Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Say What? Part Two.

Apparently my last post was quite popular! Thanks to everyone who stopped by! I had a few comments from some lovely people that had some suggestions for additions to the list of what not to say - perhaps there will have to be a revised version posted at some point in the coming months. Stay tuned!

I also had a comment from Spongeknuckle who brought up the question of what a person CAN say to people faced with infertility. In the name of fair play, I'm going to try to answer that now. To be honest, I had started this post in a totally different way and was going to be just as (hopefully) funny as I was in the previous post. I've changed my mind (I'm allowed! I'm a Gemini!) and I've decided to just write this one straight. Okay, maybe I'll throw in something a little funny here and there but I'm doing that for my fans. Naturally, I don't want anyone to think that because my previous post was written with a humorous bent, that I wasn't completely serious. I was and am. The truth is, if I didn't laugh about some of the comments that have been made to me regarding fertility, I would cry. And I have.

So, below is a breakdown of why the things I posted about previously should not be said to people with infertility issues:

1. ‘Just relax’ or suggestions of holidays or getting tipsy are fine suggestions to make to a friend if you’re hanging out or trying to think of something fun to do. To someone who struggles with infertility, these comments are dismissive and don’t show an appreciation for how difficult the person’s or couple’s situation is. People who have a known (or unknown) medical reason why it is difficult or near impossible for them to get pregnant on their own or with medical assistance would very much like to just relax and have it happen. Think of it this way, you would probably never think of telling someone with heart disease or cancer to ‘just relax’ and they’ll be cured. You would never suggest that a trip to the tropics and a couple of Mai Tais would have them right as rain.

2. Suggesting to someone with infertility that they should have more, or less, sex, or try a different position, or god forbid, that they’re doing it wrong (even if that is meant in jest) is insensitive and laughable. When people have reached the point that they become aware of their fertility issues, it’s probably a safe bet that they’ve tried every position they can think of, and might even have a few to share with people who don’t have an issue with getting pregnant. Chances are, people who are actively trying to have a baby and have been trying for a while, they’re probably having more sex than anyone (well, except maybe porn stars...).

3. Flippantly, or with the best of intentions, telling someone that they should try IVF or Surrogacy, or donor embryos or that they could ‘just adopt’ shows such a lack of thought. To even just figure out that a woman has infertility issues can take some very invasive testing. To actually reach the point of making a choice of what to do next - IUI (in-uterine insemination), IVF (in vitro fertilization) to name a couple of common ones, is terribly difficult. All of these procedures involve quite hefty costs which are often not covered by health insurance. Having to lay out thousands of dollars for procedures that give no guarantees is way beyond the reach of some people. If a couple is lucky enough to have the funds available, they still have a tough road ahead. As for adoption (which I think is one of the most amazing things people can do), despite how easy Madonna and other celebrities make it look, it is also a long and emotional process. You can’t just walk into an adoption agency and walk out with a baby. It takes years.

4. To tell someone who is having trouble getting pregnant that they should just put the thoughts aside for awhile and not think about it or stress about it, is like the old trick of telling someone not to think of a pink elephant. People who are trying really hard to get pregnant can’t help but think about it. It’s a constant that is with them all the time. For a woman who’s charting, it is the first thought on her mind when she wakes up because that’s when she has to take her temperature. Her life is broken up into two week increments (or there about, depending on the cycle) of waiting to ovulate and then, waiting to see if she and her partner were successful. And let’s not forget all the constant external reminders - such as the ad for pregnancy tests on my t.v. as I write this!

5. For people who are lucky enough to be pregnant, or who already have children, it’s not that people having problems with fertility hate all parents with a passion. It’s just that to hear people who have or are having children complain about any aspect of it is incredibly painful because infertile people would love to be in that position. Of course, pregnancy can be uncomfortable and children can sometimes make a person crazy. The key is to choose your audience. Complain to your friends who already have kids, or who are pregnant. If you won the lottery, you probably wouldn’t complain about how hard it is to decide what to buy to a friend who couldn’t pay their rent.

6. In my opinion, the most insensitive thing that can be said to someone struggling with infertility is that it’s ‘not meant to be’ or that it’s all ‘God’s plan’. There is no excuse for ever saying these things. There is no justification for why babies are being born to people who abuse drugs, or to people who will abuse their children, and not to people who desperately want children. As for God, not everyone believes in the same one, or in a god at all. While some people take great comfort in their faith, it doesn’t hold the same weight for everyone. Since I’m an atheist, the God comment doesn’t really bother me but I can imagine for someone who does believe and who does suffer with infertility, that must be incredibly painful to hear. If you’re going to make either of these comments to someone, you may as well just say ‘I think you’d be crap as a parent; you really don’t deserve it’. Go ahead and kick them since they’re already down.

I hope that makes things a little more clear as to why such comments can be so painful. If people (and I need to keep this in mind as well) would simply stop and think before saying the first thing that comes into their heads, that would go a long way. As the lovely Red, and another anonymous commenter mentioned, if you don’t know what to say, it’s probably best to not say anything at all.

With these posts I’ve pretty much thrown myself (and The Boy - sorry!) out of the infertility closet and into the open. I can say with absolute certainty that there are millions of couples like myself and my husband in the world. I’ve met a number of them. The odds are good that one or more of the couples you may know, who don’t have children, or even those that already do, are having issues with infertility. Some may be open to discussing it, others won’t. There’s no sure fire way to tell - we’re not marked for easy identification.

Some people have no intention of having children, others want nothing more. Whatever the case, the issue is an intensely private one and is nobody’s business but the people involved. If they’re willing to talk about it, and you’re privy to that, the best thing that could be said is ‘I’m here if you want to talk, and if you don’t, I understand.’


Jas said...

I love you =) Thank you for puttin that out there =) Hopefully many more people will read that and finally get a clue!!

The Happy Ranter said...

Aw, thanks Jas! I love you too! I think this may have opened a floodgate for me....there may be more to come. Suddenly I feel like I have a LOT I want to say on the subject.

ChilkootChubby said...

I’m here if you want to talk, and if you don’t, I understand. I'm also here if you want my latest take on proroguing Stephen Harper, a song and dance routine, or any other number of ChilkootChubby specialties :)

Love the blog, as always. You are always so well written.

The Happy Ranter said...

Chilkoot, 'proroguing Stephen Harper' sounds dirty! And I'm always up for a song and dance routine :) Thanks for being such a lovely friend!

spongeknuckles said...

A very brave commentary indeed -- thank you so much for the insight Mrs. Ranter. It's pretty shocking to know people have actually said these things. A bit of clicking shows me there's a huge support network for this online, so I hope you keep up your helpful writings on the subject.

Alana said...

Could not have said it better myself!

RDuke53 said...

Let's not forget that almost half of a couple's infertility is on the end of the male. I think that's very important to throw out there as well. Since I made a vow to my husband not to sleep around (that's what marriage is all about, right?), I may never get pregnant.

Or like our good friend said, it may (or may not) be possible to sell my home to afford the meds and procedures like IUI and IVF that are, at best, around 30% effective. Meds for one round of IUI can be about $1,000 alone. A woman usually has to undergo at least 3 rounds of IUI before moving on to IVF, if her insurance is going to cover any of it at all. I just read that when all is said and done, IF a couple conceives through IVF, that baby would cost, on average, $50,000. And that's before diapers!

TTC (that's "trying to conceive" for those of you who aren't in the know with TTC lingo) can make otherwise productive people feel like complete failures.

See what I did there? That was funny.

The whole adoption thing really makes me angry. "You can always adopt!" is like telling someone they can always wear your dirty clothes. I am already a parent, and I'd go as far as to toot my own horn and say I'm a fantastic parent, to a stepdauthther. Her mother is a terrible parent. Her mother is also pregnant again. How is that fair? When I hear people tell me to adopt, the struggle not to reply with, "I'm already raising one person's mistake, I don't care to raise a stranger's mistake as well," is overwhelming. Adoption, for me, would be more like a punishment than never having my own children.

And for those who see adoption as their only or final option, get ready to be inspected and judged! I can't speak from experience, but I am aware that there are several home visits involved and the things they are looking for are so trivial compared to your ability to parent. People who are able to conceive on their own are not held to these standards. I'm pretty sure about 3/4 of people with children already would fail that test.

Also, birth mothers often change their minds. I've heard from families who have had children they intened to adopt living in their homes for months before the child was taken away from them. Other countries are making it harder and harder to adopt as well.

God's plan. That's comical.

ChilkootChubby said...

As someone who is adopted, helped a friend welcome home her adopted child last May, and is currently supporting another friend through the adoption process, thank you for making me feel ashamed of my beginnings. NEVER in my life has anyone ever made me feel about my past like you have with your words.

I understand that adoption is not for everyone, and I would never suggest it to people unless they bring it up themselves, but to assume that it is such a horrible idea/experience is no worse than me telling you to relax or just pee on a stick or just go get drunk...

kare_bear00 said...

Oh Wow, RDuke53, you make so much sense.

My lame comment is almost as lame as yours, see what I did there?

I was adopted by my step-father when I was 12. Although I refer to him as my "dad" now, I guess I should address all future correspondence with, "Hey you, Lanudry-Picker-Upper, treat me like the piece of crap I am..."

I know it's on a different level, but I also adopt ever single animal that I welcome into my home. My cat (who is currently curled up right beside me) would probably thank me for giving her all the love I have over the last number of years. But shi..., I can't have kittens, therefore, she's just trash I'm picking up.

Yes, I said CHOOSE. I have always viewed adopted children/pets/etc as the ones who were chosen. Same view goes for my friends who have had "surprise" children.

They may have decided 3 was enough, but nature said otherwise. They CHOSE to have the fourth child (not that I would judge them if they decided not to).

I could go on and on and on about how wrong I think you are, but we are all allowed our thoughts, our ideas, and should not be convicted for them. That being said, I still think you're a fucking idiot for spewing such vitriol. said...

To the OP,

I'm sorry for getting all rage-y in my previous post. This is a topic that is very dear to me.

All my good friends know that if for any reason, they are unable to have children, my uterus is available. While I never plan on having my own children, I will happily incubate my friends' kids, if that is an option they are afforded. /TMI

I could (again) go on and on, but there's too much rage. I was adopted by a step-parent when I was 12. Over 20 years later, when my "step"brother got married, his wife refered to my sister as his "step"sister. I'm just glad a country prevented me from being at the ceremony, because I would have explained to her why (and when) we dropped the "step" prefix as we discussed each other.

Again, sorry for ranting, this is just a topic I can't ignore.

RDuke53 said...

Uggghh. C, I'm sorry I started all of this by choosing two words in haste that sum up how a stupid comment makes me feel.

TO ME, adoption is not an option because of experiences I have gone through and am going through. When someone tells ME, "You can always just adopt," that's how their flippant comment makes me FEEL. The same way offering your uterus or your husband's sperm makes me feel... like I can have all of the things I so desperatelly want but not on my own and only because you are allowing me to or because someone else doesn't appreciate what they already have. I in no way meant to equate a baby to dirty laundry, although many babies who are put up for adoption are discarded as unwanted. Both statements on their own would conjur the same feelings in me. If anything, telling me to "just adopt" makes ME feel like a pile of dirty laundry.

Adoption IS an acceptable option for some people, but it still is not the same thing as carrying and having a child that is part of you and part of your husband. I am already raising a child that is not part of me biologically. I absolutely do not think this is the same as having my own child. And the world seems to agree when teachers say things like, "No, (stepdaughter) you can't make a second mothers day project because we only have enough for the REAL mothers."

But for someone to think that suggesting I "just adopt" or that offering their functioning reproductive parts to carry my embryo is comforting is absolutely insensitive. In fact, it's offensive, as my comment expressing my feelings about MY OWN reproductive "journey" was to you.

Adoption is not the issue I was posting about. It was the dumb shit people say that they think is making their "friends" feel better, like offering your uterus. Yes, I do find that insulting. No, I don't the the actual act is horrible. It's just not your place to offer that without being approached by the infertile couple about it. It makes _ME_ FEEL the same way “just adopt” does… I am incapable and you are capable.

It's very easy to judge someone when all you have to go on is their words in a blog. I was not judging adoption.