Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts on Infertility

Fortunately, infertility really isn't something we've ever had to deal with. For that, I am truly grateful. We had a short period of time before I got pregnant that we had our doubts. After I went off birth control, my body wasn't cooperating. We went through the difficulty of not knowing when we should be trying to conceive and suffered through the negative pregnancy tests that went with it. There was a lot of anticipation each time, and my mind (and body) were probably playing tricks on me as well, so each negative test was tough to take. It gave me even more of an appreciation of what infertile couples go through, because it is something that your life truly revolves around. Between a period and ovulation, and also the pregnancy test timeframe, there isn't much time in between for it to exit your mind for long. And if you extend that over months, or even years, it's such an agonizing way to live.

The anticipation of doing something so amazing and so permanent is exhilarating. Like anything else amazing, you're eager to get started and explore the adventure. For people who have a serious, life-calling-type desire to be parents, the inability to start their adventure must be excruciating. We wanted to be parents, obviously, and our lives would have been incomplete without it, but as I blogged about frequently back in the day, I didn't really feel like I had any great maternal instincts ready to burst forth. I've managed over the years, but there are still times that I know I'm missing some piece of the puzzle--the one that makes some activities and actions more natural than they sometimes feel for me. So if we wanted it this badly, I can only begin to fathom what it's like for others who have been eagerly anticipating this experience--rather than just expecting it would happen at some point--for their whole lives.

Recently I've heard a couple instances of the wrath of the infertile. A friend of mine has a close friend who has been going through infertility treatments. She's been through all sorts of treatments, including a couple unsuccessful rounds of in-vitro. She's one of these people that desperately wants to bear a child and raise it, and will stop at nothing to make it happen. She's been blogging about her experiences, and between that and her sensitivities to things her friends say, she's managed to alienate her friends a bit. They want to be supportive, but they never know what they might say to upset her. She even went so far as to blog about her feelings when different types of people tell her they're pregnant. Unfortunately, one of their group of friends is trying to conceive #2, and she has to keep that fact to herself. After all, her friend left nothing to the imagination with that blog post...and no, the response would not be favorable.

Then the other day one of my favorite bloggers announced that she is pregnant with baby #3. I enjoy her blogs because she's pretty honest. She has a sort of tongue-in-cheek writing style where she'll say pretty much whatever's on her mind--and I think that's part of why I like her, because she'll say things that I feel bad about thinking....you know, how sometimes she does just want to sit and blog and why are the kids bothering her!? Not the most politically correct, for sure, but it's closer to my life than some of the bloggers who seem to live these idyllic lives that make me feel tremendously inferior. Anyway, after she announced it on her personal blog, she wrote for Parenting.com, her once-a-week, about how panicked she is about having three, how they had exited the baby stage completely and are now going back, and all of the other concerns she has at this early point of her pregnancy. Almost immediately there were two commenters, both with fertility issues, chastising her for complaining about a third baby when they would have loved to have more. Interestingly, each of them had one and couldn't have more, and I found it a tad ironic that their comments might have been taken badly by someone unable to have ANY children. Here they were yelling at her for having three when they just wanted to have a second, but there are so many women probably thinking that those women should stop complaining since they were able to have one. But truly, the blogger wasn't complaining. She can seem a little over-dramatic at times, sure, but she makes it quite obvious that she loves her kids, that she loves being a mom, and that she's over the moon about #3, even if she has a million fears about it all. And really, what pregnant mom doesn't have concerns? I have about nine months worth of angsty blog posts floating around in my head for when we're heading toward baby #2. I could write about it now but I figure I'll save them until it's a little more relevant and imminent. The thing that killed me most is that this blog posting was generally positive--scared, yes--but mostly just a celebration of a really exciting announcement. And these women came and rained on the parade, acting as if she should be so grateful to have a third baby that she should have no reservations about it at all. Ummm, not realistic.

Now, all this said, every woman who has gone through infertility is more than entitled to be upset and frustrated. It is a horrible, awful thing to go through, and you can't blame them for being sad when it seems that everyone around them is pregnant or having babies. Heck, every time I hear about someone else who's pregnant, I have a twinge of sadness, as my "perfect plan" would have had me pregnant with them. But my plan didn't work out--and yes, I'm 99% at peace with that, as I can't imagine dealing with a baby and Jacob in his current state. Regardless, I do feel like I'm missing out on the party just a little bit. But at least I can feel that way having some degree of confidence that when we do decide to head down that road, we'll probably have success within a few months. Of course, the success beyond that point is still out of our control, but that's a whole different issue. But knowing that your fertility isn't under your control must make every announcement another form of torture. I can't even begin to fathom what they go through.

That said, I don't think it's fair to make fertile women feel guilty. Don't read a blog about parenting if you're highly sensitive about the subject. And even more, don't comment if you can't comment in the spirit of the post. Some posts are made to be debated...but a pregnancy announcement? Not so much. I get that jealousy is a tough thing to control. I'm sure that it's nearly impossible for infertile women to be completely, truly happy for a pregnant friend and there just isn't much they can do about it considering the immense sadness that their troubles cause them. But as one commenter said, the difference of opinion doesn't make anyone's feelings on the subject less valid. Just as the blogger is entitled to her joys and her concerns, the infertile commenters are entitled to their sadness and frustration...and neither should be making judgments about the other. Just as it's not particularly nice to comment negatively on someone's pregnancy announcement (when she obviously wasn't setting out to offend infertile women in the first place!), it wouldn't be fair for a fertile woman to comment on an infertility blog about how they should stop complaining and get over it. They're quite obviously writing for different audiences and that should just be respected.

I've had some experiences with this blog where things I have said have been twisted or taken out of context or just generally misunderstood. And while I wish that I would have been able to catch those things before I hit the "Publish" button, my intention was never to hurt anyone's feelings. There's only so much you can do to ensure that someone isn't going to take your words the wrong way, and that's probably the hardest thing about blogging. You can control what you write, but you can't control where someone else's mind is going to go with it. In the end I just feel like anyone who reads blogs should just take what they read at face value. Blogs are usually momentary thoughts frozen for posterity, not fine literature. Things are going to be written awkwardly or thoughtlessly, or said in frustration. They're written for a certain target audience that's familiar with the author's history and circumstances. As a result, it's more like sharing with a bunch of friends. So if you're not one of those "friends" (even in the most abstract sense), why are you butting in on the conversation? And in this case, if you're upset that you only have one child, why are you reading a blog where four of the six bloggers have more than one child? Why set yourself up for the frustration? And why rain on others' parades if you've willingly done this to yourself? That's what I just don't get. It's ok to be upset with your circumstances and feel bummed about others' successes, but it's not ok to make them feel guilty when it was never their intention to make you feel bad.

I pray that we never have to deal with infertility and wish nothing but the best for those who do. Parenthood is hard enough without having to climb that mountain on the way there.

1 comment:

Jo + CoCo's mom said...

COMPLETELY agree with this post!
Cannot believe how rude and condescending people can be.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Also, I very much relate to your no-nonsense approach to parenting and life in general.