June 29, 2015
Infertility Is Just A...
Legitimate Medical Issue. Ok, for some of you, that'a a no-brainer. And I really hope it is for most of you. I talked about this a little bit during Infertility Awareness Week, but I thought I'd go into a little more detail.
Lately, for a number of reasons, we've been more open about our infertility journey. A lot of the time we've been met with love and support. Other times, however, I've been met with some comments that make me work reallly hard on holding my tongue and being charitable. Like when I was told that maybe what I need to do is stop all treatment and get a teddy bear. Or to get a puppy. Or to "just" adopt, or "just" relax.
This most recently happened this morning, when my phlebotomist imparted some of the above "wisdom" on me. Now, ordinarily I would probably say something, but I have a policy about not making people who are stabbing me in the arm upset at me. So, instead of saying something, I just stewed and decided I would just get it out here instead.
The truth is, I am tired of being told, whether directly or indirectly, on purpose or not, that infertility is my fault. Yes, there are things I can do to try to make it better, but in the end, I did not cause this or do something to deserve this. Yet that's what people are saying to me when they say just relax, just stop thinking about it, just do this, that, or the other thing. They are saying that, in their eyes, I'm doing something wrong, and if I "just" did one right thing, everything would be fine. And much of the time, what I'm being told that I'm doing wrong is seeking medical treatment, for my legitimate medical condition! Really! When I hear "you're trying too hard", "stop focusing on it" or "just let go and let God", I hear that I am being told to not worry about or treat my medical issue! One that not only effects my fertility, but my overall health.
Stop and think for a minute. Would any other medical condition ever be treated like that? You have cancer? Oh, you should stop chemo, you're trying too hard, you should just take a nap. Have diabetes? Oh, don't worry about insulin, just go have a drink and forget about your issues. Have pneumonia? Forget about antibiotics, just go take a vacation! Can you imagine anyone saying any of those things, and then giving themselves a pat on the back for being helpful? I can't. Yet people do that ALL. THE. TIME with infertility.
I'm really tired of my medical issues being down played. On top of that, I'm tired of people telling me to laugh off those comments as "well-meaning." I'm tired of telling myself that these are just society's misconceptions that I have to accept.
I have plenty enough to deal with on a daily basis, like regular life events that make me want to cry or keeping a happy face on when I'm dealing with pills, shots, side effects, symptoms, and soreness. I don't want to be expending more energy that I don't have on making other people feel better.
So, what should happen instead? Well, I covered some of it here before, so I won't reiterate those. However, beyond those basics, my biggest wish is that people stop treating infertility like just a minor inconvenience, or making people feel like they're at fault. I don't mean that I want to be met with pity or sadness. But it would be nice to, you know, be asked how I'm doing, have the difficulty acknowledged, or have a shoulder to lean on.
And of course, It would be great to have people think before they speak, to have people consider what the words they are using are saying. Are they actually comforting and helpful? Even better would be people informing those around them, correcting the misconceptions and common platitudes before they reach another person, in a kind manner of course. If we can start there, maybe we can start chipping away at the shame and fault that those experiencing infertility shouldn't, but do, feel.
What do you think? What would you like to see people do?
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I struggle so much with the comments of others! It is such a good idea to use those emotions and harness them for a post like this! For us, we get comments all the time in the reverse- about having "too many kids," as many people like to suggest. It wears on me. I never know what to say. I think you are handling it well. For me, I have to pray for patience and the right response constantly. A lot of times people don't know what to say, and so they just say something thoughtless.ReplyDelete
People's comments can be wearing. I like your idea of praying for patience and the right response. I try to do that, but I need to remember to more often.Delete
I have the exact same feeling about depression/social anxiety. People are constantly telling me to "just" feel better or get over it try harder and it's so frustrating. I absolutely agree that people should think before they speak and inform themselves rather than spouting off ignorance like the "Let go and let God" or "God has a different plan for you" and so on. Educate, educate, educate, and I think your ministry is the perfect way to get started, dear friend.ReplyDelete
Ugh, I'm sorry you've had to deal with ignorant comments too. Its definitely true that anxiety and depression can be treated in the same way, unfortunately. Thank you for your kind words.Delete
I love this post and I'm sending prayers your way. I truly wish people would speak with kindness towards each other. Education is key and some people should really think long and hard about how they place blame.ReplyDelete
Thank you! I agree, education and kindness are key.Delete
It sure is medical issue! But for some reason, most folks who never go thru IF seem to think it's not medical at all. It's psychological. I wonder why that is. Possibly because everyone knows someone who "just had to relax" or "just had to adopt" in order to get pregnant. And unfortunately anecdotal evidence speaks louder than truth most of the time. Sorry you've heard these annoying comments a bit lately. I'm always sure to correct people now when they say to me, "See, you just had to get into the adoption process, and then you ended up pregnant!" I usually launch into the story of how I changed meds the cycle we conceived, so it likely had nothing to do with our adoption plans. Boom. Smackin' knowledge on 'em for the sake of all my sisters in IF out there. <3ReplyDelete
Yea, I think people remember the one anecdote that supports their story rather than the tens or hundreds that don't. Thank you for being so supportive and smackin' knowledge into people :).Delete
I appreciate this post! You are right - it is very downplayed! It is so much more than people understand it to be!ReplyDelete
Definitely true! I'm probably not even expressing correctly what the experience is like other than to me.Delete
I think we were years into our infertility struggle before we actually heard someone (other than my doctor) refer to infertility as a disease. When I did, it was an "aha!" moment for me and gave me some much needed perspective. I think most people are so ignorant about human reproduction (other than the basics) that they make really stupid comments when the "hocus pocus" doesn't seem to be working. If they only knew how many millions of little things must go exactly right for a baby to be conceived and born, perhaps they wouldn't be so quick to make such silly comments to us and maybe would even look upon their own fertility a little differently.ReplyDelete
I definitely agree a lot of it has to do with ignorance about reproduction. In sharing my story with people I'm close too, I've definitely had to explain how things are supposed to work more than once. Its true that once people know more they are a little more understanding.Delete
"Just" adopt. As if it were like walking in and checking out a library book! I'm sure that any couple who's been through (or knows someone who's been through) the adoption process would ever say that you can "just" adopt a child!ReplyDelete
Haha yes, exactly! There is nothing "just" about any of it!Delete
People so want to be helpful and supportive but it's a sensitive and somewhat delicate topic to discuss. Sometimes it is very hard to jus say that I'm sorry you are suffering. Human instinct is to fix> difficult situations. I've found that sometimes the best solution is to be rather vague with what is going on, just that I'm dealing with medical issues and leave it at that.ReplyDelete
Praying that things get better and easier for you!
Thank you for the advice and for the prayers!Delete