Thoughtful Thursday: Inaugural Edition

January 8, 2009

We all know about Perfect Moment Monday, Show and Tell Saturday, and Wordless Wednesday. I’ve even participated in the occasional My Husband Rocks Friday. But what about Thursdays?

Today I’d like to introduce a new weekly feature for this blog, Thoughtful Thursday.

I try to be thoughtful every day, but on Thursdays I will be extra thoughtful. And I invite you to do the same.

There are all sorts of infertility-related questions that I have. I’d like to reflect on one each week, and then hear your thoughts and experiences.

Many of the questions have been raised during my IRL support group, where I have discussions I wouldn’t normally have (even in the blogosphere) and talk to people I normally wouldn’t. Other questions have floated in my mind for quite a while, and some are coming up as I progress further into ART.

Today’s question:
Does it change your impression of someone to find out they’re infertile?

Many of us fear that people might think less of us if they learn about our infertility. My reaction, on the contrary, is to think more of someone. I like people much more when I discover that they’ve dealt with infertility, now or in the past. Suspicion without actual evidence is also enough to raise my estimation of them.

  • Case in point #1: A woman at my New Job. In the few interactions I’ve had with her, either direct or witnessed, she’s been pretty bitchy. But my mind was completely changed at a meeting when she brought her two children along, aged 3 and 6 months. Based on her age (45, doing the math based on her year of college graduation from her CV) this leads me to make a strong assumption that she must be one of Us. Never mind the fact that bringing small children to a work meeting is moderately inappropriate, she’s one of Us! Ever since then, I secretly smile when I see her, even though she’s never given me any other cause to like her.
  • Case in point #2: The stepmother of a friend. The stepmom is constantly questioned for paying such close attention to the wishes of her son; she has been widely criticized for consulting him before making major and minor life decisions. It got to be such a problem that her relationship with my friend’s dad almost ended. When the situation was explained to others, everyone universally deemed the stepmom to be in the wrong for succumbing to a child’s wishes. I agreed with this point of view, until I met the stepmom and learned that her son was adopted internationally. Doing the math of her age at his adoption and her age when she married her first husband, it was no stretch of the imagination to think that she experienced many years of infertility before the adoption. That changed everything in my mind, and her irrationality became entirely rational, one longtime infertile to another.
  • Case in point #3: One of DH’s best friends. I’ve always liked him and his wife, but when he asked DH out of the blue whether we had done IF treatments and could offer them advice, I was smitten. I’m constantly telling DH to call the guy to see if he has more questions or needs to talk.
  • Case in point #4: All sorts of celebrities, whether IF treatments are confirmed or suspected. I like to show my husband the baby pictures online: “These twins were conceived with IVF.” “They tried for 9 years before adopting.” “Ooh, gestational surrogate!”

The reverse is also true: if I know for a fact that someone conceived easily, even if they are close friends, they are docked a few points in my mind. Especially if they’re smug about it, or talk as if it should always be so easy for everyone, or lament the two whole cycles that resulted in BFNs. And if they act that way despite knowing about our infertility, it may be a deal-breaker.

My Thoughtful Thursday question to you, again:

Does it change your impression of someone to find out they’re infertile?

Whether one word or multiple paragraphs, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

22 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Inaugural Edition”

  1. April Says:

    This is such an interesting question. I think that just as there is a wide range of IF, there is a wide range of my thoughts on this issue. On my blog awhile ago I talked about my SIL who is so bitter and has dealt with IF for 8 years. BUT she only did 2 IUIs. She didn’t get additional testing. She didn’t consider other options and just decided that it wasn’t in God’s plan for her to have kids. This takes her a little down in my book. Having IF sucks and, in general, I feel the same way that you do: if they have IF I find that I think more highly of them. I suppse it’s easier to think poorly of family…but I know she would be a good mother and I think that she just gave up too quickly. She could have done more IUIs, IVF, surrogacy, adoption, whatever….maybe if she even talked about it I would feel better. Instead I am left with her acting bitter and mean towards me and B in our IF struggle.

    I do think that IF ultimately makes you stronger, but I think that it is always work.

    (and I should note that I do love my SIL although our choices are not the same)

  2. luna Says:

    empathy. I suddenly become somewhat empathetic towards their plight.

  3. Nix Says:

    I have no close friends that are infertile, in fact, of my 4 close friends that have children, all fell pregnant within a month of beginning to try for babies or were not even trying. Of course this all happened during our 3 year IF battle. That was like a slap in the face especially when they weren’t happy about their unplanned pregnancys in the beginning (irrational I know but it still hurt).

    I don’t believe their fertility status would alter my opinion of someone though, although I like to think I would be supportive of my fellow infertiles.

  4. Heather Says:

    I know I do. I do get quite irritated at the fertiles and if I looked at any of those situations you posed, I’d be thinking exactly the same way.

  5. shinejil Says:

    Actually, I feel my empathy sparked by anyone who has gone through something akin to IF–chronic illness, getting shit for who you are from ignorant others, etc.

    I remember being really envious of a friend’s wife who had twins last year until I heard about how the folks at WIC had berated her for not breastfeeding, even though her milk failed (despite great effort). That somehow killed my envy and made me sympathize with her. Now I can just enjoy her company wholeheartedly.

  6. shinejil Says:

    Oh, and any book recommendations about good ways to be a supportive partner for someone suffering from anxiety would be highly appreciated! Thanks for your comment.

  7. S. Says:

    hi! thanks for your comment on my blog today! i read a little of your journey and i’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed for you that you get a nice sticky bfp next week.

    i love the question you posed today. i feel the same way — i instantly feel a kinship with people who have also struggled with IF. the folks who get pregnant easily annoy the hell out of me. that’s probably “wrong” in some cosmic way, but i can’t help it!

  8. Nity Says:

    I love this topic.

    I feel kinship, empathy, understanding with folks who’ve gone through struggles. It’s funny, sometimes I feel more infertile than some and less infertile than others because of our stories.

    I knew 2 girls who both had either endo or PCOS and although they tried for a long time to get pregnant ended up getting pregnant the old fashion way (in their house), one with meds, one without. And now they both have 2 kids. I almost feel superior to them because I tried for just as long as they did, but ended up having to go a lot further along the IF trail. BUT I FEEL STUPID FOR THINKING THAT! Seriously, why should it matter?

    Sometimes I feel sad that they had to go through it too.

    I was super upset with two friend who thought 3 and 5 months was a long time to try. Seriously?! And then those that complain about their kids to my face definitely get a dock.

    I hate the way IF makes me be jealous of something that no one really has any control of.

  9. Cat Says:

    I feel exactly the same way you describe. I have far more sympathy and will give much more leeway in my opinion of someone who I know or suspect has gone through IF. Most of our friends have had no issues (and also talk about pregnancy ad nauseum), so consequently I keep my distance and hardly see them at all anymore.

    This opinion also spills over to the children. Several “2nd round” babies have been born recently and I have no desire to meet them. However, I cannot wait to meet the triplets my friend just had via IVF.

    I’m done feeling guilty about it, either. With everything else, beating myself up over my feelings just won’t help anything.

  10. Kymberli Says:

    Verrry good question. In short – I feel the same way that you do.

    Earlier this school year I learned that a long-time coworker (who is in her early 50’s) doesn’t have any biological children. I knew that she had a son, but wasn’t aware that he was her step-son. She’s always had the reputation for being the batty teacher who was slightly unhinged (for example – she once threw a trash can out into the hall and stormed out of her room fuming with fiery tears on a particularly hard day with the students). In the middle of the hall one day she said some kind words to me about my being a gestational surrogate, then erupted into tears and shared with me that she’d never been able to have a bio child. I’ve always liked her despite her oddities, but my heart softened even more towards her. I thought, “This might explain a lot….”

    There are also other coworkers who I’ve been somewhat astounded to learn that they also become parents through various ART procedures, and I always feel a bit closer to them with that knowledge.

    Even though after 2.5 of ttc naturally with no luck I’ve been abundantly blessed with minimum intervention, after all this time I can’t help but gnash my teeth and snarl a bit at women who I know just shared airspace with their partners and ended up pregnant. Now the feeling has tempered down to the point where it doesn’t phase me much to be around other moms and their kids, but I automatically dislike and have a hard time talking to someone who seems to brag incessantly about their fertility.

  11. dreamingsoul Says:

    Infertility is such a lonely club. For such a long time, many couples prefer to keep their issues to themselves and not say anything to anyone. There is a sort of shame that goes with the territory for some reason and it takes a long while before people feel comfortable enough to divulge the big secret. When we find out that others are sharing in the experience of the silent struggle, we get a certain soft spot for them and want to do what we can to make their difficult lives easier (by answering their questions, referring them to known REs, suggesting pharmacies that charge at wholesale prices, etc.). We don’t want others to suffer in silence.
    It definitely changes my view.

  12. WiseGuy Says:

    Does it change your impression of someone to find out they’re infertile?

    Yes it certainly does. Infertility is still the cat in the bag. People don’t talk about it unless caught with it.

    There are some golden aged couples in my acquanitances, who are childless. Normally when MIL or anyone talks about them, it is a factor in the subconscious that those people are issueless. I have often wondered, that had these people been issueless, if techniques such as IVF or ICSI was available then.

    I will also tell you one more thing. Like I said, people pretend to be fertile, till the other side gets known. I know somebody who conceived through ICSI. She is young, around 30 (so your math will not necessarily make you compute her fertility woes). She does not reveal about the genesis of her son. Only that her doc was my doc and through some common connection I came to know about what her story was.

    So, I am acutely aware about infertility and when I am talking to somebody who is in the same boat, normally my approach to them would change – would become softer.

    Till about an year ago, my elder SIL used to joke when I would get kids for her son to play with. Now she has stopped and does not talk about it at all. Out of my DH’s four first cousins, two of them are married. Out of the three couples, I am the childless one. My younger SIL got knocked within three months of TTC. Now another cousin from the fraternity is about to get married and I wonder, if they too will end up having kids before us.

    I know I am off-track, but I feel like rambling. Guess, next TT is not for me.

  13. WiseGuy Says:

    Whoosh…I made major grammatical and spelling mistakes. Sorry!

  14. samcy Says:

    Very interesting question and I could go on for ever about this one (but don’t have time right now *sigh*) so the short answer is Yes, I do think differently of ppl if I’ve found out they are batting IF.

    I guess I’m more understanding of their plight and am a lot more tolerant of their children and the fact that they may talk about pregancy etc around me…

    But like another commenter, I also compare our IF journey’s and if they have come out on the other side “easier” than me, I feel short changed too…

    Clearly IF has messed with my sense of fair play 😉

  15. Nancy Says:

    It’s made a difference for me on one occasion, for sure.
    I have a co-worker who is a very conservative Christian preacher. Since I’m a Jewish feminist, you can imagine we don’t usually see eye-to-eye. Once, however, when we were taking part in an interfaith discussion about family (we work at a private college) someone in the group made a reference to the “selfish” people who don’t have kids. He reacted strongly to that, saying it was an unfair judgment on two counts. 1) The Bible tells us to prepare our fields before sowing our seeds, which he takes to mean it’s a good idea to wait until you have a stable and secure home to offer kids before you start having them. (Who knew?) and 2)You never know about the pain of someone else’s journey to parenthood.
    I felt grateful for his comments, but felt even closer to him and his wife when I later found out they have 2 little girls from China.

  16. loribeth Says:

    Well, just because someone is infertile doesn’t automatically make them a good or “better” person… I know a few people who have been through IF & loss who can still drive me batty. 😉 But yes, I can certainly relate to them in many ways a whole lot better than someone who has popped out a family with little apparent effort & seems to take their fertility & their kids for granted.

    As Cat said, I have little or no difficulty holding babies of mothers who have struggled with infertility & loss. Not always so with other babies.

  17. Jamie Says:

    I totally agree with your take on this. When I meet someone else who is an infertile, it puts them in a new light for me. I wish more people were open and honest about the trials of this journey.

  18. Cara Says:

    Wow – good question. I imagine a year ago it might have made me stop, wonder, analyze, google, and actively work on NOT changing the way I look at someone.

    Now, after this amazing world became part of my being – not at all.

  19. Bunny Says:

    It does. I have an easier time avoiding jealous feelings when I know that someone has also struggled to become parents. I also find that these people are particularly empathetic and don’t fall into the gaffes that the particularly fertile might make.

    A good friend once asked after I mentioned that we would be pursuing parenthood through ART, “So, what’s wrong with you?” Anyone who has struggled to get pregnant or has lost a pregnancy would not ask a question like that.

  20. I cast green-eyed glares when my coworker announced that his wife was pregnant – only to realize later that they had tried for a very long time and faced a lot of difficulty. Now I feel a complete kinship with the guy!

    That said, I still know people with infertility issues who drive me bananas. A former boss of my best friend who has gone through 6 rounds of IVF whose fiance refuses to marry her until she gets pregnant – talk about fucking terrible – but she is a horribly bitchy mean person. Then, one begs the question, which came first the chicken or the egg…sigh.

  21. Krysta Says:

    Great topic! Yes, it does change my impression of people when I learn that they are one of “us”. I feel for them and I have a bond with them, so it draws me to be friends with them more than I would if I didn’t know that about them. Except for this one person I know. They tried for about a year to get pregnant and did some treatments, not sure what, but ended up getting pregnant naturally with a baby girl. So now that child is around 2 years old and they learn that they are pregnant again. When she found out that she was having a boy, she was depressed and didn’t want to leave her house for days. She wanted a girl so bad, that she was actually depressed when hearing it was a boy! She obviously isn’t one of “us” afterall……

  22. Leslie Laine Says:

    Yes, it changes my impressions of people. Like you, people who easily conceive are knocked down a few points and they only way they can make those up (and this is rare) is if they show a tremendous amount of compassion for what I’m going through (that is, if I choose to tell them).

    As for when people tell me they’ve had problems with IF, yes, I feel a certain amount of compassion for them. I also feel hopeful when I hear their stories. This does not hold true, however, for the friend I mentioned in my comment to the Thoughtful Thursday above. She struggled with IF for almost 3 years, and our relationship ended bitterly because she has been least supportive of me throughout my battle. It’s as if as soon as she got pregnant, she turned her back on IF and forgot all of the feelings people typically struggle with during the battle.

    I suppose that it’s like anything else in life – some people get it and some people don’t, and sometimes (rarely of course) people who have never been there are more willing to try to be supportive than those who have.

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