meant to be," for the survivors at the funeral.

The tongue cancer is something that people are not going to understand on so many levels, I feel for this man. He has entered a world that few people have to deal with - a world where you are no longer part of the social order. Food related disease that affect your ability to actually eat are considered the most socially isolating diseases of all in the psychiatric community.



Maria said...

Well done. You again (like always) summed up perfectly how I feel.

Ever since I was a child, all I've ever wanted to be was a mother. I've never had great ambitions for any career, except to be a stay at home mom. Many people think I'm pathetic, some think I'm crazy. But I don't care. It's what I want.

That said, the fact that I'm infertile, makes it all so hard. It's as if, I am that chef with tongue cancer. All I want, is to be able to do my job.


Kathy V said...

I have read both articles. I never really thought about IF before it happened to me. I would have to agree that most people just don't know the impact of what they are saying. Most fertile people probably don't think about the adoption process either because they have children. As far as comparing it to cancer, infertility feels like a cancer. You worry about it, you schedule treatments, and it comsumes your life. I think most people outside of our world see it as something that would be more like the injury that harderthanwethought wrote about. Fertiles have just not taken a walk in our shoes.

Well written blog post. -Kathy

Artblog said...

Bravo :)

Tammy's Thought Pattern said...

Mel... Thank you. I am so glad that you wrote what you did, in a way that explains IF pain so eloquently.

I made the mistake of reading the comments on the article and it made my blood boil. The ignorance that floats around about infertiles and adoption is astounding. Would we look at an organ donor recipient and tell them the world is over populated, so their disease is natural selection? Never!

I know how hard it is to adopt. My parents had three failed adoptions before they got me, and that was in the 1970's. The process has only gotten worse since then.

I have an idea. Those who want us all to adopt... Let those people pay for all the knocked up teenagers on government assistance out of their own pockets (after taxes). Maybe once they see that glorifying their ability to keep their child is draining their monitary resources, they will fight for adoption reform. Better yet, how about they tell the foster care system to stop giving crack babies back, revoke their parental rights, and make adoption much cheaper, less heartbreaking, and less stringent?

Unfortunately, we live in reality and not Utopia.

Frenchie said...

THANK YOU!! for this--perfectly said. I am constantly telling people that adoption is not a "cure" for infertility, and I get a weird, blank stare in return. Adoption is BEAUTIFUL and I am SO GRATEFUL for the son I have as a result of adoption, but it doesn't "fix" my very real medical condition that is INFERTILITY. I am still infertile! And my friends don't understand why I want more children, and why I want to pursue fertility treatments. I am constantly met with an attitude that suggests, you GOT a baby--so just be happy now. This, from fertile people who can get pregnant, and have as many children as they like, whenever they like. OR, they can choose not to have more children. But they HAVE THE CHOICE!

Okay, I need to calm down. This is a topic that really gets me going!! Thank you so much for your post.

Bean said...

BRAVO!!!!! Everything that went through my mind as I read your post has pretty much been posted already, but I wanted to say thanks for writing this. We are pursuing adoption, for a number of reasons, and we are contining to try to get pregnant. The adoption will take place whether or not I get and stay pregnant, and if that happens we'll be thrilled to have 3children in our family. Nevertheless, the comments about adoption and what's "meant to be" make me so angry. As others have stated, why is it the IF community's responsibility to care for children who need a home. Why are we selfish for wanting to get pregnant, but all my friends and relatives who have 3 biological children aren't? And, I don't even want to discuss the "it's meant to be comments" because I know I'll end up saying something nasty that I'll regret. Oh, see I got all riled up thinking about this. Thanks for saying it all so well -- as usual.

Dianne/Flutter said...

I didn't read the comments. Grateful that I didn't and morbidly intrigued now to do so. But for the sake of my blood pressure - well I shouldn't.

Everything you said, BRAVO! It is absolutely true that we are completely and totally slighted.

And, in some cases, you can die from undiagnosed infertility issues! Err...ignorance and insentivity are a dangerous combination.

Yodasmistress said...

Ditto that!

harderthanwethought said...

I just wanted to jump back in here to say that I am appreciating this post even more as all the comments continue to come in. It has really made me think and explore my own feelings even more than I already had and I am actually working on a post right now to continue my thoughts on this -- but I'm thinking that it may take me a little while to finish. I appreciate what Kathy V wrote regarding my earlier comment and think she's correct -- my analogy is not complete. I came up with it months ago as I was thinking about the tendency to classify women going through infertility as "desperate" and thought it would be a way to connect to people in my own life and get them to understand more clearly how I was feeling and how that classification of "desperate" was hurtful and misplaced (even though I've used it to describe myself at times). Of course, I've never actually talked about this to anyone, just explored it in my own head. But the analogy of IF to an injury is not complete b/c an injury such as I described is usually treatable and cureable; whereas infertility is for most of us something we have to live with always. And as has been pointed out, it can also sometimes be life-threatening. I should know this, having had 2 ectopic pregnancies, but it's something I tend to push aside and not think about. It's only when I get the rare reaction of "how scary, you could have died" that I remember again how scary it was/is. I'm appreciating this post and the comments because not only have they got me thinking but also because of how nice and validating it is to read other people reacting the same way that I am. So thanks Melissa for starting such a good conversation!

Tina said...


I feel terrible for Achatz - no one should ever have to battle cancer. Or lose their life's passion because of it.

But, ANYONE whose desire it is to be a parent should never have to battle IF and/or lose their life's passion either.

And, the fact that anyone can so nonchalantly have us who deal with IF say "just adopt" is a coward, ignorant and unfeeling. There are sooooo many facets to adoption - and is not something to decide to move forward with lightly.

Cancer, IF, heart disease - most major medical conditions - CAN impair lives. They take major emotional tolls on us that can affect our overall outlook on life. They can plummet us into depression, anxiety, and in some cases, taking lives. I suffered with anxiety for a year - and it robbed me of time with DS, DH and more - because of my RPL. Someone who had to battle cancer and survived also has to deal with depression and anxiety - will the cancer come back? Will I be the same person? etc.

So, in the end, there are more commonalities between cancer, IF and everything else. That can't be ignored.

Sunny said...

Amazing as usual!

Erin said...

Feel free to pass them on to me as to why people can't "just adopt". It can be equally devastating. And the next person who tells me what a wonderful person I am for doing "that" is going to get an earful.

Bea said...

You know how you read comments or posts online and you automatically give people a mental "character" complete with imagined body, age, personality, interests, and voice? Well, when I read those comments I realised I automatically give those types of commenters the character of an angsty, insufferable, know-it-all teenager in serious need of a proper life crisis to grow them up.

Somehow I couldn't feel angry, hurt or frustrated about it anymore - just resigned. Or it could be the lovely hormones.


Isabel said...

Yeah, my own dad asked me if I should just accept God's plan. I said God wanted him to die of heart disease and he should work on accepting that. Luckily, he laughed.

Sandy said...

I don't find it surprising that almost all of your comments on this post are positive. Most of your readers are also infertiles. I am not so I guess I'm here to tell you that your cycle AND your thoughts are way off. DO NOT compare a life threatening condition to one that is not. There is no comparison. Herbs do not cure cancer so your analogy falls apart. As far as adoption is concerned, yes, it is insensitive to just assume that is as easy as waving a magic wand and then a child magically appears, but infertility treatment is hell too and equally expensive and less guaranteed. Fertile people do not adopt because it is far easier and cheaper to bear their own rather than adopt but for an infertile who faces an uphill battle either way, it is worth asking why the genetic link IS so important. What does that say about us as a society? As for them motherhood being some kind of job, when pointing out all of the deficiencies in that analogy (no pay, pension, or vacations for starters) is not even worth my time. I like reading your blog for many reasons but when you sink into motherhood and infertility sanctimony, elevating your pet causes above everything and anything else in this world (and again, your analogy to cancer is patently absurb for so many reasons that are obvious to every fertile person in the world that I don't feel the need to say more) you really go off the rails.

MLO said...


I suffer from a constantly life-threatening disease (not cancer) and infertility. There are a lot of similarities. The research bears it out.

I have been better prepared for the type of statement you make than most because the disease I have is common in its non-lifethreatening form, and, therefore, people - even physicians - assume they know all about it.

They don't.

It is not sanctimonious to want to be taken seriously about a real disease.

Oh, and not having borne a child is a threat to one's health since if you have not borne a child by the time you are 25 you are much more likely to contract both breast and uterine cancers.

Endometriosis, when left untreated, can lead to cancer.

Fibroids can be precursors to cancerous uterine growths.

PCOS is often related to diabetes which most often kills from congestive heart failure.

I can go on and on with real facts about infertility and other diseases because I bother to. Most people don't bother to let facts interfere with opinion.

Mel tries to create a safe haven for those who need real support in a time that study after study has shown is not provided by those in their real lives.

Granted, I already have a tight group of friends for whom infertility is old hat - but I don't tend to willingly hang out with those who refuse to acknowledge they don't know what they don't know.

We also all know what is not open for discussion with others. Do we fail at times? Yes, but we have a history.

I am curious why you felt it so important to dismiss something that scientific research has borne out repeatedly? Namely, that depression rates and stress among infertile couples are equivalent to those suffered from those dealing with cancer. (And I have known plenty who have both lived and died from that disease.)



Working Girl said...

Bravo!!! Brilliant post!!! My dear aunt has cancer. She was diagnosed with her third tumor when I miscarried my first and only baby. She was more concerned about me than her own mortality. Her opinion is that at 65, she has lead a very full life. She was married twice, has three grown children, two step-children and 10 wonderful grandchildren. She may even be around long enough to be a great grandmother. If she dies tomorrow, she will rest in peace with all of her accomplishments. I, however, am stuck in limbo pursuing my dream of becoming a mother. And, I wouldn't wish either disease on my worst enemy!!!

Kami said...

Well said! I just emailed this post to my friends and family.

A recent study found that cancer was the most feared disease. No one believes infertility will strike them. Perhaps the empathy for cancer comes from the feeling that "it could happen to me" and therefor more thought/feeling goes into it. Infertility can be dismissed as "somebody else's problem"

Elizabeth said...

Sandy - why so mean? You must be really angry - why so angry? I can only surmise that cancer is somewhere in your own immediate experience, and you feel like a comparison to infertility trivializes your grief/loss/suffering, because you see infertility as a comparitively trivial problem (that can be cured by herbs! Um... no.). I invite you to explore the depths of grief, loss, and suffering that come with infertility. Not to engage in the dreaded Pain Olympics, but to get a different and hopefully more empathetic perspective since that is, after all, what you are also asking for.

Ms Heathen said...

This amazing post and the comments that it has generated should in themselves serve as testimony to the fact that the IF blogosphere is not just about 'baby-desperate moms' sharing every intimate detail of their attempts to conceive (as the Globe & Mail article so trivially suggested). Thank you Mel, both for this particular post and for all your attempts to foster a sense of community amongst those struggling to deal with infertility.

My mother died of breast cancer when I was nineteen years old. Almost exactly fifteen years to the day later, I lost a baby (June is not a good month for me). Infertility and pregnancy loss have plunged me back into similar depths of grief, guilt and anger as I experienced after the death of my mother. In reponse to Sandy's comment that, unlike cancer, infertility is not a life-threatening condition, I just wanted to say that both leave deep and irrevocable scars on those that survive them. Maternal bereavement and now infertility have robbed me of parts of my identity - as a woman, as a daughter and as a mother.