Monday, March 18, 2013

The magical cure

Humans are interesting creatures. Fighting for individuality while cautious to never venture beyond the norm. As I age, the more fascinated I find myself becoming with how people act and what drives them to say the things they do. Why certain patterns are followed, despite evidence that suggests harm or discourse.

I've been thinking more and more about human behavior recently as Grey and I have begun sharing our news with others. So far, we've only been sharing with people who are on a need-to-know basis, either to update them about this recent news in our journey or for matters of employment, current as well as in the future. In general, the news has been received very well (though always with a moment of shock when the news of two instead of one is learned), but there's been something else that's been coming about that, though I was prepared for, I still find to be upsetting and a frustration. The feeling that somehow many are now viewing us as "cured" of infertility.

Jessah and Lisa both had posts recently that relate directly to this topic (if you haven't read them, please do as they really set the stage for what I'm trying to get at). Jessah's post is one that talks intimately about how isolating infertility and RPL are, with those we were once close to pulling away and excluding the ALIer. Every word of her post rang true, as I've also watched people I thought I could trust become silent or issue platitudes over the last 3 yrs. Lisa's post follows up with a problem stemming from this problem, where in a moment of excitement someone who clearly doesn't understand is carelessly sharing her news with the world. She talks about how frustrating it is to be in this situation, as she is incredibly mindful of how difficult the news of her pregnancy will be for those who are still in the trenches and even those who are healing from their infertility/loss scars. She ends by reflecting on her defensiveness to the comments of her boss. An exercise I've been trying to expand on too.

Tertia once wrote about how hard it is to be supportive of a friend or loved one who is living with infertility and loss. A post I've referred back to several times since we started this journey. But the frustration and sadness I've dealt with over the past few years regarding the absence of support and help as Grey and I have tried to navigate our way through treatments, loss and continual failure is something that's been difficult to swallow. In the end, we both made the decision that so many make while going through this process of keeping our sharing down to the basics and learning not to expect much from others. Mainly because they didn't know what to do, but also because we knew we scared them.

So you can begin to imagine what the response has been when people learn of our good news. All the sudden, those who were distant are actively trying to enter our lives, wanting to share in the excitement. Yet too often, this excitement is prefaced with people wanting to ignore the past, ignoring the scars that are still very visible. Worse yet are those who are quick to offer the "see, you just needed to do X" or "it all worked out for the best." Don't even get me started on the "G_d's will/plan" explanations.

Grey and I have been doing the best we can to counter a lot of this. Whenever we talk about this pregnancy, we've made sure to talk openly not only about our journey, but also about the friends we have who are either still in the trenches or have resolved in other ways. We've talked about how isolating all of this has been and how special these babies are. And this is normally when the discomfort flows back in. When I talk about my admiration for those who chose to live as a family of 2 instead of destroying themselves with unending treatment cycles, or those who have braved the adoption process and are parenting while including the birth parents or even those who are still on the treatment path, I always find those moments are met with body language that makes it clear they wish I would stop.

The thing is, I can't stop. I refuse to be one of those women who turns their back on this community solely because it's easier for loved ones. I refuse to perpetuate the myth that pregnancy will magically cure one of their infertility, making it all a bad dream. So I know, despite what others around me would like to see otherwise, that I need to keep talking and reaching out. But I also have realized that to do this, I need to better understand what exactly I'm dealing with.

Lori's post today, where she interviews Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, helped me begin to address what I've been witnessing over the past couple of weeks. If you haven't read it, please go do so. During the interview, there is a part where Pamela addresses why she, like so many of us, doesn't like to be pitied or to be demeaned.
Society doesn’t know what to do with “infertiles.” We make people – parents in particular – uncomfortable because they don’t want to consider a childless life. They view our lives as a rejection of theirs. Readers tell me the biggest challenge they face in moving on and finding a new normal is hearing from others “not to give up” on parenthood.  It took me a long time to realize that after mourning my losses and setting aside one set of dreams, I hadn’t give up. I embraced something else.
Pamela's response immediately reminded me of an encountered Grey and I had had over the summer with his aunt who had lived with infertility for 8 yrs prior to miraculously conceiving her son. Following her son's wedding, we briefly spoke, during which time she told me to "relax" and "it will eventually happen." The thing that struck me the most, other than to hear such comments from someone who believed she would never have children, was how she said it. As if she had somehow drunk the Kool-Aid and was passing on doctrine that others had beaten into her. It hasn't been until recently that I've realized that embracing this logic, even after suffering in silence for so many years, was a form of self-preservation. That to not do so would have been even more torturous as her community, her family wouldn't allow it.

So, once again I'm learning. I'm learning not only how to deliver our news to others but also how to educate in the process. I'm learning how to counter the myth that we are cured with the reality that we are still very much infertile. And I'm learning what it is that frightens people, why I make them uncomfortable and nervous as we talk about all of this.

20 comments:

  1. I love this post! It's incredible to see how quickly people try to get a person to shut up about their struggle with infertility. I really makes me sad when they do it to me or try to brush it off. The worst comment I got was that God was giving me my two babies back with this current pregnancy. We had two early losses with our first round of IVF/FET. I didn't even know what to say to them.

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  2. Yes! Aaaaallllll this! You know, I had another talk with the boss lady as I was leaving today and it was a nice one. It made me realize that she just doesn't want me to hurt anymore. What she doesn't understand is that I'm not hurting acutely like I was. It's a pain that's been absorbed. It's a part of me now and a part I want to share. I don't know how to share it without making others uncomfortable, but I feel a big responsibility to share it.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I can't imagine how pissed I would get if I received some of the responses you've mentioned about your news. I'm so glad you haven't left this community behind. I know in my heart...I will never turn my back on others struggling with this awful disease. But I have a friend who went through IVF and has pretty much forgotten about me. She said "when you get pregnant, you'll see...you forget about all the feelings infertility brought". No way. Not me. I'll never forget no matter how this thing ends.

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  4. Lots of people are asking me if "this is it" for us, if we will have more children after our babies are here. All I can say is "I don't know." Even friends who know what we went through are pretty nonchalant about it, as if it's an easy decision to just have more kids! As if it might even be possible, as if we wouldn't have to go through the pain of IVF again...

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  5. Fantastic, fantastic post. So well said.

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  6. It can be so dismissive to think that an ending -- happy or otherwise -- would make a person forget about the middle parts of the story, about the dramatic arc. It does become part of us.

    Great post, Cristy. (And I'm not just saying it because you mentioned Pamela and me!).

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  7. Bravo for you. Thanks too for the references to Jessah and Lisa's posts, as I hadn't seen them.

    The platitudes and the assumption that you're all okay - it's insulting really, isn't it? Because it is a denial of the struggle you've been through, and the scars you've still got (and will always carry). I can understand why you feel the way you do, and I'm very pleased you're writing about it.

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  8. This is a great post and leads to other really great posts! Well said!

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  9. Wow, I cannot believe a woman who had dealt with infertility for 8 years would tell you to "just relax"! That's, like, the worst of all the bad things to say, too... anyway, great post -- I can definitely relate, being in the very early stages of a pregnancy (and, in my mind, so NOT in the clear); my reaction to people gushing and congratulating me is to verbally smack some sense in to them by explaining how effing difficult it was to get here and so, no, we're not jumping up and down or researching strollers yet. Maybe it's going overboard and I should just let others be excited for us, but as you say, I want to educate!

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  10. Sometimes what those that do not understand say to us just boggles my mind.

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  11. Beautifully put my dear, as always.

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  12. This is a beautiful post. I believe that we all survive infertility, one way or another, but we never, ever forget. I think that many people who have never dealt with infertility confuse having children with surviving infertility, and surviving infertility with being totally healed of the scars that infertility creates. Neither is true :)

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  13. Love this. I struggled so much with how to tell people when I was pregnant with my daughter. I never posted a pee stick or an ultrasound picture. I never complained, that I know of, to be cognizant of those still in the trenches. It's a challenging place to be when you're an IFer who's pregnant trying to be excited for yourself and sad for others. The opposite of how we feel when we're still in the trenches and a fellow IFer get's lucky. This is a beautiful post and I love how you say you're still learning....as I think we all are. Wonderful post!

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  14. This is a really great post and I have shared this w/ some frends of mine along w/ the other links that you shared because reading this and then reading the other links I can really see that more people just need to make themselves more self aware.... Thank u so so so so much for this wonderful post!!!!

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  15. I love this. Every word. Since bringing Cheeks home, I have been AMAZED at the people who have suddenly warmed up to me in major ways, after being cold or distant for a long time. It honestly shocked me, but then one of my close friends (who was there for me all along) finally said "Those are the people who just didn't know how to handle your infertility, or how vocal you were about it. Now that you have a baby, they feel like they can be friends with you again." It caught me off guard, but made perfect sense too. Even without having conceived, having a baby seems to have "cured" me in their eyes. And truth be told, it really has cured a lot of those old wounds, but that doesn't mean the past is erased, or even that I will be able to easily conceive in the future (which of course, I won't). And the idea that for everyone, it will just eventually "happen" is harmful - because there are so many that it never happens for. I remember that being my biggest fear for so long, before Cheeks just landing in my lap - that I would be one of those women, it just never happened for. After failed IVF cycles, I feared a future of failed adoptions as well... It happens, all the time, and relaxing does not magically lead to motherhood for all.

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  16. I'm a bit troubled by the comments from S.I.F. -- both because of the withheld warmth until she became a mother and for the fear she had of becoming me, one of the women for whom motherhood never happened.

    First, not achieving motherhood doesn't doom one to an unhappy life. Second, shame on those who couldn't find warmth in their heart or the ability to find a way to empathize when seeing a friend struggling with infertility. This shows how little society has moved toward giving women who don't fit the fairy tale ending room to breathe as they find a new path forward.

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  17. I read Pamela's post before I read yours & left a long comment there. It's hard for people to realize that it's not OK and it will never be entirely OK, no matter how many babies you wind up having. The scars of infertility & loss run so deep. At least, that's been my experience.

    I liked your analogy of Grey's aunt having "drunk the Kool-Aid." I think you're right -- I've seen many women who have been through IF & loss lapse into platitudes once they finally have a child. I find that very hard to understand -- but I guess it's difficult to continue speaking out about the scars of infertility & loss when, in everyone else's eyes, you have the baby so you should be happy now, end of story. The reality is far more complex -- but then, our society is just not into complexity and nuance these days, is it?

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  18. Found this post from Pamela's. I always liked to think that if I ever had a child, I'd be one of those infertile mommies who was NOT CLUELESS AND OBNOXIOUS. I consider the witness of those who are thoughtful and considerate to be evidence that it's at least possible! So thank you for that. You know, the wounds aren't so acute any more, after a long time, and I second Pamela's statement (though I am far behind her, here as on so many things!) that CNBC women can have full and joyful lives. But I have to say that there will NEVER come a day when people being dismissive or insulting about what this experience means won't make me want to SLAP THEM SOUNDLY. Good for you, setting the record straight. For every person you may fear to alienate, there will be someone, down the road, who will be a little less isolated because someone was encouraged to face reality.

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  19. It's got to be hard to have that happen. I see it with friends and am both amazed and crazy at those who come back into the picture to celebrate with you, not wanting to acknowledge what you went through to get there. Congratulations to you.

    Also, like Pamela, I am one of "those" women who it has never happened for, and can we just stop for a second? I realize when my first IVF failed and I had 3 miscarriages under my belt that I was the same way, thinking that the possibility of never being a mother was both frightening and painful, but it isn't the worst thing can happen to you.

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