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Fertiles: Don't contribute to the isolation

Posted May 04 2009 5:26pm
Ran into some friends this weekend ... learned that they are not only pregnant, but due in a few weeks! .... SAY WHAT?

If you are a fertile and you are reading this, here are a couple of tips:

1. Your infertile friend already feels isolated by the fact that they can't have children, when you do get pregnant, please TELL your infertile friends. Cause guess what? When they see you when you are 7-8 months pregnant, and you have some huge belly - they are not only going to think you swallowed a turkey, no, they'll be able to put 2 and 2 together ... instead of feeling protected by you (which is likely what you were trying to do - or you might have been protecting yourself because you are afraid of an uncomfortable confrontation) they are going to feel completely LEFT OUT of the entire process, which only encourages the fear that they really ARE isolated and alone and don't belong.

2. And along these same lines, since we're here already ... please don't further their isolation by NOT inviting them to baby showers - allow them the chance to turn down the invitation, rather than "protect" them. All you're doing when you protect them is confirming their fear that they really don't belong.

Ok, I think I've said enough here, verbal beating over.

Instead here are some pointers for telling your infertile friends about your news:

1. Send your news in an email - let them know that you're sending it in an email because you respect them and want to give them any emotional space they might need to process the news.

2. If you're ready to share your news, don't put off telling your infertile friends till the end. Rather, tell them first, so that if/when they hear the news from someone else they won't feel like you were hiding it from them.

You may think all of this is crazy. You may think that infertiles are more "sensitive" then you'd like ... but would you tell a guy who just lost his job that you just got a raise at work? Would you go on and on to him about how many people you now have reporting to you ... as he has run out of unemployment checks and is considering working at Burger King to get by? ... No, I didn't think you would. Man up people.

***

EDITED TO RESPOND TO COMMENT

Man, I am not making friends today. This is not the first circumstance where I've inserted foot and shoved. Though I don't want to "take back" anything I've said above, instead, I want to add more context.

Thank you anonymous for your comment. I believe that you have some very valid points. I'm sure it does feel like you can't win for losing! Here's the deal: infertiles (especially primary infertiles) don't have the joy of being parents, the awe of creation when they look into their baby's eyes, the excitement and connection to share with their spouses over a positive pregnancy test, etc, etc, etc

... so it doesn't really surprise me to hear that they (we) get upset by most things baby, right? ... as someone who has been through the ringer I can tell you that I wouldn't wish infertility on my worst enemy - words like: painful, exhausting, isolating, heartbreaking ... don't even begin to describe the experience. So yeah, this stuff hurts. But pretending like it doesn't exist unfortunately, won't make things better - well, they might make it better for you, but they won't for the infertile.

I think I did a disservice in my original post by NOT communicating how important it is to approach these topics/discussions with respect, grace, and gentleness ... you can gently (but truthfully) tell someone something they don't want to hear and it ends up being LESS uncomfortable than if you exclaim your excitement over something that would clearly cause pain to another person.

Ok, you are totally right in saying that if you do not know that a person/woman/couple is struggling with infertility then how can you handle it with grace and respect? Let me tell you, I am not suggesting you learn to read minds! Heavens no. But I also don't think it takes a rocket sciencist to see the signs that there might be an infertile among us ... women who get quiet or look away at the mention of pregnancy, birth stories, and the like ... I don't think it would hurt anyone to talk less exuberantly about their child's poop if the signs are so obvious that you notice someone suffering ... and you can then go on to treat them with a little more care. If it turns out you were wrong, well then, you just bored one less person with stories of poopy diapers. (Yes, I'm sure if I'm ever able to have children someday, I will do this too, I'm just saying ... poo, not the most riveting conversation topic!)

Something that you didn't directly say, but that would benefit many people is ... KNOW YOUR INFERTILE ... you're right, some don't ever want to see a baby shower invitation for the rest of their reproductive years ... here's something my AMAZINGLY sensitive friend did ... she emailed me and let me know that friends were going to be throwing her a shower. She indicated that she'd agonized about whether or not to invite me, as she really wants me to be apart of her life, yet she also wants to respect the pain and difficulty a shower might cause me. (Can I tell you that I am crying as I type this, at the reminder of this amazingly sensitive friend!) She wanted to move forward in a way that would respect my feelings ... WOW. So what she did, so beautifully was she became a student of Polly Gamwich. By talking with me, reading my blog, praying with me, she learned that I wouldn't react so well to an invitation showing up unannounced in my mailbox, but one sent with concern and care ... it went a long way. So, if you have any infertile friends, learn about them (don't overwhelm them with personal questions about their lady bits) but use all that desire not to hurt someone and that wisdom to not judge someone until you've walked in their shoes ... and be delicate, and respectfully and humbly ask how you can better love your favorite infertile.

Ok, I'm sure something I've said will get me in trouble, but I really wanted to respond to anonymous, cause I NEVER get "argumentative" (for lack of a better term) comments ... and it's kind of exciting.
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