Friday, May 31, 2013

Infertility Etiquette

I think things happen for a reason. I think God ALWAYS has a plan. There was a reason why I didn't post the giveaway on Monday, my original intention. I was busy because I had just gotten back in from Hot Springs. I didn't post on Tuesday because I was busy taking care of something I did and got busy "relaxing" on my first official day of summer break. Can one be considered "busy" if they are relaxing, ah I digress. And yesterday, I spent another waste less trip to the pharmacy for a prescription that my doctor still hadn't called in. Seems as if out of the blue my insurance has denied it. A phone call would have been nice, and then again, I guess if I would have called the pharmacy I could have saved the trip. Story of my life...

After last month's disappointing lab work, I just tried again. We got a positive on day 15. I was excited because maybe, just maybe I ovulated. That's around the time most "normal" women ovulate and was hoping the blood work would say so. However, the timing screwed that up. I would need to test Sunday or Monday. All the labs my insurance accepts are closed on Sunday and were closed Monday due to the holiday. C'est la vie, eh? My OB suggested to go ahead and add clomid in addition to my metformin. So, readers, it looks like we're on that route. I am not telling anyone about this right now except for you! and well, my aunts, and my parents. I don't want to hear the OMG what if you have twins, what if you have triplets, what if you twin-trip-quadru-sextuplets???? Ugh, because that's what it will lead to. I guess because infertility isn't so mainstream and women, like myself for awhile, are all too often ashamed that it's just one of those subjects where people have no couth and lack the discipline to filter the hurtful remarks and questions that come out of their mouths because they are uneducated or inexperienced with fertility issues. If I end up having twins or triplets, well, the way I look at it is that it's more than I have right now.

So, I posted the swimsuit giveaway on Wednesday. That day came a comment which led to me lurking on said commenter's blog (Thanks, Catherine!) to reading a post that I totally just got. And, I was calm. I think this little getaway helped and the fact that school has settled has helped. I am hoping that if someone who is in my shoes comes across this post that it will give them solace too...and that if someone who is friend/related to someone with infertility that this post will help them be able to communicated better with their loved one.

Credit story and picture: Jessah at Dreaming of Dimples

If you know someone who is struggling with infertility, please read the very important information below (via RESOLVE) to learn what not to say and how to best support your friend or family member during this difficult time. To make this more digestable, I've included the most helpful tips (in my humble opinion). 

Chances are, you know someone who is struggling with infertility. More than seven million people of childbearing age in the United States experience infertility. Yet, as a society, we are woefully uninformed about how to best provide emotional support for our loved ones during this painful time.  

Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn't coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.

The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.

As the couple moves into infertility treatments, the pain increases while the bank account depletes. The tests are invasive and embarrassing to both parties, and you feel like the doctor has taken over your bedroom. And for all of this discomfort, you pay a lot of money.

A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:
  • They will eventually conceive a baby.
  • They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
  • They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster
    parent.
Reaching a resolution can take years, so your infertile loved ones need your emotional support during this journey. Most people don't know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support.

Don't Tell Them to Relax
Everyone knows someone who had trouble conceiving but then finally became pregnant once she "relaxed." Couples who are able to conceive after a few months of "relaxing" are not infertile. By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as "infertile" until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. In fact, most infertility specialists will not treat a couple for infertility until they have tried to become pregnant for a year. This year weeds out the people who aren't infertile but just need to "relax." Those that remain are truly infertile.

Comments such as "just relax" or "try going on a cruise" create even more stress for the infertile couple, particularly the woman. The woman feels like she is doing something wrong when, in fact, there is a good chance that there is a physical problem preventing her from becoming pregnant.

These comments can also reach the point of absurdity. As a couple, my husband and I underwent two surgeries, numerous inseminations, hormone treatments, and four years of poking and prodding by doctors. Yet, people still continued to say things like, "If you just relaxed on a cruise . . ." Infertility is a diagnosable medical problem that must be treated by a doctor, and even with treatment, many couples will NEVER successfully conceive a child. Relaxation itself does not cure medical infertility.

Don't Minimize the Problem
Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Infertile couples are surrounded by families with children. These couples watch their friends give birth to two or three children, and they watch those children grow while the couple goes home to the silence of an empty house. These couples see all of the joy that a child brings into someone's life, and they feel the emptiness of not being able to experience the same joy.

Comments like, "Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . .travel . . etc.," do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain. You wouldn't tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father's Day or Mother's Day cards. Losing that one obligation doesn't even begin to compensate for the incredible loss of losing a parent. In the same vein, being able to sleep late or travel does not provide comfort to somebody who desperately wants a child. 

Don't Say There Are Worse Things That Could Happen
Along the same lines, don't tell your friend that there are worse things that she could be going through. Who is the final authority on what is the "worst" thing that could happen to someone? Is it going through a divorce? Watching a loved one die? Getting raped? Losing a job? 

Different people react to different life experiences in different ways. To someone who has trained his whole life for the Olympics, the "worst" thing might be experiencing an injury the week before the event. To someone who has walked away from her career to become a stay-at-home wife for 40 years, watching her husband leave her for a younger woman might be the "worst" thing. And, to a woman whose sole goal in life has been to love and nurture a child, infertility may indeed be the "worst" thing that could happen. 

People wouldn't dream of telling someone whose parent just died, "It could be worse: both of your parents could be dead." Such a comment would be considered cruel rather than comforting. In the same vein, don't tell your friend that she could be going through worse things than infertility. 

Don't Say They Aren't Meant to Be Parents
One of the cruelest things anyone ever said to me is, "Maybe God doesn't intend for you to be a mother." How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don't you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn't he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren't religious, the "maybe it's not meant to be" comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature. 

Don't Ask Why They Aren't Trying IVF
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method in which the woman harvests multiple eggs, which are then combined with the man's sperm in a petri dish. This is the method that can produce multiple births. People frequently ask, "Why don't you just try IVF?" in the same casual tone they would use to ask, "Why don't you try shopping at another store?" 

Don't Complain About Your Pregnancy
This message is for pregnant women-Just being around you is painful for your infertile friends. Seeing your belly grow is a constant reminder of what your infertile friend cannot have. Unless an infertile women plans to spend her life in a cave, she has to find a way to interact with pregnant women. However, there are things you can do as her friend to make it easier.

The number one rule is DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY. I understand from my friends that, when you are pregnant, your hormones are going crazy and you experience a lot of discomfort, such as queasiness, stretch marks, and fatigue. You have every right to vent about the discomforts to any one else in your life, but don't put your infertile friend in the position of comforting you.

Your infertile friend would give anything to experience the discomforts you are enduring because those discomforts come from a baby growing inside of you. When I heard a pregnant woman complain about morning sickness, I would think, "I'd gladly throw up for nine straight months if it meant I could have a baby." When a pregnant woman would complain about her weight gain, I would think, "I would cut off my arm if I could be in your shoes." 

I managed to go to baby showers and hospitals to welcome my friends' new babies, but it was hard. Without exception, it was hard. Stay sensitive to your infertile friend's emotions, and give her the leeway that she needs to be happy for you while she cries for herself. If she can't bring herself to hold your new baby, give her time. She isn't rejecting you or your new baby; she is just trying to work her way through her pain to show sincere joy for you. The fact that she is willing to endure such pain in order to celebrate your new baby with you speaks volumes about how much your friendship means to her. 

Don't Treat Them Like They Are Ignorant
For some reason, some people seem to think that infertility causes a person to become unrealistic about the responsibilities of parenthood. I don't follow the logic, but several people told me that I wouldn't ache for a baby so much if I appreciated how much responsibility was involved in parenting.

Let's face it-no one can fully appreciate the responsibilities involved in parenting until they are, themselves, parents. That is true whether you successfully conceived after one month or after 10 years. The length of time you spend waiting for that baby does not factor in to your appreciation of responsibility. If anything, people who have been trying to become pregnant longer have had more time to think about those responsibilities. They have also probably been around lots of babies as their friends started their families.

Perhaps part of what fuels this perception is that infertile couples have a longer time to "dream" about what being a parent will be like. Like every other couple, we have our fantasies-my child will sleep through the night, would never have a tantrum in public, and will always eat his vegetables. Let us have our fantasies. Those fantasies are some of the few parent-to-be perks that we have-let us have them. You can give us your knowing looks when we discover the truth later. 

Don't Push Adoption (Yet)
Adoption is a wonderful way for infertile people to become parents. (As an adoptive parent, I can fully vouch for this!!) However, the couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision. Before they can make the decision to love a "stranger's baby," they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy's eyes and Mommy's nose. Adoption social workers recognize the importance of the grieving process. When my husband and I went for our initial adoption interview, we expected the first question to be, "Why do you want to adopt a baby?" Instead, the question was, "Have you grieved the loss of your biological child yet?" Our social worker emphasized how important it is to shut one door before you open another.

You do, indeed, need to grieve this loss before you are ready to start the adoption process. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point. If your friend cannot love a baby that isn't her "own," then adoption isn't the right decision for her, and it is certainly not what is best for the baby.

Mentioning adoption in passing can be a comfort to some couples. (The only words that ever offered me comfort were from my sister, who said, "Whether through pregnancy or adoption, you will be a mother one day.") However, "pushing" the issue can frustrate your friend. So, mention the idea in passing if it seems appropriate, and then drop it. When your friend is ready to talk about adoption, she will raise the issue herself.

So, what can you say to your infertile friends? Unless you say "I am giving you this baby," there is nothing you can say that will erase their pain. So, take that pressure off of yourself. It isn't your job to erase their pain, but there is a lot you can do to lesson the load. Here are a few ideas.

 Let Them Know That You Care
The best thing you can do is let your infertile friends know that you care. Send them cards. Let them cry on your shoulder. If they are religious, let them know you are praying for them. Offer the same support you would offer a friend who has lost a loved one. Just knowing they can count on you to be there for them lightens the load and lets them know that they aren't going through this alone.

Support Their Decision to Stop Treatments
No couple can endure infertility treatments forever. At some point, they will stop. This is an agonizing decision to make, and it involves even more grief. Even if the couple chooses to adopt a baby, they must still first grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. 

Once the couple has made the decision to stop treatments, support their decision. Don't encourage them to try again, and don't discourage them from adopting, if that is their choice. Once the couple has reached resolution (whether to live without children, adopt a child, or become foster parents), they can finally put that chapter of their lives behind them. Don't try to open that chapter again.


Scentsy

5 comments:

Catherine said...

I'm really glad that you found that post and that you are putting it back out there. In my experience this journey is the hardest one I've come across, especially because it's disappointment month after month, but we are strong! We should rejoice in our strength and the courage it takes to never give up!

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am currently pregnant, and my best friend is struggling with secondary infertility. Trying to be there for her while enjoying this time in my life is tough, and I'm so thankful to see that most of what I'm doing is on the right track in terms of supporting her.

Keep us updated, and thank you for sharing your experience.

Glinda said...

Hi, I came here via Lori's blog (A Time For Everything), and I do not want to invade your privacy; however, I wanted to let you know that there is a saliva test that detects ovulation and you can do it yourself instead of going to the lab (and it is a one-time cost). When I did this I used a little vial thingy (technical term LOL) and it had a light and magnified the saliva once it was dry it looked like a fern and that meant ovulation. Although I am a few years removed from this process (having since been blessed with twin girls adopted from China) I understand your struggle. I have linked the sites for the saliva testing (not sure what the Lifesaver is like, but looked interesting.

http://www.alifesaver.com/LifeSaver/products/pregnancystik/

This one is similar to the one I used, but I got mine at Rite-Aid which is a drug store where I lived (if you don't have those).

http://www.aztests.com/product/?id=2146

This one is called fertile focus and is like the one i used:

http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/fertile-focus-saliva-ovulation-fertility-test/ID=prod6058329-product?ext=gooSexual_Wellness_PLA_Fertility/Ovulation_prod6058329_pla&adtype=%7Badtype%7D&kpid=prod6058329&sst=64d1180a-3cde-eb49-cae0-00005ce0ada7

I wish you peace on your journey and hope you will soon find your way to motherhood.

Chasity Munn said...

Yes, yes, yes! Thank you so much for putting this out there.

Kelsey said...

It's sucks not fully understanding God's plan for us. But we can find peace in knowing he does know what is best, even if we don't know what that is. We've been trying to conceive for 2 1/2 years and are in the middle of our first IVF cycle. I'll keep you in my prayers.

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