I was wasting time on Pinterest last night while Nick watched something uninteresting on TV, and I noticed that someone had pinned our Pregnancy Announcement Video. At first I was flattered that someone enjoyed it enough, or possibly was even inspired enough by our story that they felt compelled to pin it. Then I noticed that LOTS of people had REpinned it. And then I noticed a comment someone left on the pin. This is what it said:
'whatever... it doesn't happen for everyone'.
My first reaction was to feel defensive. How dare this person assume that it was so easy for me? She didn't have a window into my immeasurable devastation and anguish. She didn't see me working 90 hours a week, shoveling horse manure in subzero temperatures, crying and whispering under my breath 'it's for the baby' while we saved for InVitro.
And then I felt really sad. Her comment is exactly what I would have said two years ago. I'll be the first to admit that, although we always hear the wonderful success stories, for some people, it truly never happens for them. They struggle in silent unspeakable pain. Years go by. Tens of thousands of dollars are wasted. And those poor women grow old with an empty womb, empty arms... a permanent ache in their heart. This is an unspeakable tragedy. Every woman should be able to feel little fingers wrapping around her own, little footsteps in the kitchen, fingerpaint all over the walls.
I like to think that our story encourages and inspires others to FIGHT! But I know for some, our story is 'just another success story that happens to someone else'. And those are understandable feelings. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this... but I wanted to make it known that this issue still weighs heavily on my heart. Please be compassionate and understanding when encountering a struggling friend. Their pain is raw and real.
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Don't Tell Them to Relax
Everyone knows someone who had trouble conceiving but then finally became pregnant once she "relaxed." Couples who are able to conceive after a few months of "relaxing" are not infertile. Comments such as "just relax" or "try going on a cruise" create even more stress for the infertile couple, particularly the woman. The woman feels like she is doing something wrong when, in fact, there is a good chance that there is a physical problem preventing her from becoming pregnant. Infertility is a diagnosable medical problem that must be treated by a doctor, and even with treatment, many couples will NEVER successfully conceive a child. Relaxation itself does not cure medical infertility.
Don't Minimize the Problem
Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Infertile couples are surrounded by families with children. These couples watch their friends give birth to two or three children, and they watch those children grow while the couple goes home to the silence of an empty house. These couples see all of the joy that a child brings into someone's life, and they feel the emptiness of not being able to experience the same joy. Comments like, "Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . .travel . . etc.," do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain.
Don't Say There Are Worse Things That Could Happen
Along the same lines, don't tell your friend that there are worse things that she could be going through. Who is the final authority on what is the "worst" thing that could happen to someone? Is it going through a divorce? Watching a loved one die? Getting raped? Losing a job? Different people react to different life experiences in different ways. To someone who has trained his whole life for the Olympics, the "worst" thing might be experiencing an injury the week before the event. To someone who has walked away from her career to become a stay-at-home wife for 40 years, watching her husband leave her for a younger woman might be the "worst" thing. And, to a woman whose sole goal in life has been to love and nurture a child, infertility may indeed be the "worst" thing that could happen.
Don't Say They Aren't Meant to Be Parents
One of the cruelest things anyone ever said to me is, "Maybe God doesn't intend for you to be a mother." How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don't you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn't he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren't religious, the "maybe it's not meant to be" comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.
Don't Complain About Your Pregnancy
This message is for pregnant women-Just being around you is painful for your infertile friends. Seeing your belly grow is a constant reminder of what your infertile friend cannot have. The number one rule is DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY. I understand from my friends that, when you are pregnant, your hormones are going crazy and you experience a lot of discomfort, such as queasiness, stretch marks, and fatigue. You have every right to vent about the discomforts to any one else in your life, but don't put your infertile friend in the position of comforting you. Your infertile friend would give anything to experience the discomforts you are enduring because those discomforts come from a baby growing inside of you. When I heard a pregnant woman complain about morning sickness, I would think, "I'd gladly throw up for nine straight months if it meant I could have a baby."
Don't Push Adoption (Yet)
Adoption is a wonderful way for infertile people to become parents. (As an adoptive parent, I can fully vouch for this!!) However, the couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision. Before they can make the decision to love a "stranger's baby," they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy's eyes and Mommy's nose. You do, indeed, need to grieve this loss before you are ready to start the adoption process. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point. If your friend cannot love a baby that isn't her "own," then adoption isn't the right decision for her, and it is certainly not what is best for the baby.
So, what can you say to your infertile friends? It isn't your job to erase their pain, but there is a lot you can do to lesson the load. Here are a few ideas.
Let Them Know That You Care
The best thing you can do is let your infertile friends know that you care. Send them cards. Let them cry on your shoulder. If they are religious, let them know you are praying for them. Offer the same support you would offer a friend who has lost a loved one. Just knowing they can count on you to be there for them lightens the load and lets them know that they aren't going through this alone.
Remember Them on Mother's Day
With all of the activity on Mother's Day, people tend to forget about women who cannot become mothers. Mother's Day is an incredibly painful time for infertile women. You cannot get away from it-There are ads on the TV, posters at the stores, church sermons devoted to celebrating motherhood. Remember your infertile friends on Mother's Day, and send them a card to let them know you are thinking of them. They will appreciate knowing that you haven't "forgotten" them.