Friday, July 24, 2009

Innocent remarks

I have always considered myself a strong person. While I have been fortunate to have not had to endure significant adversity in my life, I have had my challenges to overcome. I paid my own way through college and law school, which was not always easy. I have had a lot of hard financial times over the years. I've watched two close family members, my father and my grandmother, struggle with serious and chronic health issues. I was unmarried until age 37 and have suffered through my share (and maybe then some) of difficult break-ups.

Through all of life's challenges, I have prided myself on being able to "stay strong" and bear up. Since age 17, there has never been a time when I have not been 100% self-supporting. I've continued to go to classes and to work even when the other things in my life made it very difficult to continue carrying on with daily life.

Our struggle with infertility has been a unique experience for me in that I've had a hard time staying strong. I have broken down and cried so many times over even the smallest things. I know that this is common for some people--and I don't judge them for it--but it is very uncharacteristic of me. (My sister has often joked that I'm "dead inside" because I bear up so well under pressure.)

Acknowledging my greater-than-usual emotional fragility, I recognize that the things that I hear which hurt my feelings are usually said without the intent to wound. Oftentimes, they are not even directed at me, personally. In some cases, people think that they are helping, being supportive, or are just sharing their own good news.

Some examples:

**"I wish I could give you some of my fertility: I just have to think about getting pregnant and it happens!" (Via IM from a friend, just one year younger than I, who has two children 14 months apart, both under age 2. Yeah, I wish it worked that way, too; I could've spared my husband, my in-laws, and myself the past 15 months of agonizing.)

**"Stay positive." (This one is really just a variation on the "just relax and it'll happen" theme. Plus, some wise person said that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result. After 17 unsuccessful cycles TTC, why would I think that this month will be different?)

**"You're lucky you and MM don't have kids. You get to travel, sleep in, etc., etc." (Um, OK. We are both over 35 and more than willing to give up some of our freedom in order to be parents.)

**"Stick with dogs: they're easier than kids because they don't talk back, need babysitters, require college funds, etc., etc." (Much as we love our dogs, we are under no illusion that they are a true substitute for a child of our own.)

**People's stories about other couples' "against all odds" conceptions. (I must admit that I have been guilty of this one myself, back before we were TTC. I think that EVERYONE knows SOMEONE who has conceived on her own after doctors gave her a slim-to-none chance of doing so. It's not particularly reassuring to someone struggling with infertility.)

**Hearing about other people's pregnancy and births. (This is harder when the parents aren't close friends or family members. If someone close to me announces a pregnancy, my happiness for her/him usually outweighs my feelings of frustration and inadequacy at yet another reminder of my own failing. It's worse when the person is only an acquaintance or a friend of a friend.)

I wonder when/if I will get to a point where hearing these things will no longer feel like a knife in my heart.


  1. sending you a big hug. and 3 of the worst for me are: one you mentioned "stay positive", and "i had a dream, it will happen for you" and from a fertile with kids " you can have one of mine" yuck!

  2. I'm sorry these words hurt you so much - awkward comments are the worst. Some people just don't know what to say.

  3. I think you'll get to a point when they no longer feel like a knife in your heart, but the ignorant remarks might still hurt a little, kind of like a pinprick. The one getting on my nerves lately is the whole "Now that you're adopting, you know what's gonna happen, right?" Well, I hope what's going to happen is that we're going to get a kid. I know they hope what's going to happen is that we get pregnant, like that's why we're adopting. I guess it helps a little to think, like you said, that people are being intentionally hurtful. They just don't think. It makes me appreciate all the more the ones who do.

  4. I feel the exact same way, both about my own strength and others' comments.

  5. I feel the same way! There's something about dealing with infertility that's unusually difficult - I think it's the loss of control. It's hard, too, because you don't know when it will end or how.

    Sorry people have said such hurtful and awkward things! Most people don't know we're trying, so I've been lucky (as far as comments go!).

  6. I am no longer ttc or trying to adopt or anything, but when I hear these kinds of comments (now directed at others--whether or not they're present) it makes me want to PUNCH somebody. I haven't actually done it yet. The last person I heard say some variation of these things was my mom...yeah. Since it's not directed AT ME I don't get that stabby feeling, but I do get very, very angry. Righteously so :), but angry.


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