Friday, March 02, 2007

Well-Meaning Friends

Like I mentioned earlier, I had kept pretty close wraps on our efforts to conceive the first two years, but once we moved to the base in our hometown, it was more difficult to keep quiet. At first, I was excited because I was Soooooooo confident that the fertility treatments would be successful, and I’d be pregnant soon, that I didn’t mind sharing the news of how things were going. It’s thrilling to imagine yourself as a first-time parent, and talk about the steps you are taking to bring that about. And it was encouraging to hear stories of others who had also struggled, and undergone the same thing, but had successful outcomes. Those made me feel better, at the beginning, when things were still shiny and fresh and new.

Later, however, the narratives about “my cousin’s sister’s daughter’s boss’s niece’s best friend’s 5th grade history teacher did THIS, and it worked for her!” began to bug the crap out of me. I started hating it whenever I would hear those words … “I know someone who had trouble getting pregnant ….” because their successful outcomes were a reminder that our outcome had been anything but successful. After awhile, I just wanted everyone to keep their stories and opinions to themselves. (I tend to get a little touchy when I get upset, have you guessed that yet?)

And every time someone asked, every time I had to respond with a “No, nothing yet” it would make me more discouraged. And even more than the well-intentioned comments, which usually managed just to depress me, I was bothered by the insanely asinine remarks and suggestions that were made to us on a regular basis. It’s not like you can be mad at people for caring, and being curious, when YOU’RE the one who put it out there. But there is definitely a missing chapter in the book of social etiquette when it comes to the subject of fertility.

So, to help everyone out, I will share with you some of the comments that inflamed me the most, even though I was usually too much of a tight-ass polite to whip out the response I *really* wanted to give. Bear in mind, though, that I was a hateful, vile, odious grump of a person during this phase of my life, so I might have been a teensy bit sensitive and defensive. (ahem)

1. “You just need to relax, and then you’ll get pregnant.”

{All comments usually followed closely by, “That’s what happened to my aunt/sister/cousin/whoever.”}

Hands down, in my opinion, it’s the second most insulting remark made to couples undergoing fertility treatment. Also? It seems to be the remark that is made most often. It’s so patronizing that I can’t believe anyone who doesn’t smoke a pipe and have elbow patches on their jacket is ever allowed to utter the words. And yet, I cannot begin to estimate how many times that phrase, or a variation of that phrase, was said to me and Blaine.

Obviously, I can’t speak for infertile women everywhere (although if you give me a big-enough megaphone I’d sure give it a go), but the implication that I took from it, was the fact that, if I was not pregnant, it was ALL. MY. FAULT. If *I* could just relax, I could get pregnant. Never mind that I had doctors who had been to thirty-seven hundred years of medical school specializing in this very field, and that their recommendations and treatments and high tech equipment and drugs and procedures couldn’t get the job done ….. …. It must be MY FAULT because I CAN’T RELAX.

I would hear this phrase and the heat would begin to travel up my body until smoke came out my ears. I’m not even exaggerating. I think actual SMOKE came out of my ears once or twice. I could feel the blood coursing through my veins and hear it whooshing in my head, and my vision would sort of go red and fuzzy as my brain processed the fact that “Oh my fuck, they did NOT just tell me to relax!” I was so busy mentally preparing the snappy, sharp retort that would cut them off at the knees that I didn’t even hear the rest of what they were saying. It was like the teacher in Charlie Brown, all “Mwah, mwah, mwah” while I tried to get my blood pressure back under control. Then, because I am the worlds’ biggest weenie when it comes to confrontation, I would just smile and say, “Well, thanks for the advice.”

2. “Take a vacation, you’ll come home pregnant.” (Normal variation about how this happened to someone’s aunt/neighbor/boss/niece/whoever.)

Um, we took a LOT of vacations during those four years. Vacations with family, vacations to see friends, vacations just the two of us. Vacationing is what childless people DO. It never worked, and that’s usually what I would say, “Oh, tried that route, didn’t work .. but thanks for the advice.” Then go home and rant and rave to Blaine about how there is this stupid group of people out there who seem to think your reproductive organs become more efficient once you leave the state or cross the border. Morons.

3. “You need to just give up on treatments and let it happen naturally. You’re trying too hard. Once my sister/college roommate/co-worker quit trying, and told their doctor no more, it just happened.”

I actually had a comeback for this. At the time, statistics showed that 5% of all couples who discontinued fertility treatments would spontaneously get pregnant, without medical intervention, within the next year. You know why everybody and their dog knows someone, or has heard of someone, to whom this has happened? BECAUSE IT IS RARE AND NOTEWORTHY, that is why. If you attended a Resolve meeting, you would know that 95% of the couples in that room will NOT become pregnant if they discontinue treatment, which is why we keep going and going and going like a freaking deranged Energizer bunny, despite the negative fertility tests and crushing disappointment and continued onslaught of stupid, un-helpful comments.

4. “It’s hard for me to imagine. My husband pokes FUN at me and I get pregnant.”

Um, yeah. How is that supposed to make me feel better, exactly?

5. “Here, borrow one of my kids for awhile, then you’ll change your mind about having any!” usually said with a smug parental smirk by someone who thinks their child is perfect, perfect, perfect, and that they’re being funny.

What I wanted to say more than anything was, “Um, you’re right. That kid is a walking ad for tubal ligation, but thanks anyway.” But I never had the nerve. Then, years later, my brother- and sister-in-law told us about some childless friends of theirs who watched their 2 yr old son for a long weekend, than scheduled a vasectomy the next week. Although my nephew seems to be a pretty great kid from what I can tell, and I’m certainly not poking fun, I sure wish I had had that story to zing someone with at the time. Bottom line: I don’t want to borrow YOUR kid. I don’t want to babysit, I don’t want to volunteer in the church nursery, I’m not going to “get my fill” by working in a day care or being a teacher. I want my OWN baby. Not yours, mine. Who will be much cuter than yours, anyway.

6. “Forget the doctors and their fancy-schmancy ways. Go home, use a turkey baster, prop your butt up on pillows, and that’ll do the trick.”

I don’t even know what I should have responded to this, but that comment left me with a very unsettled feeling. And fear. Quite a bit of fear about what some of these people did in their spare time.

7. “I know exactly how you feel. It took me six months to get pregnant.”

Ok, um, no. Big fat no. Unless you can repeat the above sentence, and replace the number SIX with any number above 12, or 24, or 36, or whatever, you do NOT know how I feel. Chances are you’ve struggled more than me to get pregnant, or less than me, I don’t really know. But please be sensitive to the fact if your fertility struggles involved nothing more than three months of temperature charts, that does NOT equal what couples who have reached the point of IVF have gone through. If you DID struggle with infertility and want to say something supportive, this is what I suggest: “We struggled with infertility also, and I remember how frustrating it was.” Period. Then drop it. If I want to compare stories, I’ll ask. While you might think you are portraying yourself as a sensitive, empathetic friend, you are actually just pissing me off and making me jealous that yours worked after only six months and I’m STILL NOT PREGNANT, DAMNIT!!!

8. And (drum roll please) the single most offensive comment made to couples trying to conceive:

“Just adopt, then you’ll get pregnant.”

I … You ….. It … {splutter, splutter}….. Seriously. My spine stiffens and my jaw clenches and it’s like I’ve just chugged a glass of ice shards and nails when I hear this phrase.

Because to me, it implies adoption is something that is completely disposable … a means to an end. Like someone should suffer through *adopting* a baby, so they can get on to the important business of getting pregnant and having their *real* baby, the one that really matters.

Perhaps because Blaine and I *HAD* applied with an adoption agency, this comment was especially insulting to me. I always wanted to reply with, “And so then what? Once I get pregnant, I just give back the first baby because I accomplished what I set out to do?”

I mean, what is that comment even ABOUT????

{Could someone please pass the dip, to go with the giant bag of Ruffle chips I have on my shoulder?}

And let me reiterate the statistic from above …. Just like spontaneous conception after quitting infertility treatments, the number for couples who adopt, and then get pregnant on their own, is around 5%. Which means, if it happens to someone, IT IS FABULOUS AND RARE AND EVERYONE HEARS ABOUT IT. Which is why *everyone* knows *someone* or knows someone who knows someone, who “adopted, and then they got pregnant!”

I’m not talking about fertile couples who adopt, and then go on to have their own baby, either on purpose, or by “surprise!” I’m talking about this myth that an adoption will somehow magically solve the problem of infertility. Five percent. And the implication that someone should adopt a baby, just as a way to accomplish a pregnancy, is so insulting, so offensive, that I can’t even describe it. Not even if I used every word in the English language. Even every swear word.

And I used to say to Blaine, “Oh my Lord, I can’t wait until we adopt a baby and then I don’t get pregnant, so I can show all these stupid people that it doesn’t happen like that!”

But since the adoption agency we were using hadn’t placed any babies in the past TWO years, by this point, we knew the fertility clinic in California was going to be our best bet. So we started packing up for our move, and looking forward.


Amy said...

Well, I've never known anyone who has struggled with infertility, but I sure will think twice before I ever say anything to any of them!! I can't imagine how frustrating and heartbreaking that must have been!!!


Anonymous said...

As a birthmom I have recieved countless rude ass remarks as well, sometimes you just want to bitch slap those people. Only I was probably not as polite as you were with my responses.


briana said...

Wow. Thanks for the eye opener on what NOT to say to someone struggling with infertility. I have actually heard some of those, especially the adoption one. You are so right in that adoption should be done out of love and because they want that baby, not because it is supposedly a solution to infertility.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristie, just wanted to say that I hope next week will bring some results on Blaines Shoulder issues along with all the other things they are going to check out. I know something about waiting to get a diagnosis it is horrible and you had too much of it already, but who am I telling. It just can't be anything serious you've had enough already it needs to stop, again who am I telling. Hopeing you can write a funny story about how this was all nothing bad and really easy to take care off and solve. In regard to your recent infertility post I can confirm that the statements being made in Germany where I was born and live are the same, just as stupid and basically in the same words just another language. The worst thing is after a while you start wondering yourself, is it really me, maybe it is not a medical problem, but a psychological, what if ... and it doesn't really help. Well we must be nearing the Grand Finale I can't wait. Until then, greetings from Germany, Candy

Anonymous said...

Hey Kristie,
I'm ashamed to admit but I've been an effectively silent follower of Kendrie's site and now yours for the last few years. I just wanted to say thank you for your insight into infertility. To call it interesting reading sounds terrible I know, but I'm not great with choice of words! But for me it is interesting, informative, challenging... I'm 20 and my parents were trying for 6 years before I appeared, and then another 10 years before my younger brother arrived. This included countless fertility treatments and cycles of IVF. And looking into adoption, but in the UK if you're both Caucasian and want to adopt an under 1 year old you're very very lucky if you manage to... I was obviously quite young at the time (or even non existent for part of it!) so didn't realise what was going on, and must admit that when they tried to tell me later I reacted a little badly. It has been such a lesson to me to read about some of the emotions they most likely felt when diagnosed with infertility, and has spurred me on to ask them more about how it was for them. So thank you so much :)
Rachel, UK

Cate said...

Oh, I loved the ones from my friends who said, "Oh, you're having major endo surgery. I went through that. Didn't help. Never could get pregnant, and it felt so good to just have the hysterectomy."

Say WHAT?! I'm in my early 30s, still single, and haven't even tried to have kids yet. I'm not quite ready for menopause thank you. Just the pain relief was worth the surgery.

Sheesh people!

Anonymous said...

Would the "appropriate" comment to make (if any) be - Can't believe you have to go through all that shit - it just sucks - but don't give up - you NEED/DESERVE to be parents????

In defense of MORONS everywhere - sometimes we don't mean to be stupid - we just are!!!

alayna said...

Oh my! I still have my chin on the floor after the turkey baster thing! DO WHAT?!? I don't know if I could have ever looked at those people the same way again! I totally agree with the "just relax" comment. Please! It would make me want to scream at people through clenched teeth, "I am NOTHING if not relaxed!" Um, yeah, that would have shown them!


Amy said...

Found your site through Amalah's Club Mom post. My sister and her husband are on Year 3 of infertility and have just started the adoption process. Much of what you have written sounds very familiar.

I can't wait to read more of your IF roundup posts! Love your blog...

Simply Jenn said...

Oh Kristie, I hope I haven't insulted *you* when I vaguely tried to sympathize. I KNOW how much I hated stupid comments, and you do too. I hope you've never read my comments to you and said "oh look, there's another stupid clueless one, even though I have three children now the ignorance never ceases". If I did, I very meekly and unassumingly apologize. If I didn't thank GOD because I never want to be "that person"!

Connie F-G said...

Boy you nailed that list of things people say. I heard them all too and I was not nearly as kind as you. I threw the stats back in their faces. We traveled and I had to have pages added to my passport and didn't get pregnant. And, we adopted but never did get pregnant. Want to go back to those folks and say "HA! You were wrong!!" I now get the comment, "You can't have an only child. That's not fair to your daughter. JUST adopt." We are blessed to be parents! Plus, just and adopt don't belong in the same sentence!

I do have to admit that it's pretty funny to get a bunch of people who have gone through all the indignaties of infertility together and share those embarassing moments of all the testing.

Wishing you a great weekend.


Anonymous said... many cliff hangers can we have...I am at the edge of my seat and you are still now just moving to California! I can't take the pressure. Just tell your family that you need the next several days to yourself to sit and finish the story...please so my family can have their mother back. I check this site every few hours for more updates!! I AM ADDICTED!!
Waiting impatiently for the next chapter!!

Anonymous said...

I hope all your appointments for Blaine went well today. I am going with "no news" is good news. As a parent of a child who was diapnosed with cancer, I know just how awful those information appointments can be. Take care and have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

It's so hard for people to know what to say and what not to say. The statement that is painful to me ... and I know it's just me being sensitive because EVERYONE says it when they're expecting a baby and are asked if they hope it's a boy or a girl ... is when they respond, "I don't care, just as long as it's healthy." OUCH. My baby was not born healthy. In my injured mind (because having a sick baby really does injure one's soul and heart) I receive that as them saying they wouldn't want a baby like mine.....who, by the way, thanks to God and some very incredible doctors, was healed and repaired and is now very strong and healthy. I know with all my heart that people don't mean that the way I receive it, but it still hurts.

HeatherB said...

Dear Kristie,

I've been following along with the infertility saga. I want to thank you for being so open and honest about your and Blaine's struggles. I have a very dear friend who has struggled with infertily. I know she's heard those comments a million times and it hurts.

Thanks for sharing! I'm praying for Blaine.

Can't wait to continue reading about how your Both- And family came to be!! (I have a friend who's Mom has both adopted AND biological children and she refers to her family as a Both AND family!)

Heather in Ohio

Anonymous said...

yes I must say those comments are darn right rude! Can't wait to hear the rest of the journey and how your three beauties came into your life!

Patricia said...

Well, I can't say that I've been there, but I did receive the best (ahem!) comment after having a miscarriage in-between our 2 boys. Since we already had a son when we miscarried, it was obvious it was a fluke of nature that I lost the next baby. But the last thing I wanted to hear is "well, at least you KNOW you can have kids" which I suppose is like when you miscarry the first time around and people say "well, at least you KNOW you can get pregnant!" Like "getting pregnant" is what you want! You don't want to ONLY get want to hold that sweet little one in your arms. For someone to say, albeit innocently, that you CAN conceive and have children because you've done it before seemed so hurtful at the time. I didn't want just ANY child that we happened to have in the that point I wanted the one I lost. I knew I could have another, most likely, but that child never would (and never has) replaced the empty part of my heart that belongs to my Christmas week (due date) baby in heaven. People mean well, you are right. We need to ALL learn how to be more sensitive to others, though. Often the BEST thing you can say is NOTHING! Listening is usually the best option! End of my sermon!!!

Anonymous said...

As someone who has faced a miscarriage, a miracle daughter, followed by an ectopic pregnancy, I can say, you certainly speak for me. A woman at my daughter's dance class recently barraged me with advice about how my daughter should not be an only child. She then went on to pressure my daughter to "work on" mom and dad so she can have a little brother or sister. I felt like punching her. Again, thanks for being my voice!

kim said...

Oh, those comments. Whew. Sometimes it can seem like it's a "test"--will she be able to keep her cool, or won't she. Since I "married" my children, I've never had to suffer through those comments. However, shortly after learning my husband had terminal kidney cancer, I got "oh, you're going to be such a young widow." REALLY...AM I? I still had hope that "they" in the medical field would be able to come up with something to turn things around. It was just....well, I don't even know....but I do know I will never, ever, ever forget that comment. From that time on, I am much more careful of what I say to people, in practically every circumstance. So, I guess that is one outcome of the comment that wasn't so bad.

Anonymous said...

It is quite amazing the comments people say TO YOUR FACE! We have four children and when I was pregnant with the last one - people would say "Haven't you figured out what's causing that yet?!" Finally - I started responding..."yes, we have home videos" - that usually shut them up!?
Thanks so much for your story as its hard to understand when you haven't ever been through the infertility, adoption etc process!

Sue said...


When we were trying to have our first daughter, people told me I was under too much stress. When I had to go in for surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, a woman I worked with had the nerve to go to my boss and tell him that he had to cut back on my workload; the stress was obviously causing my problems. HUNH? Since when is an ectopic pregnancy caused by stress?

Now that I have 2 beautiful girls, complete strangers tell me, "The next one will be a boy for sure." The NEXT one? As if it's wrong to have 2 daughters, and we must want another to get a boy.

Maybe kids say the darndest things, but adults should know better.

Sue (ALL-Kids)

Connie F-G said...

As I was reading your guest book, I remembered another comment that bugged me when we were waiting for our first adoption, which failed..."Are you sure you can love someone else's baby?" This from a woman who married a man who adopted her daughter!

After that adoption failed, I knew there was no doubt I could love someone else's baby because I grieved that baby like he had been born to me.