I think I’m quite a tough lady when it comes to receiving mis-informed and unintentionally hurtful infertility advice from the more fertile. I experience it frequently because I am open about our infertility journey. I forgive them because I know they don’t understand infertility as a disease and they only mean the best for me. And I also know they couldn’t possibly truly understand how I feel because it has never happened to them. Similarly like to people who have suffered from other diseases such as anorexia or depression or cancer, I don’t know what it is like or how it feels…I would never offer my uninformed opinion about treatment options or ways to overcome the symptoms of these diseases. I won’t offer consolation that attempts to make them feel better about their disease. Rather, I will offer my ear and my hand.
So why is infertility any different to any of these other diseases in how we talk to other people about them? Why do so many bloggers end up writing about this struggle? Is lack of education really the cause of this? May be other disease sufferers experience similar unhelpful comments too. I really don’t know.
Have you seen that film about depression where friends and family offer their advice about depression, but the recipient of the advice is portrayed as a cancer sufferer? The point of the video is that you wouldn’t say these things to someone who has cancer, so why would you say these things to people who have depression? I think it is a great educational video (it’s at the end of this blog post if you want to see it). Ultimately, I think there needs to be a film in a similar light about infertility. I know there has been outrage on some forums of comparing infertility to cancer. I understand that it is outrageous because people generally won’t die from infertility. Comparing depression to cancer may also outrage many people as well…but depression can lead to suicide, it can kill too, but it is not a well understood. So what is my point? My point is that there are helpful things you can say to someone with infertility, and then there are unhelpful, even hurtful, things you can say to someone with infertility.
I have written about things that hurt, what to say, what not to say to someone with infertility many times before (ignorance is bliss, a voice of the child free family, Grow some thicker skin, you are so lucky you don’t have kids, Understanding: #YouAreNotAlone, Reblog from Que Milagro: Pardon Me While I burst into flames). Today’s post adds to this list. Today I am writing about one particular comment I have received multiple times since our loss from IVF cycle 1 from both fertile and infertile people:
“At least you know you can get pregnant”
I’m just going to put it out there straight away. There is nothing consoling about this.
I get that there are many women who have never seen those two pink lines, me being one of them until our fist IVF cycle. So I understand how hard it is to get negative after negative 25 times in a row. But being pregnant and losing a pregnancy is not consoling, knowing that I ‘did get pregnant’. I didn’t stay pregnant. Maybe they would say “But it’s one step in the right direction”, yes perhaps, but it was then like ten steps back after our loss.
Would you say this to someone after they lost their baby during childbirth? No. Would you say this to someone who lost their baby in their third trimester? I doubt it. Would you say this to someone who has suffered from recurrent pregnancy loss and miscarried 6 times? Definitely not. Would you say it to someone with secondary infertility? For goodness sake, NO. So why does this need to ever be said at all? It makes absolutely no sense at all and simply reminds me that we simply FAILED.
I am due to have my first beta test on Friday and in some ways, I am afraid of a positive than a negative. Don’t get me wrong, I WANT A POSITIVE MORE THAN ANYTHING. But I am afraid of when the positive comes, I know that even if this is my one successful pregnancy, my journey through the first trimester is going to be a psychological challenge. If we ended up in a similar position to last time with a slow rising beta levels, pregnancy of unknown location suspected ectopic, yes it will be easier knowing the process the second time around, but it will be bloody damn hard to go through it all again. And that is why I cannot accept the statement “At least you know you can get pregnant” as consoling.