why i prefer not to talk about it.

part 2

as i said before, my intent in talking about infertility is give those who have never experienced it a better idea of what it is like.  it is my hope then, that there would be a greater awareness of others working through this issue and a genuine desire to offer helpful support.  i have no intention of discussing in detail the  cause(s) of infertility, and i have no intention of discussing treatment.  i am also choosing not to disclose our diagnosis and how my husband and i are addressing it at this time. so  anything that i would say that sounds like a personal approach to treatment, etc. is purely hypothetical and for the purpose of illustration.  i also wanted to say that it really isn’t my intent to vent, rant, or pick on anyone in particular.  the majority of my close  friends (on line and in real life)  have sincerely reached out both to myself and to my husband.  much of what they have done and said forms the inspiration behind the “how to” bits of this and future posts.

i blame myself for this nearly every day.  i wonder if i am not trying hard enough, or if i am trying too hard.  i wonder if i should have sought out a specialist sooner, or if i should wait a bit longer.  i wonder if i should have thrown in the towel long ago and just started the process to adopt.  i second guess every decision i’ve made.  i don’t really need anyone else looking over my shoulder pointing out how they think i could be doing better or what they think i should be doing instead.

infertility is not a disorder.    it is a disease.

how then would  you treat someone in your life who has a serious illness or disease?

if you saw your friend lose her hair after chemotherapy, would you flippantly ask ” so where’s your hair?”

if your friend asked for prayer would you say to her “perhaps God doesn’t want you get well.”?

if your friend was lying in a hospital bed,  would you pat her hand and say “ya know.  i know just how you are feeling right now.  i had the flu once.” ?

of course you wouldn’t say any of those things.  hopefully you would treat your friend with the utmost care and consideration for her condition.  why would you not do that for a friend who is infertile?

why would you approach a couple in the church foyer and ask “so why don’t you have kids?”

why would you suggest to a woman who has just miscarried “perhaps God doesn’t want you to be a mom”.

why try to relate to a woman who has tried for years to conceive by saying “i know how you feel.  i tried three months to get pregnant with my third.  gosh that was hard.”

in a similar vein, a lot of women have tried to relate to the infertiles in their life by saying “life is tough. i’ve had disappointments too.”

before i go on let me say right here. you have no idea.

let me say it again. you. have. no. idea.

infertility is not just simply a disappointment in life.  it is not to be equaled to how you felt when you were passed over for a promotion.  it  is nothing like realizing you will never be able to take that dream vacation you envisioned.  it isn’t like having to settle for a mediocre  house other than the one you always wanted.

for those of us who want to have children, and can’t, infertility is life shattering.  it is devastating.  the stress that many women experience while going through infertility treatment is not unlike those who go through treatment for cancer. the loss many women feel, myself included, is not unlike that of losing a close loved one.

when my husband and i  first married we hoped to have four children.  maybe five if we were up to it and there was time.  i wanted to be finished with childbearing by the time i was 40 so i could fully enjoy keeping up with my little brood.  we bought a home on a very large lot situated in a cul-de-sac.  we envisioned our little ones playing in the yard, riding their bikes, and roller skating. we chose kid friendly dogs.  we were glad to see the neighbors having children, our little ones would have lots of friends.  we went so far as to speculate how many of each gender we’d have and chose names.  they were as real to us as if they had actually been born.

as time went on then, and the years went by we realized that there was no hope for five, and four was unrealistic.  there was a loss then of  those two children.   eventually we moved to a smaller home, still hoping for that third.  however, as we both approach 40, and the high cost of either adoption or infertility treatment looms ahead, three seems unlikely. we’ve lost our third.

we still hold out for two, but that second is slowly fading into a shadow leaving only the one.  we cling to that one: our little person we hope to one day have.  he has a name.  he has a tiny room.  we talk about him often. “_____ will like this book.”  “won’t this be fun for ______?”  if things do not come together as we hope and we “lose” this little one  as well, we will never be the same.  a part of us will disappear along with him.

this is a big deal.  we can’t and won’t be able to just move on, and your infertile friend won’t be able to either.

so the obvious question then is “as a friend what can i say?”   in thinking this over these past few weeks the song “show me”  from my fair lady came to mind.  sung in an entirely different context, the message however is the same.  “don’t talk at all…show me.  never do i ever want to hear another word, there isn’t one i haven’t heard…”

if you are someone who feels the need to say something, remember that it isn’t up to you to try and fix it or point out what you perceive to be the error of your friend’s ways.  instead of jumping in with suggestions try to say something a little more along the lines of:

“i know you are hurting right now and i am so sorry.”

“this has got to be so difficult for you.”

“i can’t even begin to imagine the loss you must be experiencing”

“i have nothing to say.  just know that i am here for you, and grieving with you.”

“how can i pray for you?”

i think the very best words you could say are those that you don’t say at all.  instead of offering suggestions, constructive criticism, or half-hearted comfort that lacks empathy; look for ways to show support.

more on that in a future post.

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

  1. This is wonderful, thank you.

  2. I just made my way over here and read this post. It’s so beautifully and eloquently stated. I wish that more “helpful” people could read this and have the chance to really think about what they are saying.

    Sending good thoughts your way today. ~Lisa

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