why i prefer not to talk about it.

part 1

i sat across the table from the lady conducting the interview.  she looked through my paperwork,  tapped the papers together on the desk, and sat them down in front of her.  she looked at me.  “so, jennifer, you have children?” i paused.  “nnnnnoo. no i don’t.”  she raised her eyebrows, ready to move on to the next question, but i interrupted her. “my husband and i really wanted to but that didn’t quite work out.”  she raised her eyebrows again, looked sideways at me, then back down at my application.  “oh. well.  that’s…that’s ok. ”  she sipped her coke and went on with the rest of the interview.

later i contemplated the children question and regretted my response.  i should have just said no, and left it at that.  who really needs to know anyway?  but no could mean any number of things, some of which, i really didn’t want to convey.

no could mean that i didn’t want to have children.

no could mean that i didn’t feel i had time for children.

no could mean that i didn’t like children.

none of those statements are true about me. and even though it was just a simple interview for a volunteer position and not a bff screening, i wanted her to know who i was.  i was someone with a mother’s heart, someone who felt she had much to give to a little person.  i was not a yuppie who preferred a carefree life of luxury and travel to that of kissing skinned knees and preparing peanut butter sandwiches with no crusts.  i was someone who had hoped to devote her life to what she felt was her highest calling as a woman – the privilege of being a mommy.

then i began to wonder why the question had to come up in the first place?  why do i have to be identified by what i do/don’t have?  there were so many other questions she could have just as easily asked.  why bring up children?

then i regretted the bit about “it didn’t work out..”  i had just identified myself as having a problem – a physical problem in a very delicate area.  or would she think it was my husband who had the problem?  was she also just now contemplating the conversation wondering just which one of us it was who had the issue that caused our dilemma?

the conundrum i found myself in that morning and the debate i had with myself afterward is just one of many i have experienced in our six years of infertility.  it is basically why i prefer not to talk about it.

it’s tricky.

it’s awkward.

it’s painful.

it’s embarrassing.

it’s private.  infertility seems to strike at the heart of two very intimate issues: a woman’s cycle and her relationship with her husband.  while some women seem to have no problem putting it all out there, especially in this day and age, there are many of us who prefer not to.  the majority of those of us who are infertile owe it to some chronic disease or disorder such as pcos or endometriosis, neither or which are very pleasant to talk about.  then there is the issue of male factor and no one really wants to expose her partner as having issues there.

i prefer not to talk about it because it is complicated.  on the rare occasions when i do feel comfortable enough to open up and share the fact that we are not childless by choice it undoubtedly opens the floor for unwanted advice and suggestions.  i realize that most of these are well-meaning but nine times out of ten they are offered by someone who has never been in my situation.  never even come close to it.  there is nothing quite like being told by someone with a  baby bump and three toddlers underfoot that i probably need to just relax as tension hinders conception.   i really understand that most people offer these suggestions as a way to help.  but when they come from someone who has never had to deal with the pain of infertility and they are being offered to a woman who feels like she is dying inside,  the suggestion to simply drop caffeine seems to come from way out in left field.  to be brutally  honest,  suggestions like this lack empathy.  if i can’t conceive because my tubes are blocked, do you really in all sincerity think that positive thinking and a little bit of yoga  is going to fix the problem?

i prefer not to talk about it because i hate having to justify any decisions i make regarding treatment.  there may be a million reasons why i have decided not to try ivf at this time.   there may be a million reasons why i have decided i want to adopt a newborn.   the reasons are complex and stem from years of waiting, disappointment, and working to stay united with my spouse.  most times those decisions are made in a state of anguish.  to finally come to a point of decision, only to announce it, and then be asked

“rrreally. why would you want to do that?”

“have you not considered_____ instead?”

“do you realize that by doing ____ you will be incurring ______”

interrogation is disheartening to say the least.  trust me.  i have thought of all the loopholes you have introduced and then some.  i have my reasons why.

i prefer not to talk about it because i open myself up to a great deal of criticism and judgment.  i think this can be one of the most hurtful aspects of any woman’s journey through infertility.  it’s what i call the blame game.  you can’t have children?  there must be a reason for it.  let’s see if we can discover why…..

“i bet you eat a lot of refined sugar”

“you have made an idol of this area in your life”

“you haven’t prayed about this enough”

again, i usually find myself being called into question by someone who has no idea who they are talking to or what they are really talking about.  i remember a comment from one woman in particular, a woman who had had four children in rapid succession.  “have you ever thought that perhaps God doesn’t want you to be a mother?”  it was the cruelest thing she could have said.  she later tried to smooth it over by saying that she’d had big disappointments in life too, she was just trying to offer a different perspective on things.  well gee. that helps.

let me tell you something, i don’t need any more suggestions or blame.  i blame myself for this almost every day.

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6 Comments to “why i prefer not to talk about it.”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I know it is written more for you than anyone, but for those of us reading it is really helpful. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone who is already hurting. It’s a perfect reminder that questions quickly become which is never kind. We pray for you two often. We love you! AND we still need to get together and have a pot of tea…or rather, you may have to teach me how to do it properly!

  2. That was supposed to say “questions quickly become prying”…I’m dingy!

  3. good morning marco and jen- God bless you; i enjoyed reading it.

  4. Oh Jenny. I’m so sorry for all the pain. Thank you for opening up a little of it for us to learn from. You have much wisdom to offer.

  5. My heart aches so much for you. Hugs to you.

  6. Love you, Jenny.

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