(Start with "Monday" if you can. If you're reading this in an air-conditioned room what's the rush? It's the first days of autumn and most of the U.S. is still 92 degrees.) So what were we talking about? Oh right. Infertility-related comments our loved-ones make to us: The insensitive and the insulting. The inane and the insane. I think after mulling over them the past week, I finally realized what all of those remarks and advice have in common.
Let's review for a moment some of those silly, annoying and sometimes harmful statements that people say to us. See if you see in them what I see in them :
"I don't have a minute to myself. You have no idea how lucky you are you don't have kids!"
"My cousin's a terrible mother. Maybe you could have one of her kids. (ha ha ha)"
"You're so stressed out. You should learn to relax"
"We kind of have opposite sides of the same problem. You can't get pregnant and I can't stop getting pregnant!"
"You're not doing those infertility shots are you?"
"There are other things in life than being a parent."
and the old stand-bys: "Go on a vacation. People always get pregnant on vacation." "Maybe you could adopt", "What's your rush? You still have plenty of time to have a baby"
To me, every one of these statements and a million others all mean exactly the same thing. They all translate into:
"I have no idea what to say. I barely even know what you're talking about. The whole thing kind of freaks me out. I'm feeling extremely uncomfortable right now. I wish one of us could just disappear."
So instead of vomiting that onto your new sweater, they just pull anything at all out of their... "A" file... Every single one of those statements adds up to nothing more than Rectal Rhetoric. They're blowing us off.
In order to deal with the comments and the commentors appropriately, I think we have to be clear on which of three categories these Glutteus Philosophers fall into.
1) People we're close to who honestly wish they understood our plight better, but are sad, confused, and frustrated. (Back to them in a sec.)
2) People we're close to who honestly can't handle our plight or for whatever reason don't want to deal with it.
This is a hard pill to swallow: Forget these people-- for now anyway. Sure it's stressful that someone you really care about doesn't seem to empathize or want to get involved in this part of your life.
But it will probably be ten times as stressful if you spend your time begging them to get involved, expecting them to react a certain way, and telling them over and over how wrong they are.
Maybe one day you'll know their reasons. Maybe they don't even know their reasons. Doesn't matter. You've got enough pressure on you right now. If you're not getting what you feel you need, there are plenty of fast friendships waiting to be made in support groups.
3) Proximity Partners: People who are neither close friends nor relatives but they know your business because they happen to sit next to you at work and they either heard something through the grapevine or in a weak moment you poured out your heart to them and asked for advice because they happened to be the only one in the room at the time of the outburst.
Any and all insensitive, insulting, insane and inane remarks from these people can be dismissed with one quick directive: "Shut up and go back to your cubicle."
Why seek comfort and advice from this person? You've never before cared where she got her lunch, her shoes, or that husband of hers. Now that you've got something that could potentially be juicy office gossip she's decided you're soulmates? Screw her. Bye neighbor. Go mind your own monitor.
Back to those people who really care about you and your situation but don't know what to do or say. Tell them what you need even if it's: "I really don't want any advice. I'm really upset and I just need you to hear what's going on with me."
Besides all of the great information that's out there to hand to them (sites like http://resolve.org ), I've always found that it helps to compare infertility to something they might already understand better.
"Infertility isn't about choosing to have a baby instead of going back to school. Infertility is about treating an illness so you can live your life to its fullest. Like diabetes."
I spoke at the beginning of the week about trying to convince my parents for decades that having a career in the Arts was a good idea. I was going nowhere fast with it.
But my parents were pretty open-minded liberal thinkers and I knew that my father believed that homosexuality was already a part of your makeup at birth and not some bandwagon you decided to climb onto in college because it seemed cool, like dying your hair blue.
So one day I said to him: "Dad, being an artist is probably a lot like being gay." And he said: "But Lori, gay people don't choose to be gay. Oh."
I think he finally got it.
Listen I gotta go. I have a date with my husband tonight. I'd better go sit in the car in case he changes his mind and tries to sneak out.
I'll talk with ya again on Monday.
Check out Clinical Social Worker, Ellen Glazer's article "Stress Causes Fertility" this week on The Health Experts page. http://laughingisconceivable.com/?page_id=642