Infertility Etiquette

It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down and looked at this entry box with hope. First, I would like to say thank you to those who reached out to me on Twitter, Facebook and email about yesterday’s post. I appreciate it more than you know. I’ve re-instated the comments on my blog posts again and I’d love to hear from you. The first topic on my mind today is infertility etiquette. I’ve talked multiple times in the past about our infertility experience and sometimes I think that my friends and family, although well meaning, just don’t understand. I came across this article recently and wanted to share part of it with you.

Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn’t coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.

The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy’s nose and daddy’s eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.

As the couple moves into infertility treatments, the pain increases while the bank account depletes. The tests are invasive and embarrassing to both parties, and you feel like the doctor has taken over your bedroom. And for all of this discomfort, you pay a lot of money.

Reaching a resolution can take years, so your infertile loved ones need your emotional support during this journey. Most people don’t know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support.

Most importantly some things NOT TO DO:

Don’t Tell Them to Relax

Everyone knows someone who had trouble conceiving but then finally became pregnant once she “relaxed.” Couples who are able to conceive after a few months of “relaxing” are not infertile. By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as “infertile” until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. In fact, most infertility specialists will not treat a couple for infertility until they have tried to become pregnant for a year. This year weeds out the people who aren’t infertile but just need to “relax.” Those that remain are truly infertile.

Comments such as “just relax” or “try going on a cruise” 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.

These comments can also reach the point of absurdity. As a couple, my husband and I underwent two surgeries, numerous inseminations, hormone treatments, and four years of poking and prodding by doctors. Yet, people still continued to say things like, “If you just relaxed on a cruise . . .” Infertility is a diagnosable medical problem that must be treated by a doctor, and even with treatment, many couples will NEVER successfully conceive a child. Relaxation itself does not cure medical infertility.

Don’t Minimize the Problem

Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Infertile couples are surrounded by families with children. These couples watch their friends give birth to two or three children, and they watch those children grow while the couple goes home to the silence of an empty house. These couples see all of the joy that a child brings into someone’s life, and they feel the emptiness of not being able to experience the same joy.

Comments like, “Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . . have a trip . . etc.,” do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain. You wouldn’t tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father’s Day or Mother’s Day cards. Losing that one obligation doesn’t even begin to compensate for the incredible loss of losing a parent. In the same vein, being able to sleep late or travel does not provide comfort to somebody who desperately wants a child.

Don’t Say There Are Worse Things That Could Happen

Along the same lines, don’t tell your friend that there are worse things that she could be going through. Who is the final authority on what is the “worst” thing that could happen to someone? Is it going through a divorce? Watching a loved one die? Getting raped? Losing a job?

Different people react to different life experiences in different ways. To someone who has trained his whole life for the Olympics, the “worst” thing might be experiencing an injury the week before the event. To someone who has walked away from her career to become a stay-at-home wife for 40 years, watching her husband leave her for a younger woman might be the “worst” thing. And, to a woman whose sole goal in life has been to love and nurture a child, infertility may indeed be the “worst” thing that could happen.

People wouldn’t dream of telling someone whose parent just died, “It could be worse: both of your parents could be dead.” Such a comment would be considered cruel rather than comforting. In the same vein, don’t tell your friend that she could be going through worse things than infertility.

Don’t Say They Aren’t 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.” How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don’t you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn’t he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren’t religious, the “maybe it’s not meant to be” comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.

Don’t Ask Why They Aren’t Trying IVF

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method in which the woman harvests multiple eggs, which are then combined with the man’s sperm in a petri dish. This is the method that can produce multiple births. People frequently ask, “Why don’t you just try IVF?” in the same casual tone they would use to ask, “Why don’t you try shopping at another store?”

I appreciate all the support we’ve received and while we haven’t counted out fertility treatments yet, we are currently taking a break from treatment. I never understood why people stop treatments due to the stress but now I completely understand. Hearing things like if you just relax, stop stressing and the most hurtful of all, maybe  God doesn’t want you to be parents, do not, in any shape or form help the couple at all. They are very hurtful words. So, if you have someone in your life that is going through infertility a simple I’m sorry means very much to them. It’s hard not to lose yourself in the grief of never knowing what could of been. If I bow out of a social occasion or take a break to walk away and cry, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with you and everything to do with grieving.

It’s a journey…

These are some pictures from my first attempt at losing weight. It was bittersweet going through these photos and being proud of what I accomplished but absolutely devastated and humiliated that I gained it all back PLUS 30lbs. This time it has to be different. I started the first phase of having weight loss surgery yesterday by going to hospital for lots of different tests. Depending on the results of these tests, and my psychiatric evaluation in a few weeks will depend on the next steps. I have to admit going to see another shrink is not my idea of a good time. I get really emotional talking about my weight. It’s been a constant struggle in my life. When I let go of it and try to be happy with who I am I gain tremendous amounts of weight very quickly. In a little less two years, I gained over 100lbs. Now, I’m miserable and having some pretty serious joint issues that’s making any kind of activity difficult. I know the physical part of this journey will not be the hurdle for me. It’s the emotional. I equate food with every possible emotion. I’ve trained my mind to think that the cure for my depression is food. In particular, cupcakes. They make me happy when I see the beautiful little sugary treats. They are cute,  but most importantly taste delicious. However, after speaking with the nutritionist it’s quite possible, I won’t be able to eat them AT ALL after the surgery. And, secretly, I’m hoping I won’t. I hope they make me throw up. I have to learn how to deal with my emotions without turning to food. I obviously don’t have the tools to do that yet but I am slowly learning. Every day isn’t a celebration and I can celebrate amazing things that happen without making it about food.

I know this is in no way a get out of the fat jail free card. There’s going to be a lot  of tough road ahead of me and many many days spent in therapy but I’m ready to embrace this change and I will be changing my habits for good this time. I want to get out there and ride bikes, walk 5k’s and feel happy again because I’m pushing my body and realizing how strong I am. Weight loss surgery won’t make me happy by itself, I will make myself happy by putting in the hard work and reaping it’s rewards.

I printed out a few of these photos and put them on my desk at work to remind myself where I was, and where I am going in the future. Healthy and Happy.

Breaking the food habit…

In preparation for my upcoming gastric bypass surgery on December 27th I’ve started a two week liquid diet using Optifast shakes. This was prescribed by my surgeon to help shrink my internal organs before surgery so that it makes it easier for them to perform the surgery and there is less chance of them nicking some other important organ!

Before I started, I wasn’t worried about this at all. I was getting frustrated with my food choices and was looking forward to having a set schedule and not having to make decisions or try to make sure I ate such and such before surgery.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the hunger and overall obsession with food. Even though I’m getting all the protein and nutrients I need from the shakes my brain can’t seem to get past the need to chew and ingest food. Everywhere I look there is something that reminds me of food. Commercials, Facebook posts, smells, even pinterest! I’ve had to unfollow half my pinterest friends because of all the food.

I’ve stocked up on Jello and sugar free drink packets but other than that we aren’t supposed to have anything else besides the shakes. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be but I’m determined to get through this two week period and lose as much weight as possible so that there aren’t any complications with my surgery.

I’ve been trying to keep busy and distract myself but a lot of mental toughness is required to make this successful. I haven’t been able to get to the gym thanks to a nasty head cold so I’ve been relying on reading books, watching movies (no food commercials) and texting and chatting with friends to keep me occupied. One day down and only 13 more to go!