Infertility robs you of your self-esteem. It sabotages your sex life. It steals joy. It promotes loneliness and isolation. That’s all without the members of the peanut gallery opening their mouths.
Then they do. Sucking out more of your self-esteem. Killing more joy. Making you want to isolate even more.
“Are you ever going to have children?” If you only knew how hard we are trying. Don’t you dare say anything about us being parents or about the joy of pregnancy! Don’t share your story of childbirth or the nausea in your first trimester. Those things already suffocate my thoughts on a daily basis. I don’t need to know what I am missing any more.
“Have you tried ____________?” Yes, I have tried it all. I’ve stood on my head, laid with a pillow under me, rubbed a rabbit’s foot, knocked on wood, picked a four-leaf clover, tried every position and drunk every magic potion. Do not think for one minute you are suggesting something new to me.
“Do you remember the Smiths? They ______________.” Yes, I remember their story. I have tried to duplicate it. Sharing another success or another failure with me is not going to change the shape of my uterus, fix the tail of his sperm, or make the embryo have a more magnetic attachment. Thank you, though, for giving me more people to compare myself with.
“Would you consider ________?” Thank you for inserting yourself into the most sacred decision-making processes of our marriage. Please offer your suggestions and give us advice. In fact, we will set up a comment-card box outside our front door. Feel free to offer us any opinions. Before our decision, we would love to speak with your further about it in order to seek your approval.
“You just need to __________.” Relax? Thanks. Be happy? I’ll get on that. Turn around three times pointing due east? Yes, I have even tried that. Trust me, I have done it all.
I realize that I laid the sarcasm on really thick. The peanut gallery is relentless, though, isn’t it?
Ignorant statements put a wedge in the middle of relationships. Painful statements put walls around our hearts. Uninformed opinions hurt to the core as they seem to minimize whatever the heart feels. Second-guessing endures and kindles the fire, which makes us doubt ourselves even more. It is damaging to the soul.
The truth is, it is difficult to truly empathize with an experience until we have walked the same road. We can try, but we cannot even scratch the surface of understanding. It’s embarrassing for me to do a survey of past conversations that I have had where I have told people in pain that I understood what they were experiencing.
I have done it wrong far too many times. As a woman, I have let people down. As a therapist, I do not always join people in their experiences adequately. On a human level, we try to understand, but sometimes we just cannot.
I know that. You know that. Nothing I said is a surprise.
It begs the question, though: Why on earth do we expect people to meet us perfectly in our experience? Are our lofty expectations of people setting them up for failure?
-Excerpt from Cathie’s book: Not Pregnant: A Companion for the Emotional Journey of Infertility