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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barren Advice: Four

This is the fourth installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.

Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.

Dear Mel:

Basically, I have a mad, burning crush on my RE—let's call him "Dr. Love". It's totally innocent, all in my head of course. He is a very good-looking guy, extremely accomplished yet also very sensitive, charming (and damn, he gives good ultrasound). I'm sure I'm not his only patient who shaves her legs extra, extra-carefully if I know I'll be seeing him.

Now I'm guessing I've developed this crush as some kind of way to cope with all the treatments, surgeries and pregnancy losses I've experienced over the past year or so. I recall, for example, laying on the table after my IUIs giggling to myself as I fantasized about Dr. Love coming in, seducing me and "adding a little extra just for good measure." Or clinging to the comfort of his gentle hand squeeze before being knocked out for my lap—all giddy like I'd just met Brad Pitt.

It also reminds me of being younger, in the more carefree days before infertility. I've always been a sucker for those older, distinguished types. In college I lusted after half my professors. Plus, there's no doubt some element of wanting to be taken care of by this guy. Wanting to get the best treatment, be his "favorite", etc. And let's not forget it's this guy's task to actually get me pregnant, which is pretty sexy when you think about it.

My husband has no idea, and I hope he never will. I totally love him to pieces, and we have a fantastic marriage, which I think has even been strengthened by going through infertility together. But I feel sooooo guilty for lusting after Dr. Love! I want to stop finding him so sexy and having dirty thoughts about him. Yet it's also one of the only ways I can drag myself back to that clinic time and time again. What on earth is wrong with me?! Please say I can blame this all on the drugs…


You can blame it all on the drugs.

Actually, you can blame it all on being human. Humans fantasize--about other people, about other jobs, about other houses. We are dreamers and our dreams are often reflections of our desires, though, like all dreams, sometimes there is a direct line between "want" and "vision" in our daydreams and sometimes there is a long, twisting path that brings out the daydream's meaning.

I'll start with saying that there are two different levels of fantasy--enjoyable what-if daydreams and what I'll call "I wish" dreams. And I see them as two very different beasts. What-if daydreams include fantasizing about someone you see on the television or in a magazine. You don't know them and you probably have no chance of meeting them and what you are attracted to is not the actual person (since you don't know them), but an element of that person. Perhaps you're attracted to men with brown hair or women who have long legs. Maybe it isn't a physical trait, but something more intangible--they are a fire fighter and you're attracted to the bravery or the selflessness in the position.

I think it's impossible and somewhat boring to pull apart our crushes. I think when we look too closely at the "why" it becomes like putting a toothbrush under a microscope. We'd probably throw up if we looked too closely at what we're putting in our mouth and cleaning with a rinse of water. So we look away because brushing our teeth is healthy just as fantasizing a bit is healthy. Those fantasies give us a barometer of what we want; of what we wish would be.

The line that you're worried about is what divides the what-if daydreams from the I-wish daydreams. The I-wish ones are about actual people--people we can touch and see. They are very specific even if we don't know the other person particularly well. An example in myself--I knew Josh for a long time before we started dating. One night, I was at a film with another man that Josh was introducing. As I listened to him speak, I thought to myself, "I wish I were here with Josh instead of this guy." I didn't really know Josh yet though he was a real person that could potentially move from fantasy to reality. I ended up leaving the first man within days because I realized that fantasizing about being with another person was a huge sign that something wasn't right in that relationship. The difference in statements between I-wish and what-if is huge because one pushes for action while the other one simply muses.

What I think is confusing right now is that you have someone who could potentially be an I-wish daydream since he is right in front of you though you are actually treating him as a what-if daydream. It's not that you want to run away with your RE--what you want is what you already stated inside your question when you spoke about having crushes on professors. You want the care, you want the knowledge, you want the figuartive arm around you. Most of the time, those things come from your husband. But you have a medical issue within infertility which bypasses your husband's capabilities--he doesn't have the knowledge of how to get you pregnant, but this other man does. Your husband can put a figurative arm around you to protect you, but your health and safety is really in the hands of the RE at this point. Since you can't have a crush on knowledge, the crush transfers to being about the person.

There is nowhere in your question that I hear an "I wish" statement about your RE. Of course, it sounds like you do wish that you didn't have to deal with the what-if statements either therefore, perhaps a trip to the microscope with your RE is in order to see what really lurks below that crisp lab jacket.

Dear Mel:

We just found out that a couple we know had their baby very early. The mother was dx with preeclampsia and delivered at 27 weeks. So far the baby is thriving. But... she was born about 2 weeks ago. Previously we would have been one of the first ones notified of the birth but things have become strained long before we knew they were expecting. What would be an appropriate response? We would like to let them know that we are thinking of them and that if they need anything to let us know but beyond sending a card/email etc... would it be okay at this juncture to send a baby gift? How have other NICU moms felt about people coming out of the woodwork or so to speak when this happens... did you find it offensive or supportive? The last thing that we would want to do at this time is overwhelm them or put any pressure on them.

--Deb from All Things Deb (read more about the situation here)

The nice thing about helping out is that there are different levels. What would be appropriate to offer if you were her sister is very different than what you could offer if you were a friend or even simply a member of the community. But there is always something people can do and I think it's better to do too much (within reason) than do nothing.

There is a sociology term called the bystander effect and what it means is that the more people who are around to help, the less likely help is to come. The reasons vary but one of the common understandings of why people don't help is that they believe someone else in the vicinity is more qualified to help. And within your question, what I'm hearing is also that you feel that you're not "close" enough to help--meaning, you've fallen out of touch and the helping should be done by those closer emotionally to the couple.

But what happens when it comes to the bystander effect and help is that the people closest to the person are not necessarily in the best position to offer specific help. A sibling who may be close emotionally may also live hundreds of miles away and not be in a position to take care of a load of laundry or cook a meal. Each person who sees the need to step in and aid the couple can play a unique role in offering support.

As we can see when a church group pulls together meals for a member who is ill or collects money for a family in the community who has lost their home, we don't need to be emotionally close to a person to offer certain levels of help and that help is less about the actual action and more about letting another person know that they are not alone. As someone close-by physically, you could drop a meal off at the hospital or send a note with a gift card to be used at an establishment close to the hospital.

When offering help, specific is always good and general is not quite helpful. Saying, "let me know if there is anything I can do" is good as a placeholder as you try to seek out something specific to do, but people rarely utilize general help. What does make a difference is to email and say, "I heard about the early birth and how well the baby is doing. I know it's hard to carve out time for yourself when the baby is in the NICU so I'd like to drop off a meal for you to eat at the hospital on Tuesday. Could you let me know a good time to drop it off and any food likes/dislikes." Even more helpful is sending a gift card because it removes any necessary response from the other person. Simply mention the same facts in that note and add that you know that there is a Starbucks adjacent to the hospital and the card should be used to treat herself.

What comes next will be up to your old friend--whether she asks you to come by the hospital and see the baby or whether you simply get a thank you note down the road and no further contact. This is helping for helping's sake.

No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely.

Leave a comment in the reaction box below--only keep in mind that conflicting advice is embraced and rudeness is not. Make sure you indicate which advice you're addressing by numbering your comment with a 1 or 2. Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice


Jen said...

I think your advice was perfect on both, Mel, and I don't have anything to add!

loribeth said...

Poster #1 is far from the first person I've heard of who has a crush on her RE. There is a local RE whose very name elicits sighs from his patients... I saw him speak once at an IVF information seminar I attended, after hearing stories about him & how drop-dead gorgeous he is, & yep, he's pretty good looking, lol. (No doubt he knows it too, lol.) I'd say it's a pretty normal thing.

A.M.S. said...

I had a long comment to help Deb out, but rather than hijack the comments page, I'll make it a post on my blog.

As for the crush on the RE...I say if it makes the situation even a tiny bit easier and more fun and it's all fantasy in your head...Enjoy!

deb's dh said...

I agree with "What comes next will be up to your old friend--whether she asks you to come by the hospital and see the baby or whether you simply get a thank you note down the road and no further contact" as leaving it up to the old friend will be better than pushing it on "her" part.

As far ask I know, the given was "If you need anything let me know", nothing beyond that yet.

The interesting question: what happens with both parties wait for the other to move?

The Town Criers said...

Impasse? Drift away?

I also don't think you need to step in and help if it's outside your comfort zone. Though if they did tell you that the baby was born and in the NICU (as opposed to hearing it through the grapevine), that was their step toward you.

Antigone said...

Awesome reponses

Anonymous said...

HAHA... I am SO going through the "crush on my RE" thing. He is SO dreamy! My husband is starting to sulk though so I should probably stop

Deb said...

Thanks! My DH is actually meeting his friend for lunch one day this weekend. I will send a card with a gift card for another restuarant in the area/on the way to the hospital and will plan on sending a welcome home gift.

I appreciate the thoughts!

PJ said...

Oh my! I too have sort of a crush on my RE! I call him Dr. Wonderful!

It's not really a crush, per say. It's an admiration for both his beauty and his brains. And probably a lot has to do with the fact that I have to completely trust him to get me pregnant. I've put a lot of faith in him.

And like the reader, I always had crushes on people of authority, like my professors.

It's just a VERY innocent thing, and I don't think it has anything to do with my relationship with my husband, which is rich and solid. It's just kind of amusing!