Sensitivity Matters

Even when you know it’s coming, it can still be hard to process.

You put your game face on, avoid things like Facebook as much as humanly possible, and prepare yourself for the comments and jokes intended to amuse but that might actually hurt.

You tell yourself that if you can just laugh along with the rest of them, it won’t sting quite as much.

But it’s hard, make that nearly impossible, to take the sting out of infertility.  Primary, secondary…it makes no difference.  When insensitive comments are made, no matter how innocent the intentions, it just stings.

I opened my Facebook App early in the morning on April 1st to find quite a few pregnancy announcements.  Some were clearly a joke, the punch line offered in parentheses at the end of the post.  Others were detailed and seemed to go on all day.

While it didn’t affect me as much this time around, I cringed on behalf of the many people who touch base with me each month to share their stories.  I cringed on behalf of a couple of old friends who have been struggling with infertility for years.  I just cringed.

Infertility rates continue to rise both in this country and abroad.  Couples everywhere are coping with miscarriage, self-administering hormones each day, and enduring round after round of IVF.  They are dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.  They are attempting to remain calm and positive in the face of repeated disappointments.

And then they have to deal with a fair amount of insensitivity surrounding the issue.

While I understand the intention behind the Facebook fake pregnancy, constant complaints about unruly children in the form of status updates, and jokes about giving them away, I think it’s time to take a new approach.

While I don’t want to make unequal comparisons, there are some things in life that you just don’t joke about.  There are some topics that can only be taken seriously.  We all know what those are.

I think that it’s time to increase our collective awareness about infertility, and take note of the fact that people around us are struggling.

While some of you will argue that those struggling with infertility should simply avoid things like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I believe that that mentality leaves these infertility warriors feeling even more isolated than they already are.  In a very tech savvy world.

There must be other jokes we can tell…

Sensitivity matters.

It’s time think before we speak and apologize when we’ve gone too far.  Feelings are everywhere and easily hurt.

Below are a few statements/questions to avoid in this time of high infertility rates:

1.    Aren’t you about due for another?  While some couples are perfectly happy with one, many couples experience secondary infertility after a perfectly “normal” first pregnancy.  Either way, it’s best not to ask.

2.    I get pregnant every time my husband looks at me.  This one has been around forever.  I get it; some people are super fertile.  But some aren’t.  So maybe think twice before blurting this out to your one childless friend.

3.    Have fun trying!  There’s no way to sugarcoat this one.  When sex is timed down to the very minute and possibly involves hanging upside down afterward (whether or not that actually works), it’s not very fun.  It’s a full time job.

4.    Some people just shouldn’t have kids.  While this is usually said in reference to a specific situation (and still not ok no matter the specifics), it can really affect a person struggling to get pregnant.  When infertility starts to drag on, you start to internalize these negative statements and feel like they might apply to you.

5.    She’s too selfish; she can’t handle kids.  While some people do not want to have kids, others are enduring a silent struggle.  Avoid assumptions.

6.    It always works out in the end.  Sadly, sometimes it doesn’t.

 

I can hear the criticism already…now we have to tiptoe around every woman who isn’t yet a mother?

The fact is that infertility is a growing problem and it’s a very lonely battle.  It’s not that all pregnancy and child rearing jokes should be stifled for eternity, but we do need to be careful about when and where we make those jokes.  And we need to really, really think before we speak.

Because you just never know…

 

How has infertility touched your life?

 

Pin It

Letting Go

Most days I choose to see the possibilities.  The room that could be anything.  The furniture longing to be purchased.  The perfect space for friends, grandparents, and, someday, sleepovers.

But some days, when I’m truly being honest with myself, I see the empty space.  The hole meant to be filled by one last little one.

Some days I stare longingly at the perfect spot to place the crib, just to left of the window, where the morning light filters through the soft white plantation shutters.

Some days I rock quietly in the glider, the one that I could never quite convince myself to give away.  Just.  In. Case.  Other days I catch a glimpse of it, frozen in time, and wonder just what to do.

By day, I enjoy each moment.  I lose myself in play, reading aloud, and endless art projects.  I listen to each word carefully, burning their little voices across my memory.  I watch with pride and fascination while taking screen shots in my mind, every chance I get.  I hang on tight as I watch them grow and change right before my very eyes.

Time escapes me, no matter how hard I try to hit the brakes.

By day, I build memories.

By day, I am reminded that my family is perfect just the way it is.

But when darkness falls, my broken heart emerges once again.

By night, I am flooded with emotions.

Images of the final loss threaten to crowd out the happiness I find within the day.  Memories of the event leave me shaken to my core:  The look of desperation on my husband’s face.

This can’t be happening…

The whispers of the nurses as they ushered me into emergency surgery.

We will pray for you…

The signing and more signing of last minute waivers.

You mean I might die in there?

The final goodbye.

Just.  In.  Case.

Some nights I lie awake, clutching my empty womb, while muffled sobs escape my aching soul.

Some nights, the empty space feels bigger than others.  Some nights, it overwhelms me.

I am the lucky one, I tell myself.  I am the one with two amazing children and a husband who loves me beyond compare.

I am strong, resilient, and always a fighter.

And yet, at times, the sadness creeps in.  The what-ifs cause my heart to race while the you-should-haves force the tears to escape.

Sometimes the letting go is the hardest part.

Dreams change.  Life moves forward.  But emotions stay with us for as long as we allow.

So, for right now, that rocking chair is staying put.

Because sometimes you just need to dream…

 

 

 

The Infertility Wars

We live in a competitive world.  We live in a world where comparisons are constantly being drawn.  We live in a world where people love to pretend otherwise, but often view things as right or wrong.  Shades of grey are generally ignored.  Judgments are made with little to no information.  Opinions are stated whether or not they are wanted.

I suppose it was simply a matter of time.

There is a new trend in the fight against infertility, and it is only making matters worse.

Women are at war with one another.  Women are comparing their journeys and attacking those who they deem to be “less infertile”.  Instead of joining hands and fighting infertility together, women are now fighting each other.

7.3 million Americans are currently waging war against infertility.  To bring it a little closer to home, if you and your partner are out to dinner with 7 other couples, one of those couples is currently experiencing infertility.  That’s a lot of couples.

Despite increasing numbers, infertility remains a taboo subject.  It can stop a conversation in a heartbeat and empty a room in record time.  It can end marriages, friendships, and family relationships.  It can cause some serious emotional damage.

The potential for emotional wreckage and lost relationships often causes couples to suffer in silence.

Infertility can cause anxiety and depression.  It can lead to significant social isolation.  I have experienced all of these along my journey, and then some.

Infertility is alienating.

Why women would choose to turn on each other is beyond comprehension.  Because when everybody fights, everybody loses.

It used to be that infertility message boards and blogs were a safe place to seek comfort.  It used to be that women could reach out to other women on a similar path while remaining anonymous.  It used to be that under the cover of screen names, we would offer words of support and possibly even resources.  It used to be that we were in this together.

But lately there’s been a shift.  Here and there, brave women are coming forward and sharing their journeys.  They are doing it to help others, to convey a message of hope, and to relieve the emotional burden that suffering in silence creates.  They are standing up, using their names, and telling it like it is.

And they are under attack.

What used to be a safe place suddenly feels a lot less safe.

Women who share stories of multiple miscarriages are hearing, “at least you CAN get pregnant” in response.  I assure you, fellow infertility soldiers, there is no comfort in conceiving a child only to have him silently slip away at 6, 8, 10, 12, or even 20 weeks.  I lost one at 9, two at 13, and one at 18 weeks.  I loved them all.  And despite my two incredible children, not a day goes by that I don’t think about that last one…a sweet little baby boy lost in June.  I should be nine months pregnant right now.  I should be decorating one more nursery.  I should be washing and folding tiny clothes.  Instead, I am trying to remain focused on what I have and move on from the longing that threatens to shatter my soul.

My journey has been long and emotionally exhausting.  Excruciating at times. For the first half I heard, “at least you can get pregnant” over and over again.  It felt like tiny daggers of shame were stabbing my soul each time I heard it.  Today I hear, “at least you have your two” or “at least they’re healthy”.  What can I say?  It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.  But it certainly doesn’t erase the loss(es).

Incidentally, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 11% of couples that have one child go on to experience secondary infertility.

Other women are competing over who has endured more rounds of IVF, who had the worst reactions to the hormones and medications, and who has been trying for the longest amount of time.  People, it seems, would rather be the worst-case scenario (and hopefully get the most social support) than join a growing number of Americans and fight the war together.

I can tell you with certainty that there is no trophy for being the worst case.  After losing my baby boy, and nearly losing my life in the process, I was later told that I was one of two cases like that in the 30 years that my doctor’s practice has been open.  Being a medical mystery doesn’t make me feel any better, and it certainly won’t bring my baby back.

But sharing my story and helping others does add a small ray of sunshine to an otherwise dreary journey.  Receiving email from people who feel just a little bit better knowing that I am here, and fighting both with them and on their behalf, gives me a reason to keep looking forward.

At least once a day I have to remind myself that my journey to conceive and carry to term is likely over, but my journey to help others along the way has only just begun.  Together we can get through this.  Together we can fight for more resources and better insurance coverage.  Together we can move forward.

But if we remain at war with one another, we will all suffer.  We will force couples to remain silent.  We will continue to lose friendships and end marriages.  We will spiral into episodes of anxiety and depression that will undoubtedly affect other areas of our lives.

Because when everybody fights, everybody loses.

Let’s make a pact to fight infertility instead of fighting each other.  Let’s make a pact to listen and empathize, even when it’s hard, and offer the support that we seek in return.  Let’s make a pact to fight this enormous war hand in hand until we get to the end.

How has infertility touched your life?