While traveling down the different paths of our infertility journeys we encounter many people who offer advice. The majority of these suggestions come from our close friends and family because they are aware of what we are going through since we made the decision to let them in on our little infertile skeleton in the closet. For those who we choose to tell, there will always be a major disconnect between what they think is going on and what is actually going on.
Looking beyond the comments that are off-the-cuff (see the article Why don’t you just adopt? posted below), lets delve further into some conversational pieces that arise now and then. Two specific examples that we have encountered illustrate our point.
First, we have a couple of close friends (have drifted as of late though) that went through infertility problems and tried IVF. Both were successful on their first try. Originally this gave us hope because they did the treatment prior to us starting our journey. At first, they were very sympathetic, understanding and full of useful information in regards to process. Now that we have gone through the medical ringer a few failed times, the relationship and conversations have changed. A snippet of the last in-person contact we had went like this;
Successful IVF Couple: “So how are you guys doing / handling everything?” Us: “We’re trying to get by you know…(distant)” Successful IVF Couple: “We totally know how you feel.” Us: “Did your treatments end up with you having children (sarcastic)?” Successful IVF Couple: “Yes, but…” Us: “Then you don’t know how we feel because you’re not in our situation, it worked for you. You got your children (upset).”
While they might understand the medical process aspect of what we’ve gone through and what we are still going through, at this point they have passed us by in emotional feelings going from bad to good. We are stuck with bad.
Our friends and family might have the best intentions and only a small few might inquire as to our feelings just to be nice. Reality is that since they’ll never understand, why should they bother to take time to hear us out completely? On a more negative note, do they really care at all?
Second example; we have some relatives that have actually said, “We cannot pretend to understand what you’re going through.” That is true enough. We have tried to explain to folks that want to listen how we are feeling emotionally over and over again. Lately it’s not worth the pain. Every time we have to talk about it, it just takes us down another step on the depression ladder. If they wanted to really understand more, they would do their own research online or in books as infertility battles are very well documented. Maybe since it does not affect them directly, the motivation is not there. Maybe it is a time issue.
And why wouldn’t they have the time to research our feelings and issues? Oh yeah, they’re busy with their kids.
Great post. There are few things are as maddening as choosing between friends and family who tune out or can’t wrap their heads around when you try to explain infertility, and those who succeeded early (either naturally after having to try a few months longer than they expected or who succeeded via treatment) because they share faux understanding — “we know what you mean!” …. No, you really, don’t.
A thought-provoking post for me, I must say. My experience is also that outsiders don’t get it.
However, my limited experience taught me that ’sensitivity training’ (which in essence was what I subjected a couple of my friends to) only alienated the people I was counting on for support.
They tried very hard to empathize, but I kept rebuking them because what they said chafed me. I lost at least one friendship that way, and I regretted that.
So on the one hand, I’m trying to accept imperfect support, on the other I’m reserving some emotions for people who do know what I’m going through.
Not to say I wouldn’t still fume at any ‘friend’ who’d suggest we ‘just adopt’ or ‘just relax’.
Words in print often come across different than intended. I only wanted to respond from my experience.
In case you were tempted to click over to my blog, be aware that ART worked for me. It sucks that you can’t say the same, yet.
Here from CDLC too! A very honest post! And while, I want to tell you, “I know how you feel”, I’m not sure how it would received. I struggled for months whether to continue blogging and how to do so after my infertility adventures had changed paths. I didn’t want to offend anyone – through cyberspace or IRL – by having it seem I was being insensitive to the IF community. I completely agree that the outsiders of IF don’t fully get it, but I think those of us that are in the middle of “outside” and “IF”, do get it and want to support you and others. At least I do! We’re all one people.
What you say is so true. Don’t get me wrong I am happy for my friends who have gone through fertility treatments and were lucky enough to get it to work the first time. But what they don’t understand is the emotional pain that is involved when it does not work. It is like standing in line to get on a roller coaster. You are filled with anticipation and scared to death to get back on that coaster of emotions. But at the same time you know that if you let fear get the best of you and you step out of line you could be missing out on the ride of a lifetime. So hard to know what to do. Continue on with treatments or call it quits. And all you have to look forward to when you call it quits is people saying to you “Oh I know so and so and the minute they gave up they got pregnant.”
My father sent me an email last night that essentially said, ‘well, you’re lucky you have a career, and you need to focus on that when this doesn’t work out’ i didn’t say to him that if there was any way financially that i could walk away from my career right now, i would.
I’m in between cycles on an egg donor program in the US, I’m Australian. I was diagnosed with Premature ovarian failure when i was 37. after two failed IUI’s one failed transfer and a chemical pregnancy, I’m in the position of not only having to wait to go back because of work demands, but the indignity of all of my menopause symptoms haunt me when the hormone payload is down. Not sleeping, the drenching night sweats, flushes as the hormones shift around etc.
There are so many levels on which no one gets it. And i’m so tired of being the emotionally available one trying to gently (or not so much) let them know what’s going on. they need a kind of action template. If i had cancer and was going through chemo they would have a better idea of what to do.
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