Sunday, July 15, 2007

At least...

I just wanted to start a little service for those who are going through ART (assisted reproductive technology). More specifically, this is for those who know someone else who is going through it.

If you are going through ART know this here and now: otherwise well-meaning, sympathetic and intelligent people will say some dumb-ass shit. Family, friends, coworkers--some may know what you're going through, some may not, depending on how open you are--doesn't matter. They don't mean to, but they will.

And it will hurt. I mean, it may be a small pinprick, or it may be a raw seeping wound, depending on the day, the person saying it, and the clomid levels, but somebody will say something that will bother you. In fact, several somebodies, and they'll all say different things.

The truth is, they have no idea what to say. And the painful truth is, many won't do research on the emotional aspects of how to deal with a friend with fertility problems. And the real truth is, almost none will know how to ask you what you need, nor will they know how to react when you talk about it.

When you find the friends or family who know how to ask you questions frankly yet sympathetically? Who follow your lead when you do or don't want to talk about it? Coat them in gold and chain them in your basement. You won't find many, so hold on to the ones you do. I have three chained up down there right now. It's being able to go downstairs and visit those three that get me through the bonehead shit that other people say. And then I occasionally toss them a treat.

That said, I wanted to start a small recurring feature of They'll Say It, But That Doesn't Mean You Have To Like It. I just want to cover what I've heard and why it sucks, and what some viable alternatives may be.

Today's entry:

"At least you know you can get pregnant!"

You will here this after a miscarriage. Guaranteed. You will hear this after every miscarriage. You will hear this in the down times between miscarriages. You will hear this in the empty times between doctor's appointments--assuming, of oourse, that you've been pregnant at least once, whether you actually gave birth or not. You will hear this while waiting after your last IUI for your beta blood tests. It's often the go-to thing to say for people who want to comfort, and they will say it any time you admit to feeling anything less that optimistic.

And you know what? It's not comforting.

Can everyone who only wants to get pregnant, but doesn't want the baby, can you stand up?


The goal is to stay pregnant. Right? I mean, you'd tell me if I was wrong, wouldn't you? The thing is, every fertility story is different, and so yes, some people have difficulty at the getting pregnant stage, while others have diffiulty at the staying pregnant stage. Some lucky winners (!!!) have difficulty with both. But I'm fairly certain, even without doing clinial research, that it isn't anyone's ultimate goal to just get pregnant, even for the women who have problems getting that far.

And besides, how on earth is that comforting? "At least the one event that no one has control over can happen!"

It's a little like comforting your newly divorced sister by saying, "Well, at least you know you can get through a wedding! Now next time you just need the marriage to stick!"

If you find these words allllmost coming out of your mouth, ever, for the love of all the fluffy kittens in the world, stuff your fist in your mouth before these words come out. Check yourself: does this person you're talking to really want comfort, or do they want a sympathetic ear so they can just not be Susie Fucking Sunshine all the time? If they really want comfort, don't give them false promises (more on those in a future installment!), ask. Ask, ask, ask: "How can I help?" If they want sympathy, try something crazy: just be sympathetic.

And if someone says that to you? I'm sorry, not if, but when? God, I wish I knew. If you had a good response, please let me know, because I'm still searching for one that doesn't make everyone want to stop talking to me altogether.

Next up: Variations on a theme: False promises.


Trace said...

What a great post!!

People do say thoughtless things. I remember when one of my best friends was prengant w/her first child she was going on and on about the havoc it wreaked w/her body. I was so irritated I actually turned to her and said "what if you weren't able to get pregnant and experience that?". She just didn't realize what she was saying and how it would make me feel (although in reality we have male infertility and are pursuing DI so theoretically I can get pregnant). My husband scolded me when we left and said that I was mean.

kch said...

You were spot on, I think. Another friend of mine has a reply for that situation. "You're going to have to find someone else to be sympathetic." My favorite parallel situation was a friend who, at her baby shower, compared being pregnant to "having a parasite". I thought I might throttle her.