Sometimes I have to be careful. When I am asked a question that I dislike, I go full sarcasm or even blatantly rude. Yikes, right? Mom’s super proud. So when I feel like I am cornered, it’s a big breath of air, a pause, and an internal scolding not to completely freak out on the person in front me. I’m super fun at parties, too!
So maybe you’ll chuckle when I tell you that this trait of mine goes hand in hand with some big life changes. I have infertility. That isn’t funny, it never will be. But I’ve come to see how my ability to Hulk-mode someone’s questioning, combined with invasive personal questions about having kids, leaves a lot to be desired.
I am sure you have someone you know, or you yourself, who has experienced this. The statistic is about 1 in 4 women deal with infertility depending on which resource you find. “Oh! You just got married, when are the kids coming?” Etc. etc etc. The variety is amazing. Doctor names, drugs, food, exercise, positions (WHAT?!), surrogacy, adoption. You name it, someone has asked or offered. These are meant in love. So why do I get all hot and bothered when someone is trying to be nice? Have I ever asked similar questions? YES. Ouch. I’m just as guilty. Infertility has taught me what to say, or not to say now. Better than ever.
Of course, people are different. We like different things, we eat different things, we watch different things. So my view is different from basically everyone else. But the best thing someone has said to me?
“That sucks.” A hug, an offer to coffee WITHOUT strings attached.
Boom. No prying questions, I’m not getting big and green, and we move on. If I feel like sharing more, guess what? That person has left it open to future conversations. If not, they were still really respectful, sympathetic, and kind. I guess what it boils down to, is less is more. Let the person struggling with the issue dictate how they want to handle it.
See, the thing is, one of the biggest hurdles your sister, best high school friend, or college roommate is probably handling? The grief. The grief of dreams that have died. The grief of negative tests, bad news from doctors, the miscarriages.
The list is endless. Eventually, the strength will come back, and hopefully bitterness hasn’t taken root. I know for me, it took a while to not let the seemingly endless baby announcements crush my heart. It was really probably a full year until the shock of jealousy and pain wasn’t the first knee-jerk reaction I had. It was very much like a punch to the gut. I felt guilty for feeling it, but for me, it was a season to work through. I also avoided Facebook for a while. Yeesh. I was also so happy for them too. I can be both— crying in pain, and yet so joyful for their gift. Children are a gift, no matter how loud, messy or crazy they are. My heart wants the middle of the night wake-ups, the spit-up, the ability to claim my haggard looks on the kids. I am an auntie to five nieces and nephews, and my best friends have a pack of girls that are so much fun! But it’s not the same as your own.
One of the best ways I was told about a new pregnancy was at work. Info like that can just be bomb-shelled out of nowhere. My dear darling coworker was so sweet. She pulled me aside, and gently told me, and that she was to announce it the next day. Since I was very freshly deep in dealing with my grief, this was so helpful. I could have my emotions at home, work through that a little bit first, and be professionally happy the next day. It wasn’t artificial but allowed me the grace to have the tears in private. It was such a gift that she respected me. That was two years ago, and I still tear up. But this time, it’s remembering how she treated me with love and respect. She cared for me.
Of course, you care too. And those of us experiencing the pain, the appointments, the endless counting, the negative pregnancy tests, we know that. It’s just, maybe if we talk with more love, and less fix-it, we can encourage, build and support women.
We are awesome! We are not defined by what body parts work or which ones don’t.
Just because I am writing from a viewpoint of “wants kids, can’t currently,” doesn’t mean the friend who truly never wants kids is anything less. We’re all valuable. It doesn’t relate only to infertility either. That cancer you are fighting against with all your might? It’s not you, it’s not your definition, not who you are. Diabetes? Ditto. You get the idea. But I’ll say it again; let the person with the issue define the pathway.
Sorry. I soapbox sometimes. So let’s be more full of love and encouragement.
You are brave, you are tough, and you’ve got this!