Thoughtful Thursday: Limits

July 16, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayThis past weekend, we saw a bunch of DH’s friends. They included:

  • a couple who announced their pregnancy, that day
  • a couple whose wedding we attended in March, and who have just entered the 4th month of pregnancy
  • a couple who gave birth last week to baby #2
  • a couple who are pregnant with baby #3, due around the same time as I am
  • the brother of Mr. Other Host; Mrs. Other Host gave birth in a different city while we were with the brother, who could talk about nothing else
  • various single men
  • and… a couple who have no children and are not pregnant

Let’s call that last couple the Henpecks. They are fundamentally good people, but they aren’t particularly enjoyable to be around. There’s the henpecking — I actually heard the wife tell the husband to “Shut up” in front of a bunch of people). There’s the boring conversation with each other — before ordering dinner, they literally went through all 100 items on the menu trying to find the best combination of two dishes for them to share. Then there’s the conversation with other people — things they find fascinating are not interesting to anyone else. If you recount a conversation you had with them to someone else, that person will say, “Oh, you must be talking about The Henpecks” because no one else would discuss those topics.

DH went to school with the husband, but they have never been friends; instead, DH and Mr. Henpeck have several mutual friends, so we end up in the same place sometimes. They’ve made overtures toward being friends with us, which DH has dodged. Mrs. Henpeck is an active object of ridicule among most of those mutual friends, mostly because of all the henpecking.

In the midst of the baby bonanza weekend, I got a pretty good sense that the Henpecks are infertile. There were numerous knowing looks to each other when babies came up, as they did every few minutes (not brought up by me, of course). At one point, they asked how long we’ve been married, and they contrasted my over-a-decade marriage with the couple who just got pregnant within a month of their wedding. The Henpecks have been married for about 7 years. I said, trying to be very kind but also not wanting to get into it too much, “Everyone has their own timeline.” Mr. Henpeck grasped his wife’s hand and looked at her sadly. *Ding ding, infertile alarm!*

This was a golden opportunity for me to extend the hand of infertile friendship, but I purposely let the opportunity pass me by. I’ve blogged several times about wanting to reach out (and sometimes actually doing it) to friends and acquaintances who seem to be dealing with IF, whether my knowledge of their infertility comes through their own disclosure or my guessing games. Wanting to provide information if needed, wanting to let them know they’re not alone, wanting to offer a source of support…

This time, though, I didn’t want to reach out. Just because we both have the same problem doesn’t mean I want to talk about it with them. I don’t want them calling me, or emailing me, or having long talks over coffee. Just when I thought I was a poster girl for infertility support, I found that there are limits to my participation in the Sisterhood. If they asked me about infertility outright, I would talk to them, but it turns out that I am not willing to start a new friendship with people I don’t like, just because they happen to be infertile. I don’t spend enough time talking to my actual friends to invest time and energy in the Henpecks. I feel for them, but that’s where it ends.

Are there limits to the help that you are willing to provide to people dealing with adoption/loss/infertility issues? Are you willing to reach out to everyone, or only to some people?


24 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Limits”

  1. jill Says:

    I may discuss it with anyone who I find out is a fellow IFer but in terms of going out of my way to bring it up with practical strangers, especially strangers I didn’t really care for, I wouldn’t.

    Like you said, if they brought it up outright then I would be more than willing to chat about it.

    I worked with a woman who I knew conceived her first child with IVF. I spoke to her in passing, she was a generally nice person, but I was uncomfortable around her. She was technically my superior (though I didn’t report to her directly) and we just didn’t “click” I guess. I would have never brought up my situation with her.

    Funny enough, the last time we spoke, she was sitting in my office at a spare desk, and she had a head cold. We chatted briefly about how crappy she felt and I said, jokingly, “maybe you’re pregnant” (most likely inappropriate, I know) and she responded in the most hopeful tone, “from your mouth to god’s ears!” Apparently she had just gone through a transfer and I found out about two months later that she was indeed pregnant… with twins.

  2. WiseGuy Says:

    Are there limits to the help that you are willing to provide to people dealing with adoption/loss/infertility issues? Are you willing to reach out to everyone, or only to some people?

    Fantastic question! I, for one, would have promptly answered – EVERYBODY! But practical experience tells me otherwise.

    Frankly, if I find somebody facing the same fate, it definetely makes me think a little ‘softer’ about them. I certainly develop a soft corner. But, there are just too many interlinkages and perceptual difficulties involved in taking everybody ‘under the blanket’.

    for e.g. I would just not reveal what problems I am facing in completing the dissertation, just knowing that this other person is too. I would wish everybody good luck, but won’t thrash out the nitty-gritty with everybody.

    It must be obvious that the other person is seeking solace/advice.

    There must be a level of comfort. I would find it very rude if a stranger comes and blugs me with words just because it is a me-too, you-too situation.

    And is the other person open?

    I have recounted my experience of this woman who believed that God’s wrath had made her barren. What comfort/advice/support could I have given her.

    Yes, Yes, God is very angry with you. He phoned me the other day, wanting to know why you are praying only two hours net a day.

    I would reach out to only some people…it is not a happy label to be termed barren in India. People would not talk about it openly. I just have to guess the equation of ‘wedded years’ with ‘number of children’ and one can make a fair assessment of the couple’s fertility. It is given that if married, will have kids. Till date, I know only one couple which has vowed to not have kids, because they don’t ‘want’ kids (that will certainly raise heckles and people would look down upon them).

    It would be the situation, the intimacy and my equation that would make me talk about it upfront. Mostly, I would like to take cues about it from the other person first.

    I have never turned down any offers whenever my treatment protocol has been enquired, or reasons for infertility have been asked…but not too many people really care to ask.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    I would have to like the person before I extended the hand of IF. You don’t like the Henpecks, so don’t sweat it.

  4. Jamie Says:

    I am willing to discuss IF with anyone. As far as Mrs. Henpeck goes, maybe a lot of the reason she acts the way she does is depression as a result of IF. She probably needs someone to talk to and who understands.

    That said, there is a definite difference between discussing IF with someone like Mrs. Henpeck and someone that you would truly want to befriend. I have had people latch on to me and turn to me for lots of information and sometimes I’ve had to find myself backing away. Especially when the phone calls started coming in multiple times per day.

    It’s a fine line.

  5. Shinejil Says:

    If you don’t really like someone at all, it’s hard to support them very well. Your tactfulness is more than enough to fulfill your duty as a civil, thoughtful, compassionate human being, in my book.

  6. Julie Says:

    I’m not really open about our IF unless someone else asks. I figure the typical “took us a bit, wasn’t exactly routine” opens the door if someone wants to continue along that route.
    Since I haven’t met someone along the lines of the Henpecks though I can’t say for sure if it were someone that, IF aside, drove me crazy. If I were to help someone like that it may consist more of emails and such. But Jamie does have a good point in perhaps some of their mannerisms may be a result of a long battle with IF.

  7. nutchell Says:

    I, too, will talk openly about it, if asked. Some people just don’t “click”.

    One woman in Jeff’s office is struggling with infertility and she talks about it very openly with Jeff and asks him advice and such. So one day he asked me to send her an e-mail to show support and I did. It wasn’t over dramatic or anything. Pretty short and sweet about what we have gone through and perhaps some steps she might take next… Never heard from her.

    She still talks to Jeff-but she clearly didn’t want my two cents worth. I actually don’t mind. I believe it is because she wants to know what JEFF has been through so that she can justify it to her seemingly stubborn husband who won’t even have a SA done.

    Anyhow, that’s my story. 🙂

  8. Lavender Luz Says:

    I’m with you. I wouldn’t mind helping someone I knew I wouldn’t see again. But if it’s someone I WOULD see again, I would only do so if I thought there was a reasonable chance of us liking each other.

    I’m beachy like that.

    (And the grim reaper is a hit!)

  9. I’m fairly certain I would have done the exact same thing. I slight smile, and the willingness to talk if directly asked about it. . . but otherwise? Why open yourself to a posssible relationship with someone you don’t particularly like or click with otherwise? Nah, not worth it.

  10. I am 100% with you on this! There are a few gals with whom I won’t say a word about my miscarriages and struggles trying to conceive. I do not want to get into a conversation with these gals because they will not listen to reason. They will not listen to any type of ideas I have or kind words. All they care about it for people to know how many losses they’ve had and how long it’s taken then to conceive. I don’t mean to be insensitive and I do feel bad for these ladies, but I can not talk to them. I don’t think that drinking and smoking is going to help you get pregnant. That’s just me, though.

  11. Magsy Says:

    No guilt. If the Henpecks were like-able people, you would have reached out. It is rather personal, after all-not like having your wisdom teeth pulled, or something.

  12. Silya Says:

    Good question, and I’m not too sure of my answer. I’m working on my tendency to overshare anyway, after being burned several times by hurtful responses. For that reason, I think I’d be very inclined to reach out to discuss IF, even if I disliked the person. That said, I think there’s a good chance that if I really disliked the person a WHOLE lot, I wouldn’t want to open up about it.

  13. Kristin Says:

    I would like to say I’d support anyone but I know I would never try to become friends with people I don’t like just because they are infertile. I’d always be willing to answer questions but I wouldn’t give out my phone number to them.

  14. Photogrl Says:

    I’m willing to discuss my IF with friends I trust, and strangers.

    Why strangers? I don’t really know.

    But, if I was in your situation, didn’t care for the person already…I would pass on reaching out, too.

  15. What a great question. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that gets along really well with people that I find aggressively boring, but alas, I always turn hugely awkward around them and will do anything to extract myself from them at a party. So the answer to your question is no. I’m way not a good enough person to engage anyone I don’t like in an infertility conversation, but really I hadn’t given that hypothetical any thought b/f you presented it. Luckily I haven’t been put in that situation. Yet.

  16. rosesdaughter Says:

    I have a friend who has been TTC longer than I had. She has never been pregnant, even though I KNOW that she is trying. I also know that she has not sought the help of any dr’s yet. I never talk to her about it, but if she wanted to, I would. Now, I have a co-worker who EVERYONE knows is having problems because she talks about it ALL THE TIME. She also had a miscarriage like me, but we never bonded over this. Maybe because I really don’t like her. Maybe because she doesn’t really like me? Who knows. So I guess my answer is, I would bond with those I know and love, but not strangers or those I know and dislike(REALLY).

  17. kat Says:

    I’ve been a lot more open about my struggles as of late and considering that I’m in the baby business, I think it is good for my co-workers to appreciate the trials and tribulations that the infertile community endures.

    In my early stages of IF one of my friends had told me about a co-worker who had a similar story as mine and was very open about talking about her experiences. Unfortunately I don’t click with this person professionally or personally, so I never sought out her advice. I think it is great when you can reach out to someone and share that sisterhood, but it is also not for everyone.

  18. mekate Says:

    I think that while this is a sisterhood of sorts, there is an overriding need for us to be self protective and to decide where our energy needs to go. Some people are energy givers, some are neutral, and others are energy suckers. I realized late late into the game that I need to pay attention to my gut instincts about people who might suck me dry and simply opt out.
    They will find support other places, I am probably not the sole source. But it is hard when you know what it is like to be there in those shoes, but still, I think tactful opting out is fair and warranted.


  19. Cat Says:

    I would like to say that I’d support everyone, but I often find it difficult to even be civil to someone I don’t respect, let alone go into all the personal details of our IF journey. While we were going through our IVF cycles there was a woman on the forum I frequent who was talking about giving up after three cycles of Clomid. She was no less deserving of support than anyone else, I just didn’t have the energy to provide it at that time. Like Beautiful Mess, I also wouldn’t spend time talking with someone who wouldn’t listen anyway, but that’s me regardless of the topic.

    So I guess the honest answer is that whether I offer support depends on the person. I’m just not as nice as I used to be.

  20. Token Says:

    I am pretty open about IF, but I don’t think of it as a step to friendship, especially if I don’t really like the other party. Friendship is based on more than a shared medical condition.

    And on the other side, an existing friendship doesn’t always guarantee a happily shared journey through infertility.

    I have a friend who started trying at the same time we did and conceived her son after three rounds of Clomid. She was in tears last week when the first cycle attempt for Baby #2 was a bust, but perked up and commented that she was so happy I was a shoulder to cry on and that I could be there for her.

    Meanwhile I’m still waiting for baby #1

  21. mstngsal22 Says:

    Here from IComLeavWe. Isn’t infertility painful enough without having the extra burden of feeling like you need to extend yourself to anyone and everyone who might be in your same circumstances? There’s so SO many people out there in the same boat – you have every right to pick a few you’d like to share a liferaft with. You did the right thing.

  22. Nina Says:

    If I feel like sharing, I share. If not, I don’t. There are times when you feel a camaraderie, and times you don’t. This is just one of the times you didn’t.

  23. Shelby Says:

    Like you, I feel a great need to reach out to others going through infertility, but the limits of this are not boundless.

    I have someone who I used to be best friends with in middle and high school. We were once very close and I care about her deeply, but have long understood that our relationship was a toxic one and have kept my distance, even when I learned that she was diagnosed with PCOS and is very likely infertile (she’s been openly trying for a baby for almost as long as I have). I know I would be a great resource for her, but I simply think it would be a bad thing for both of us to actively be in each other’s lives, which is what would likely happen if I opened up. She also doesn’t know how to keep a secret for the life of her, so my journey, if shared, would also become everyone else’s business.

    So in the end, just because we share a similar journey does not lock anyone into forming a relationship that is unwelcome. There is no obligation here, so I completely understand your reticence to open up to these people.

  24. Fran Says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for stopping by my blog, here’s a hug back to you!

    I have read your last post and I think you have not done anything wrong with not “sharing” with this couple. First of all you have to feel that you like the couple or it’s going to be impossible to become personal about such a big thing like IF. Just one thought for you though…could it be that they couldn’t believe it was just them with no children and really suffering so deeply inside to come out as unpleasant? Maybe there are nice people, just worn out by IF.
    Big hugs, Fran


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