Monday, April 26, 2010

National Infertility Awareness Week!

Do you know someone who is dealing with infertility? Well.... if you are reading this blog you sure do! I thought I'd post one of my favorite articles dealing with infertility for National Infertility Awareness week. Here's the link:

If you don't have time to read the whole thing it is a list of etiquette rules for the fertile. If you read it you'll laugh and wonder why anyone would say such awful things. These things aren't way out there or over exaggerated. Jeff and I have almost every single one of these things said to us at one time or another. If we haven't had them said to us we know someone who has. There are several versions of this out there, but here are the highlights:

1- nfertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn't coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.

The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.

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

Don't Minimize the Problem

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. You wouldn't tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father's Day or Mother's Day cards. Losing that one obligation doesn't even begin to compensate for the incredible loss of losing a parent. In the same vein, being able to sleep late or travel does not provide comfort to somebody who desperately wants a child.

I would also add don't be quick to jump on the infertility band wagon. Just because you have been trying for 3 months, 6 months or even a year does not make you infertile. It makes you normal. It takes an average person about a year to get pregnant.

Sometimes people are seem to want to join in the "infertility misery club." If you complain about your "infertility" and you haven't been trying for a few years it will make your infertile friends want to run the other way. It's being insensitive to their struggle and minimizing what they are going through.

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.

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

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. Unless an infertile women plans to spend her life in a cave, she has to find a way to interact with pregnant women. However, there are things you can do as her friend to make it easier.

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. Seriously, if ugly maternity clothes is the worst thing in your life, you are in good shape.

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." When a pregnant woman would complain about her weight gain, I would think, "I would cut off my arm if I could be in your shoes."

I managed to go to baby showers and hospitals to welcome my friends' new babies, but it was hard. Without exception, it was hard. Stay sensitive to your infertile friend's emotions, and give her the leeway that she needs to be happy for you while she cries for herself. If she can't bring herself to hold your new baby, give her time. She isn't rejecting you or your new baby; she is just trying to work her way through her pain to show sincere joy for you. The fact that she is willing to endure such pain in order to celebrate your new baby with you speaks volumes about how much your friendship means to her.

Don't Treat Them Like They Are Ignorant

For some reason, some people seem to think that infertility causes a person to become unrealistic about the responsibilities of parenthood. I don't follow the logic, but several people told me that I wouldn't ache for a baby so much if I appreciated how much responsibility was involved in parenting.

Don't Gossip About Your Friend's Condition

Infertility treatments are very private and embarrassing, which is why many couples choose to undergo these treatments in secret. Men especially are very sensitive to letting people know about infertility testing, such as sperm counts. Gossiping about infertility is not usually done in a malicious manner. The gossipers are usually well-meaning people who are only trying to find out more about infertility so they can help their loved ones.

Regardless of why you are sharing this information with someone else, it hurts and embarrasses your friend to find out that Madge the bank teller knows what your husband's sperm count is and when your next period is expected. Infertility is something that should be kept as private as your friend wants to keep it. Respect your friend's privacy, and don't share any information that your friend hasn't authorized.

Support Their Decision to Stop Treatments

No couple can endure infertility treatments forever. At some point, they will stop. This is an agonizing decision to make, and it involves even more grief. Even if the couple chooses to adopt a baby, they must still first grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes.

Once the couple has made the decision to stop treatments, support their decision. Don't encourage them to try again, and don't discourage them from adopting, if that is their choice. Once the couple has reached resolution (whether to live without children, adopt a child, or become foster parents), they can finally put that chapter of their lives behind them. Don't try to open that chapter again.


Kristin said...

Thanks for sharing this info. The one about not being made to be a mom blows me away. I hope no one has ever said that to you, because you are a terrific mother and I'm so impressed with your diligence to have a family. It has strengthened my testimony. Thanks for being so inspiring!!

Jeff, Elizabeth, Caleb and Jake said...

Kristin- Yep, we've had that one multiple times. Thanks for the compliment though.

Linda T said...

Thanks for sharing this! We have been on both sides. Our four children did not come on our timing, and there were issues we had to struggle with as well.

We are also on the other side; dealing with family who works through infertility. I have to always remind myself to keep their situation in mind, to watch my words, and to not constantly prattle on about my children.

Thanks again - and thanks for your blog. I follow in Google Reader, and love seeing your posts.

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

It is good info. This is a growing problem as the trend to marry later and postpone children increases. Not that it causes it but infertility is a growing issue with sadness surrounding it. It is hard to know what to say or do. Or not. Especially for someone like me that has a big family fairly easily. I admire you and your family and what you've accomplished.