That Awkward Moment When…..

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Its National Infertility Awareness Week, y’all!!
If you’re in the fertility struggle, you’ve had that moment (probably more than one) where someone asks you about when you’re going to start procreating.

Now, even without fertility issues, I just think its rude to randomly ask people when they’re having babies or when they’re getting married. Especially if they’re not even close to you, which is usually the case. People who know you…well know you and probably have an idea of what’s going on in your life and wouldn’t ask you (Out of context. In front of people.) when you’re going to have a baby.

So today’s post is going to be a quick info guide for those who have someone in their life  struggling with fertility (or the just plain nosey) and all of us Maybe Mamas on how you can deal with the inevitable questions and what not to say.

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Things Not to Say to Someone Living with Infertility, bought to you by Resolve (National Infertility Association) and NIAW (with some added thoughts from me for fun )

Please Don’t:

  1. Don’t tell them to relax. Comments such as “just relax” 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.
  2. Don’t minimize the problem. Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. 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.
  3. Don’t say there are worse things that could happen. Who is the final authority on what is the “worst” thing that could happen to someone? Different people react to different life experiences in different ways.
  4. Don’t say they are not 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.’” Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.
  5. Don’t ask why they are not trying IVF. Because most insurance plans do not cover IVF treatment, many are unable to pay for the out-of-pocket expenses. Infertility stress is physical, emotional, and financial.  (Unless you’ve got $3,000 or more to contribute to the cause, don’t bring up IVF)
  6. Don’t push adoption or another solution. So often infertile couples are asked, “Why don’t you just adopt?” The couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision or chose another family building option.
  7. Don’t say, “You’re young, you have plenty of time to get pregnant.” Know the facts. It’s recommended that women under 35 see a fertility specialist after being unable to conceive for one year. Being young increases your chance of fertility treatments working, but it does not guarantee success.
  8. Don’t gossip about your friend’s condition. For some, infertility treatments are a very private matter, which is why you should respect your friend’s privacy. (THIS! Alll of This)
  9. Don’t be crude. Don’t make crude jokes about your friend’s vulnerable position. Crude comments like, “I’ll donate the sperm” or “Make sure the doctor uses your sperm for the insemination” are not funny, and they only irritate your friends.
  10. Don’t complain about your pregnancy. For many facing infertility, it can be hard to be around other women who are pregnant. Seeing your belly grow is a constant reminder of what your infertile friend cannot have. Not complaining can make things a little easier for your friend.
  11. Don’t question their sadness about being unable to conceive a second child. Having one child does not mean a couple feels they have completed their family. Also, a couple may have had their first child naturally and easily but are now experiencing secondary infertility – infertility that comes after you’ve already had a child.
  12. Don’t ask whose “fault” it is. Male or female factor. Just because a friend has told you he or she is experiencing infertility as a couple, does not mean he or she wants to discuss the details.
  13. On the other hand, don’t assume the infertility is female factor. 1/3 of infertility is female factor, 1/3 is male factor, and 1/3 is unexplained.

But here are a few things you can do or say:

  1. Let them know that you care. The best thing you can do is let your infertile friends know that you care.
  2. Do your research. Read up about infertility, and possibly treatments or other family building options your friend is considering, so that you are informed when your friend needs to talk.
  3. Act interested. Some people don’t want to talk about infertility, but some do. Let them know you’re available if they want to talk.
  4. Ask them what they need. They may also appreciate if you ask them what the most helpful things to say are.
  5. Provide extra outreach to your male friends. Infertility is not a woman’s-centric issue; your male friends are most likely grieving silently. Don’t push, but let them know you’re available.
  6. When appropriate, encourage therapy. If you feel your friend could benefit from talking to a professional to handle his or her grief, suggest therapy gently. If you go to therapy regularly, or ever have, share your personal story.
  7. Support their decision to stop treatment. 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.
  8. Remember them on Mother’s and Father’s Day. With all of the activity on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, people tend to forget about those who cannot become mothers and fathers. Remember your infertile friends on these days; they will appreciate knowing that you haven’t forgotten them. (Mother’s Day is really a hard day)
  9. Attend difficult appointments with them. You can offer to stay in the waiting room or come into the appointment with them. But the offer lets them know how committed you are to supporting them.
  10. Watch their older kids. Attending appointments may be difficult if they have older kids at home.
  11. Offer to be an exercise buddy. Sometimes losing weight is necessary to make treatments more effective. If you know they are trying to lose weight, you could offer to join them because it would help you achieve your personal fitness goals as well.
  12. Let them know about your pregnancy. But deliver the news in a way that lets them handle their initial reaction privately – email is best. (I disagree with the e-mail, tell me in person or on the phone, but per yesterday’s post…)

But the real question is what do you as the woman struggling say? Me, I haven’t mastered this art yet, so I don’t really have the answer. Even when you think you have something prepared, it never quite comes out the way you think it will.

Fortunately, some people have got some thoughts.

Here are some things YOU can say when people are all up in your uterus (found at answers.com):

Ignore and Change the Subject.

An extremely easy way to respond is to not even acknowledge that the question was even asked. You can always play the, “Oh, sorry – I didn’t hear you” card or if you’re feeling particularly pressured, simply change the subject. Become the master of the “non-answer.” (Non answer answers, usually something I hate getting from people, but it could work in this situation…)

Redirect or Deflect.

If someone asks you about when you’re having kids, simply brush it off with a quick reply such as “not yet” and turn the tables back on them. If they have children, go right into, “Enough about the kids I don’t have, how are yours?” If they don’t have children, you can always redirect to a non-children related topic, such as work, the latest celebrity gossip, or, as boring as this sounds, the weather. The key is to get the attention off of you, especially if you’ve been asked his question in front of a group of people. ( I think this is my favorite response tactic)

Be Honest.

If you’re going through infertility or simply having trouble trying to conceive and depending on your relationship with who ever has asked you the question, you could use this as an opportunity to open up about what you’re going through. Many times, the asker may apologize for probing (and often times, the “when are you having kids” question is asked very innocently). At worst, you’ll stumble through a socially awkward moment; at best, you’ll have a supportive ally in your infertility journey within who you can confide. (Only if we’re close)

Be Witty.

For some, humor is as much a defensive weapon as it is a coping tool. Witty responses can include everything from, “We’re having too much fun trying” to “Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know when we do” to “When we’re ready to give up our complete and total freedom as adults.” You can even play dumb: “Oh, we haven’t even talked about that yet!” Often, the “be witty” tactic works best in conjunction with another tactic listed here, such as the “redirect/deflect” or even as a gateway to “be honest.” 

Decline to answer (and be firm about it if you have to).

This particular tactic may be the most confrontational and isn’t something that everyone will be comfortable with, but it’s a valid tactic all the same, especially on days when you just don’t feel like getting into it. “I’d rather not talk about it,” is a perfectly acceptable response and you might go right into changing the subject from there. If the asker continues to press you for an answer, be polite but firm in asking to talk about something else. (BOOM!)

The bottom line is keep you composure when being asked about having a baby. Most people really are asking form a place of love and concern. If you genuinely have questions or want to offer support for the person in your life, just be thoughtful about how you approach the subject.

 

Lets Be Real: Baby Envy

Whaaat?! Congrats, girl!!
Whaaat?! Congrats, girl!!

 

Let me take a moment to be real: If you’re facing fertility issues, you have mixed emotions about pregnancy announcements and babies. You just do. Well, I do, and I know I’m not alone. Its a strange roller coaster of emotions that start with excitement and joy, then lead to sadness, anger, resentment, guilt, indifference, acceptance…then back to joy and excitement for your friend/co worker/family member. The really crazy part, it this all happens in the span of 10 seconds, while you have a smile on your face. Its like one of those Martin Scorsese freeze frames.

Excitement
Obviously, you’re excited for this big announcement! After all, no one knows how special pregnancy is more than you. You know that there are really only about 3 days in a month that you can become pregnant, and for this to happen naturally without really trying is truly an amazing miracle! You’re glad the family is growing. The smile on her face is priceless. But then….

Sadness

You can’t help but be a little bit sad, because her happiness reminds you of your struggle. It feels like you will never get to this moment; sharing the news that you are about to give birth to a tiny human. Another one bites the dust in your circle of friends. The number of child free girlfriends has shrunken by one, and you’re increasingly on the outside of your own circle! How did that happen? And if this announcement now makes you the only non-mommy in the group…ugh! Goodbye girls nights, hello kiddie parties, and more comments and questions: “When are you gonna have a baby?! You’re the last one.” The thought of this conversation takes you to the next phase:

Anger

You just get pissed off! Why isn’t this happening for me?! What did I do wrong? She doesn’t even like kids! This isn’t fair! You just get mad at everyone. Mad at her. Mad at you. Mad at your spouse. Mad at the doctor. Mad at God. Mad at your lady parts. Mad at the flowers. Mad at the sun. Mad at your laptop. You’re just mad! And frustrated. And exhausted.

Resentment

Your heart is broken over the fact that your journey to mommyhood has been less than smooth. In fact, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get there at all. The desire is so strong to bring life into this world that this news makes you feel even more anxious and the longing becomes more intense in that moment. So this brings on…..a tinge of jealousy.

Guilt

Now, you just feel bad about feeling bad about good news from someone you care about. You feel like the worst friend in the world.  “I’m a horrible friend!” “How can I be jealous or angry at her for having this wonderful experience?”  “Friends aren’t jealous of friends!” This is the apex of the emotional roller coaster you’re currently on.

Indifference

Now you just try to protect yourself from all of the feelings you have and from outwardly being the crappy friend that you are in your mind right now. You start to remove your emotions. “Good for them.” “Their baby doesn’t really affect my life that much.”  “It is what it is.”

Acceptance

Now you’re at a place of understanding and acceptance. This is happening. To someone you love. You want good things for her and her family. You’re going to be as supportive as you can be.

Excitement

Now you’ve come full circle and are back to being excited. Its still a painful, but you know that she’s been waiting to be a mom too, and now is her time. That smile makes you smile, and when your friends/family are happy, you’re happy. You hug and smile and get all the deets on the new little one on the way.

 

I think the key is to acknowledge that you have these feelings. Its OK to feel this way for a little bit. But not forever. Don’t hold on to the negative feelings. Go home and have that cry because you’re sad. Talk to your partner or someone about how you feel if you don’t think you can talk to the new mom about it. When you’re ready (NOT when she makes her pregnancy announcement), if you think its appropriate, talk to her alone and have a moment of honesty.  If she doesn’t know your struggle, fill her in and let her know that you love her and are happy for her, and you will be there for her, but there are times this may be difficult for you. If you don’t think it’s appropriate to share your situation or discuss how you feel with her, don’t.  Don’t steal her joy. Wait a few days or weeks after her announcement to have this conversation. Let your feelings even out so this can be a productive conversation.

The bottom line is, you will have feelings when those around you get pregnant. Its OK. Give yourself the space and time to have those feelings and then get back to life.