Sensitivity Matters

Even when you know it’s coming, it can still be hard to process.

You put your game face on, avoid things like Facebook as much as humanly possible, and prepare yourself for the comments and jokes intended to amuse but that might actually hurt.

You tell yourself that if you can just laugh along with the rest of them, it won’t sting quite as much.

But it’s hard, make that nearly impossible, to take the sting out of infertility.  Primary, secondary…it makes no difference.  When insensitive comments are made, no matter how innocent the intentions, it just stings.

I opened my Facebook App early in the morning on April 1st to find quite a few pregnancy announcements.  Some were clearly a joke, the punch line offered in parentheses at the end of the post.  Others were detailed and seemed to go on all day.

While it didn’t affect me as much this time around, I cringed on behalf of the many people who touch base with me each month to share their stories.  I cringed on behalf of a couple of old friends who have been struggling with infertility for years.  I just cringed.

Infertility rates continue to rise both in this country and abroad.  Couples everywhere are coping with miscarriage, self-administering hormones each day, and enduring round after round of IVF.  They are dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.  They are attempting to remain calm and positive in the face of repeated disappointments.

And then they have to deal with a fair amount of insensitivity surrounding the issue.

While I understand the intention behind the Facebook fake pregnancy, constant complaints about unruly children in the form of status updates, and jokes about giving them away, I think it’s time to take a new approach.

While I don’t want to make unequal comparisons, there are some things in life that you just don’t joke about.  There are some topics that can only be taken seriously.  We all know what those are.

I think that it’s time to increase our collective awareness about infertility, and take note of the fact that people around us are struggling.

While some of you will argue that those struggling with infertility should simply avoid things like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I believe that that mentality leaves these infertility warriors feeling even more isolated than they already are.  In a very tech savvy world.

There must be other jokes we can tell…

Sensitivity matters.

It’s time think before we speak and apologize when we’ve gone too far.  Feelings are everywhere and easily hurt.

Below are a few statements/questions to avoid in this time of high infertility rates:

1.    Aren’t you about due for another?  While some couples are perfectly happy with one, many couples experience secondary infertility after a perfectly “normal” first pregnancy.  Either way, it’s best not to ask.

2.    I get pregnant every time my husband looks at me.  This one has been around forever.  I get it; some people are super fertile.  But some aren’t.  So maybe think twice before blurting this out to your one childless friend.

3.    Have fun trying!  There’s no way to sugarcoat this one.  When sex is timed down to the very minute and possibly involves hanging upside down afterward (whether or not that actually works), it’s not very fun.  It’s a full time job.

4.    Some people just shouldn’t have kids.  While this is usually said in reference to a specific situation (and still not ok no matter the specifics), it can really affect a person struggling to get pregnant.  When infertility starts to drag on, you start to internalize these negative statements and feel like they might apply to you.

5.    She’s too selfish; she can’t handle kids.  While some people do not want to have kids, others are enduring a silent struggle.  Avoid assumptions.

6.    It always works out in the end.  Sadly, sometimes it doesn’t.

 

I can hear the criticism already…now we have to tiptoe around every woman who isn’t yet a mother?

The fact is that infertility is a growing problem and it’s a very lonely battle.  It’s not that all pregnancy and child rearing jokes should be stifled for eternity, but we do need to be careful about when and where we make those jokes.  And we need to really, really think before we speak.

Because you just never know…