8 things to be aware of (when talking to infertile couples)

I've decided that it is Awareness Day for National Infertility Awareness Week. My infertility, my infertility week. My blog, your problems.

Ok. So. Awareness Day begins...

First, be aware that 1 in 8 couples face infertility. It's a significant number.
And that male factors contribute just as often as female factors.
And that you've probably offended someone who's trying to conceive.

Oops. What that too harsh? Too finger pointed?

Look. I'm not aiming to blame anyone for not knowing how to handle this, or handling it wrong, or accidentally saying the wrong thing. I checked Amazon - there's no "so your friend is infertile" book. Which there really should be.

Because people say some pretty awful things without realizing what they're doing.

It wasn't my support system that ever said anything wrong. It was strangers, acquaintances, people I know but don't know who I had just about had it with (and am still dealing with). It was their questions that cut the deepest, incited the most rage, and made my anger go to 11. No jury of infertile women would ever convict me for the things I mentally did.

Today is Be Aware of What You Say to People Day  so sayeth Me.


Some of these are things said to me, some to friends, and some I hear all the time. Somehow, we have to stop this cycle - infertility pun intended. We need to raise awareness of infertility in that
1. It exists.
2. You probably know someone who faced or is facing an uphill conception battle.
3. Even the smallest comment matters. Good or bad.

Here's my list.
And my open apology for how bitter some of this comes across. Sue me. But don't. I spent all my money on a baby so you'll get nothing.

 
People. How is that any of your business? Why is this OK to ask people? Unless you will be one of the baby's parents, you have no business asking this. Trust me, you have asked someone who is infertile this question before - because it's harmless! everyone asks!-  and you have torn their heart out. I'm sorry for being blunt. Let me sugar coat this more for you.

Nope, changed my mind.

I'm leaving it. That feeling you get like you've been punched in the gut, that's what it feels like to be asked this when you're trying to conceive. Stop asking this question. I'm invoking the 'Diary Of' principle here. "You think you know, but you have no idea". Plenty of people were shocked that Chuck and I had so many problems (fertility problems, other problems are a given) and so much had gone on without them knowing. You just can't ask people this question. You don't know what's going on in their life.


I'll see you the above answer and raise you this snotty one:
You know when I wanted to have children? 2009.

You know when I had a baby? 2013.

Bitter Betsy party for Susie.

Whatevs. That's a lot of time to be asked this turd of a question over and over. You don't ask someone who is struggling with obesity when they want to lose weight. You don't ask someone who is unemployed when they want to get a job. You wouldn't. You're a good person. You have tact. Emily Post would have loved you.

So why is this question okay to ask? It shouldn't be. Stop asking it. Instead, listen to people as they talk. Really listen. Unless they bring up having children, don't. Unless they mention their family planning timeline, don't enquire. Keep your foot out of your mouth.


Oh my gosh, is that what we did wrong? We tried too hard. Where were you with this magical piece of information in 2010?!

Okay, I've calmed down. Yes, stress can play a role in a woman's ability to conceive and this could be the case in some "unexplained infertility" couples. But there are medical reasons for infertility and those reasons account for two-thirds of all cases.

Take us. You could wipe our memory, set us in Hawaii, liquor us up and it won't fix our problems - although, if anyone would like to fund this experiment, you have my email. We would be more than happy to oblige.

Infertility is a disease. And it should be treated like one - but that's a rabbit hole on insurance policies and state politics that I'm not going into today. Think of it this way: someone gets diagnosed with diabetes. Do you tell them to stop trying to regulate their blood sugar and it will manage itself? Of course not. They need help fighting the disease. So do we.

 
Someone actually said this to a friend of mine. I don't really see how time zones or area codes play a role in fertility, but that's just me. You know what happens on vacation?  I end up crying in Grand Central Station, giving $20 to the pregnant homeless woman panhandling. And then Chuck has a mess to deal with for the rest of the day. That's what happens on vacation. The hollow feeling doesn't take a vacation just because you did.

I understand the thinking behind saying this and thinking it's ok. Human nature is to try and give ideas that might help. But this is not a valid suggestion and saying it definitely won't help. Saaawreea.

If someone has opened up to you about their struggles, listen first and if you have no idea what to say, "I'm so sorry" works wonders.

One of my best friends gave me information on infertility support groups she'd researched for me. She knew she couldn't help in the way those women could. I never went, but the very act of giving me those numbers did more to lift my soul than she will ever know. Now that's providing support. She's such a keeper.


I'm pretty sure I've covered this one. And if not, this meme should suffice.


Bottom line, it's okay to not know what to say. Listen, hug, and agree that it stinks. Even though my friends and family had nothing to compare this to or draw from, at the end of the day they could just hear me out and that made a big difference. I was always heard. And we all know I'm pretty loud.


"My sister's, friend's, cousin's, neighbor's State Farm agent adopted and then got pregnant! " Congrats to them - what a miracle! How exciting! What a blessing! Also I kind of hate them.

Please to see the rant three above where I explain that there are medical reasons why people can't conceive. It isn't all fairy dust and magic like we tell the kiddies. Suddenly having a baby doesn't make someone any less infertile, whether they conceived that child or adopted him.

And while we're here, just because Baby #1 was conceived complication free doesn't mean infertility can't strike on Baby #2 which is so important to keep in mind.

And brings me to the questions I'm getting all the time now.


I'm at a loss for how I am supposed to answer this question (without being nasty) so feel free to weigh in with ideas. Here we are, a year from Sam, his placenta barely dried in the ground (kidding) and this is my life right now. It baffles me.

Aside from the fact that it's none of your business (I'm working on the not being nasty part), people know about us. They know we can't have a baby and yet still they ask, like it's no big deal for us to make one. It's a big freaking deal with no guarantees. Family planning takes on a whole new meaning when that conversation involves bank rolls, doctors, medicine, and a teensy bit of insanity.

Again, just because I have a baby, a beautiful treasured boy, doesn't make me any less infertile. You might be curious if someone is going to expand their family, we're all curious, but let them bring it up to you. Let them talk about their family planning. It's theirs to discuss.


Rude answer: If I'd had it my way, Sam would be kid number 3. It didn't work out that way. Thanks for remembering.

We would love to have more kids. Is that going to happen? I don't know. But I guess I'll let you know since this seems to be important to you? Geesh.

Here's the thing. People choose to have a one kid family all the time - some by choice for medical reasons, financial reasons, or like us - this might be all we get. It's not the end of the world - we love our life - but people act like having an only-child is the worst option out there. It's not. It's just not.


_______________________________________

Look.

I'm not trying to be mean today or take anything out on anyone (although it does kind of seem like that - ohhhh well). Take me with a grain of salt like you always do. I just want to raise awareness of the things we say to each other and maybe remind everyone that what we say or ask or suggest might not be taken as well as we're intending it. I've said the very same things I mention above to plenty of people before I was chosen to walk this mile along with them.

But now I know better.

12 comments:

  1. "If someone has opened up to you about their struggles, listen first and if you have no idea what to say, "I'm so sorry" works wonders" This applies to so many things! This list should be read and understood by so many people! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I so appreciate this! Thank you for reading this (and all the other posts I know you've read through the years - look at our blog, finally getting reply comments!).

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  2. Thank you ! Thank you! Thank you!!! I want to hug you for writing this!!! After having surgery to have our first child, we have tried for over a year for our second. The comments made to me (us) are unbelievable! Your hit every nail on the head. My favorite was days after a devastating miscarriage I had a close friend tell me to adopt! I'm not against it- I just want to feel a baby in my tummy again! Then, this past week we were in Maui. I. Would have been 11 weeks pregnant after intense fertility treatments, but lost it at 7.5 weeks. I was struggling, so my husband scheduled a beach side massage for me. As the lady was escorting me to the massage site, the lady saw me smiling to our little boy. She asked how old he was. When I stated his age she responded with " you really need to start having more children, one isn't good enough and you don't want the age spaced too far apart ". Thank you strange lady- I had no idea. Good thing massages start face down, I cried the whole time. I pray your next post has great news ! Thank you for sharing what I'd like to shout to the world!!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so unbelievably sorry. I would have fully supported an all out melt down on the massage lady. I may (MAY) have finally come unglued once on a dental hygienist. Long story. Your in my prayers now - it's a journey we all best face together.

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  3. I know better now too. Thank you for this. I while heartedly agree with it all. I think I am finally to the point where I am not going to e gracious when people say this stupid shit to me. I'm going to let them have it if they can be so brazen to ask these ridiculous questions then they can handle my answers.

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    1. Love you Ashley!!!!!!!! So thankful to have walked this with you.

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  4. As someone who hasn't yet crossed the trying to have kids bridge but is so looking forward to being a mom, I thank you whole-heartedly for this post. It is so, so helpful to know all of this... I feel like I'm pretty aware of these things already and keep a lot of these questions to myself, because you're right -- not your business. But it's always good to get a refresher course and to hear things from the perspective of someone who has had these struggles. I appreciate your honesty and putting this out into the world for us!! You are seriously an inspiration to so many. :) <3

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  5. Thank you for this post. My husband and I tried for over three years to have a baby and I have heard it all. People say they know someone who knows someone that tried "insert anything here" and it worked! We already feel helpless and at fault enough, we don't need to be told we are probably doing something else wrong on top of it. After all those years we became pregnant on our own just before going in for our IVF consultation. It really was a miracle. We still don't know to this day what was wrong as we were diagnosed "unexplained" but looking back I wouldn't trade it. I hope I can help others through our struggle. I wish this post was written back then. I would have printed it out and handed it out to every single person that felt I needed to hear their opinion on the matter. I love your blog. Thank you for bringing awareness to infertility!

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  6. I. LOVE. YOU. And this post. Day late and dollar short notwithstanding, I had to come and tell you that.

    Also, I've had someone (sorry, I HAVE, I currently have someone whose life is nearing great danger) tell me, AND I QUOTE, "Well I think this means that you weren't meant to get pregnant. Why would you go out and spend thousands of dollars on a vasectomy reversal and IUI and IVF when there are so many kids who need good homes? You should adopt. If you came and volunteered at the shelter with me, you'd see that it's really selfish not to adopt. Ask yourself, do you want to be a mother, or do you just want to be pregnant? Because adopting makes you a mother."

    Yes, yes, I put away the meat cleaver. For now.

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  7. What a beautiful post, thank you so much! I just happened upon your site and adore it already. We actually "celebrate" Awareness Week in hopes people stop saying things that cut so deep. Your think before you speak mindset is one that would be beneficial across the board. Thanks so much for blogging all about it!

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  8. I really want to share this on facebook, but feel like it would just open me up to even more awkwardness than some people already show... but thank you, great posting. Really hits the nail on the head!

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Tell me about it. Oh and thanks for validating my life.

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