Friday, March 26, 2010

The Healing Power of a Ham Dinner.

Someone on the adoption yahoo forum that I'm part of posted the other day about the challenges related to the struggle with infertility; one of her family members is expecting a second baby in the span of thirteen months, and she's finding it so hard to be happy about that, given her own experience with infertility and her own pain; she wondered if this was normal or if she was being selfish.

With a few modifications, I'll copy here what I posted on the yahoo forum in response to her post...
...well, if those feelings aren't normal, then I'm not normal either. Though I now have a six-year-old bio son, this didn't happen easily for us...we were married almost 10 years by the time he came along. During those years, most of my closest friends got pregnant and I could hardly take it anymore...I COULDN'T TAKE NOT BEING A MOTHER ANY MORE. One of my dearest friends (who herself had struggled with fertility issues) finally gave birth and I cried all the way to the hospital and all the way home...and for the whole next day, too, curled up in bed. 
I recall another friend (former friend, I should say) who knew all about my fertility issues and all of the docs we'd seen and all of the testing we'd gone through, etc etc. One day, while we were going for a walk, she announced that in a few days, on January 1st, she and her husband were going to start trying to have a baby. Great - thanks for sharing, I thought, a little light in sincerity.  Well, mere weeks later, on another walk, she told me that she couldn't believe she wasn't pregnant yet and that she would be making an appointment with a gynecologist to see what was going on. I kid you not - it had been about three, MAYBE four week since they'd started trying to get pregnant. I remember looking at her and thinking, "are you SERIOUSLY talking to ME about this????!!!!!"  I regret not saying it.  Instead, I told her that I was feeling sick and had to go home. She never clued in to the fact that, just maybe, that conversation was what was making me sick. Well, she actually did go to her doc for a referral to a specialist - she told me later that she'd lied to her doc in order to get the referral because she figured she wouldn't have gotten the referral if her doc knew that they'd only been trying for a few weeks.   Like, hmmmm - you think???.  Before the specialist appointment was anywhere close to happening, though, she was pregnant. A while later, while she was pregnant, I ran into her at the mall, and she told me that I needed to be patient, as she had been (WHAT???), to have a child, and that if it was meant to happen, it would.  Anyone else ever heard THAT line??  Every swear word I've ever heard (and some I didn't know that I knew but must have acquired through osmosis or something) went through my mind and I felt like pounding on her.  Clearly, I had unresolved anger issues (still do, in fact).  At any rate, the baby was born in November, 10.5 months after they started trying. 
I've said to a few others before that, for me, though I now have a child, the pain of infertility has been so deep that I don't know that I'll ever fully get over it. It's just always there. To this day, the pain can come back in a heartbeat: if I think too long about those memories; if I hear about someone's multiple pregnancies; if I hear someone speaking with a lot of exasperation about one of their children or about how they can hardly wait for their children to be out of the house; etc etc etc. It doesn't take much. Even now, I'm sitting here crying, because of the pain that comes to the surface on this issue for me.
I don't know why it has to be so hard for some families to create or complete a family. I just don't know.
I do know that, when my kid finally arrived six years ago, nothing before or since has compared to that joy. With the backdrop of my personal journey, there is not a day that goes by that I don't treasure that little boy with everything in me. My infertility experience has, without a doubt, made me a better and wiser parent. I can't speak for anyone else's experience, but that's been mine.
I hope it's yours, too.
There's little or nothing that I can offer in terms of comfort - it's such a hellish journey and I'm sorry that you have to go through this....
Hang in there!
For those of you who know someone who has struggled with fertility issues, I would love to give you a list of things that have been said to me that were, oh, so not helpful. For those who struggle with infertility yourselves, I'm sure that this entire list could relate to you as well as it does to me; you could probably add to it, as I could with more time to think about it.  Though I'm well beyond the desire, or age, to continue trying to conceive biologically, these hurts are still fresh in my mind.  Please, on behalf of all who struggle (or who have struggled) with infertility:
  • Don't tell us it'll happen when it's meant to happen.  How do you know?  Are you clairvoyant? In your genuine desire to support those with fertility issues, please don't provide false hope...we know that it's false.
  • Don't refer to one of your children as being a mistake or an accident.  Or, heaven forbid, offer that if I'd like one of yours, I can take one.  Sorry - your effort to make light of the situation really doesn't work for me.
  • Don't tell us that we need to relax - and that procreation will happen.  We don't need to feel blamed yet, too, for not being pregnant.  So, now, let me give you some advice on your sex life, seeing as how you felt free to bring it up...
  • Don't offer us someone else's children.  About a year ago, the wife of a friend of a friend of a friend died (someone I'd only met once, about twenty years ago), leaving behind a husband and two young children.  The person who called to tell me this news suggested, without taking a breath to break up her sentences, that perhaps these were children that we could adopt!  Seriously?  How could she not get how inappropriate this was, not to mention how insulting it was to the boys' father and to the boys themselves?  Yeah, now that the boys have just lost their mother, let's rip them away from their father, too.
  • Tell us that you're pregnant (please don't leave that to others to do), but don't tell us about your pregnancy woes...because those of us with fertility issues would do pretty much anything to experience those same horrid things happening to your body.  Nausea and (particularly) bed rest sound pretty good, actually.  Surely, surely, you could find another friend to commiserate with on this front.
  • If you're pregnant, please try to remember that not all conversation has to be about pregnancy or the baby; and please don't continuously rub your belly in front of us.  It feels like you're rubbing it in to us that you're lucky enough to have that baby inside of your belly.  And believe me, you are lucky.
  • Don't remind us that there are lots of people who adopt and then, miraculously, get pregnant.  Yeah, there's a reason to adopt.  "Yes, Johnny, it's true, the reason we adopted you was..."
  • Don't sermonize that it's God's will for our lives...because, frankly, you don't know what that is either.
  • Don't tell me to be patient.  Heard that one again not so long ago and I felt like ramming ten years' worth of adoption files and fertility treatment records down the throat that uttered those words.  And did I mention that I'm 43 years old and have a child who's already six?? How long should I be patient for?  Maybe retirement might be a better time to contemplate the completion of my family - after all, I'll have more time to think then.
  • Don't assume that, because we have one child, we really don't need any more...that maybe shouldn't even want any more.
  • Don't tell us that you know what it's like unless you do because you've lived it.
  • Don't tell us for the 100th time that adopting is a risky decision, followed by every horror story you've ever heard about someone's fourth cousin twice removed whose sister adopted a child that 'turned out' disastrously.  I promise you we've given adoption at least a little bit of thought over the past eight years that we've been trying to adopt.
  • Don't question our desire for additional children. It's private, and it's not your decision to question.  Just wanting more children is a good enough reason.
  • Do not suggest that it might be time to "get over it."  Yeah, that's helpful.  Just ignore the crushing pain that threatens to overtake your very breath on particularly bad days.
I know that I sound cynical, maybe a bit bitter.  I wish I knew how to take the tone out of my words so that they're not quite as sharp - because I know that the vast majority of people who have said or done some of these things to me have been well-intentioned people who want only to help.  I know that.  I get that people want to encourage; they want to say something to make things better.  It's intended as a caring, loving, supportive thing.  I recognize that - and I've recognized it even in the moment when someone's unknowing insensitivity has bowled me over on the inside.

I have often been grateful for people's earnest desire to make things better for me.  I have truly valued every person who has listened, cared, prayed, and sympathized.  For the record, I think one of the best things to say, when confronted by the desperate person wanting so badly to create or complete his/her family is something like:  "I'm so sorry you're going through this - it must be unimaginably hard. I wish there was something I could say to make it better, but I probably can't.  Let me know if there's something I can do."

One of the nicest things anyone ever did for me, after an hour or more of listening to me cry and storm and rage about wanting to be a mom so badly that I could hardly stand it anymore, was to bring me dinner - she listened, said little, and then, recognizing that I was a basket case and wanting me to know that she loved me, she brought dinner to the grief-stricken that night.  To this day, I think it's the best ham I've ever had love smoked right into it.


  1. I might just post your post on to my blog, you took the words right out of my mouth (I guess out of most people who have suffered through infertility). There is one other comment that I love (frown-smile)! "Well, if you really want to get pregnant, you should drink the water at work because everyone is pregnant at work!! Love it...

  2. Fantastic read! I agree 110% with all of it. xo