I am so lucky to have children. It’s hard to believe that I can think this as I sit in the waiting room of the studio where my daughter takes ballet surrounded by a cacophony of crying children. It’s hard to believe that I can think this when I juggle schedules for my family, come home from work exhausted, and help my husband with dinner, dishes, diapers, baths, homework, and bedtime stories. It’s hard to believe that I can think this when we pay what we do for childcare. It’s hard to believe I can think this when the “naughty chair” is a permanent fixture in our kitchen eating area.
But I DO feel this way. It was so hard for us to get our children. I prayed and prayed and prayed for them, and they came to me, not by conventional means, but they came. We consider ourselves very fortunate, even though there are fleeting moments when we’d like to give them back!
Recently a few girlfriends and I had lunch, and conversation turned to infertility. It’s amazing how many women have difficulty conceiving and/or carrying a baby to term. It’s more than I would have ever believed. But start talking about it, and we come out of the woodwork—wanting to share our experiences and commiserate with others who can understand. Now the women with whom I was talking have all come to terms in one way or another with infertility. It’s not easy, but once you do, it is the most freeing experience. We were able to laugh at the stupid and often times insensitive things people have said when they found out one of us was having trouble conceiving. The bitterness is now gone, but it is so easy to recall how it felt when we were there.
So, here is a crash course, for all of you fertile people out there, of what NOT to do or say.
1. Never say that you understand. You don’t. Until you have experienced the pain of infertility, the feeling of not having any control over your life, and the feeling of inadequacy, you can’t possibly understand. You can be sympathetic and supportive, but you can’t completely understand.
2. Don’t give advice on how to conceive. Believe it or not, we know how babies are made. Standing on your head after sex doesn’t help. Don’t suggest it. Additionally, be sensitive to the fact that not all of us want to try acupuncture or a chiropractor to get pregnant.
3. Don’t, please don’t, tell us that it is God’s plan, fate, or whatever other philosophical belief you may have. It doesn’t help to think that God doesn’t want us to have a baby.
4. Don’t ask if we have gone through the gamut of infertility tests. Of course we have. Of course we know our husbands’ sperm counts. Of course we know if we are ovulating or not. Of course we know if our tubes are blocked or if we have low progesterone or if we need to be on Clomid or if we need shots. We know the course of action our doctors have suggested. We have driven to the lab with our husband’s sperm in a cup and have been put through all kinds of embarrassing (and painful!) tests ourselves. We have read every book out there and are doing ALL we can. Trust us.
5. Please stop talking about the joys of pregnancy and motherhood around us, at least for now. We know it’s very rewarding. Why do you think we are trying so hard to get pregnant? Can we please talk about something else?
We don’t mean to be so bitter, we just need some time to deal with things before we can be as happy for you as we really want to be and we know we should be. It’s difficult when it seems to us that everyone is pregnant but us. We also feel stupid for actually trying the standing on your head thing.
As the girls and I talked at lunch, it was refreshing to be able to laugh at all of these things. It just takes time to get there. It is such a weight off of me that I am truly happy for all of my friends who are getting pregnant and having babies because I realize what a true miracle it is, and I have come to terms with my own grief at not being able to conceive.
So, the moral of the story—if your friend who has been having infertility issues shows up to your baby shower in a little black dress that makes her look fantastic carrying a bottle of vodka to make appletinis, cut her some slack. She really does love you, and she really is happy for you. She is just protecting her very, very fragile emotions. The bitterness will fade, and she will come to terms with it all in one way or another. Then you can laugh together about the standing on your head thing.