June 23, 2014 by Tammy
I am really struggling. We have now been trying to get pregnant with our second child for 20 months. 20. Infertility was difficult the first time around. Going through it a second time is downright excruciating.
I have watched at least a dozen friends announce their pregnancies long after we had started trying. Many of them have already had their babies. This doesn’t even include all of the pregnancy and birth announcements by acquaintances on Facebook.
Am I happy for them? Yes, of course I am. At the same time, most of them do not get how excruciatingly painful this has been for me. Their comments and actions range from thoughtless to downright offensive. I don’t think they’re trying to be unkind, but sometimes I ask, “How can she say/do that and not think it would hurt someone who is struggling to get pregnant?”
Let me elaborate. Here are some of the comments I’ve heard over the past 20 months: “Everyone in our playgroup is pregnant, well, except you and [unnamed person].” “We got pregnant on our first try and were like, oh shoot! We didn’t want to get pregnant THAT fast.” “We were surprised at how quickly we got pregnant; now I wonder if I’m going to be able to handle two children so close in age.” “It will happen when it’s meant to.” “I have a whole bunch of leftover pregnancy tests; do you want them?” “I know what you’re going through; I’ve been there.”
I can’t understand why anyone would point out the fact that I’m not pregnant and everyone else is. How could that ever be considered an appropriate thing to say to someone?
I don’t understand how someone who knows I’m struggling could tell me how quickly they got pregnant . . . and then go on to complain about it!
I don’t understand how someone could think it’s comforting to hear, “It will happen when it’s meant to.” I guess I’m not meant to have a child right now. I guess I’m not deserving, or I’m being punished. I guess all my friends are meant to have second and third children, but not me.
And the most difficult comment to hear is, “I know what you’re going through; I’ve been there.” Sorry, if you’ve been on a few rounds of an ovulation-inducing drug, you haven’t been there. If you haven’t been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for 20 months, you haven’t been there. Maybe you can imagine what I’m feeling, but please don’t trivialize my experience by comparing it to yours. I NEVER say to someone who has been going through infertility for longer than me, or who has lost a child, “I’ve been there.” I say, “I’ve had my experiences, and as painful as they have been for me, I can only imagine what you’re going through. I’m sorry.”
I’ve also been looked up and down when wearing flowy clothes and subtly asked if I’m pregnant. Nope, but thanks for reminding me.
Moms have asked me to hold their newborn babies. I know it is a norm in our society to hand off our newborns, but please, if I want to hold your child, I’ll let you know. Please don’t put me in the uncomfortable situation of having to say, “No, sorry, I don’t want to hold your baby.” Think about my situation. I’ve been aching for my own child every day for the past 20 months. It is torture for me to feel and smell exactly what it is that I’ve been missing, especially when I just stopped nursing our daughter a few months ago. My breasts still tingle with the urge to experience that nursing bond with my baby. I am so happy for you, and your child is adorable. I will admire her as you rock her in your arms. I’m just not strong enough to hold her while I am going through this.
I am happy for my friends. I’ve been to baby shower after baby shower, and I’ve been genuinely excited to pick out the cute baby clothes and to celebrate with my friends. I even co-hosted a good friend’s baby shower, and was honored and happy to do so.
But I’m not made of steel. The inconsiderate comments and the lack of empathy from so many people often make me not even want to leave the house or pick up the phone.
And though I say I can’t understand why anyone would say or do any of these things, the truth is, when I really put myself in your shoes, I can understand. When you haven’t been through this, I can see how it would be difficult to know how certain words and actions might hurt someone going through infertility.
So what I’m asking you to do is put yourself in my shoes. Please, think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Consider your actions before you take them. And if you’re not sure what to say, ask! If you’re not sure how to be there for me, ask! And if you still don’t know what to do, please just listen and be there for me. Saying, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through” works wonders for my soul.
Don’t get me wrong. Several of my friends have been excellent listeners. They have thought about what it is that they want to say to me, and they have said it with kindness and empathy. Sometimes, the same friends who say or do something that hurts also say or do things that are so kind and thoughtful. It happens. I get it. I’m not looking for perfection here. I’m not looking for the perfect words or the perfect actions all the time. I know we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. I just want to know you have considered my feelings before you chose your words and actions. And I want to help you help me.
If we’re good friends, please, don’t post your pregnancy news on Facebook so I can find it out with everyone else in the world. At the same time, please don’t tell me during a gathering of people, so that I have to bottle up my emotions for the next hour before I can go home and cry in private. And please don’t tell me on the phone and then keep me on the line for 10 minutes while I’m crying inside. The best way you could possibly tell me is in a private e-mail, so that I can process my emotions in private. The next best way would be in a succinct phone call.
And please know, I am truly happy for you. I want to know your news. I want to celebrate with you. And at the same time, I’ve been going through this for 20 months. 20. Every time I begin to get my mind on something else other than what day of my cycle I’m on, someone else announces their pregnancy, or I get another negative pregnancy test. Every time I start to regain some hope, I’m reminded that something is not working properly in my body, the same something that seems to be working just fine in so many others. Every time I begin to heal, the wound is reopened.
I know many of you didn’t realize just how painful this has been for me. Or that I’ve been struggling at all. That’s a big part of the reason I’m writing this. There are other people out there who are suffering in silence. Suffering from infertility, or the loss of a child, or an illness, or any other number of battles. Suffering much worse than me. I can’t write on behalf of others who are fighting their own unique battles. But hopefully I can help ease their pain in some small way if I can encourage even one person to choose their words and actions more wisely. When you are making conversation with someone, remember that you don’t know what she or he is going through. Think about how your words might hurt that person if she is going through infertility.
Please. Help make this process just a little bit less painful.