Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fertiles: Don't contribute to the isolation

Ran into some friends this weekend ... learned that they are not only pregnant, but due in a few weeks! .... SAY WHAT?

If you are a fertile and you are reading this, here are a couple of tips:

1. Your infertile friend already feels isolated by the fact that they can't have children, when you do get pregnant, please TELL your infertile friends. Cause guess what? When they see you when you are 7-8 months pregnant, and you have some huge belly - they are not only going to think you swallowed a turkey, no, they'll be able to put 2 and 2 together ... instead of feeling protected by you (which is likely what you were trying to do - or you might have been protecting yourself because you are afraid of an uncomfortable confrontation) they are going to feel completely LEFT OUT of the entire process, which only encourages the fear that they really ARE isolated and alone and don't belong.

2. And along these same lines, since we're here already ... please don't further their isolation by NOT inviting them to baby showers - allow them the chance to turn down the invitation, rather than "protect" them. All you're doing when you protect them is confirming their fear that they really don't belong.

Ok, I think I've said enough here, verbal beating over.

Instead here are some pointers for telling your infertile friends about your news:

1. Send your news in an email - let them know that you're sending it in an email because you respect them and want to give them any emotional space they might need to process the news.

2. If you're ready to share your news, don't put off telling your infertile friends till the end. Rather, tell them first, so that if/when they hear the news from someone else they won't feel like you were hiding it from them.

You may think all of this is crazy. You may think that infertiles are more "sensitive" then you'd like ... but would you tell a guy who just lost his job that you just got a raise at work? Would you go on and on to him about how many people you now have reporting to you ... as he has run out of unemployment checks and is considering working at Burger King to get by? ... No, I didn't think you would. Man up people.



Man, I am not making friends today. This is not the first circumstance where I've inserted foot and shoved. Though I don't want to "take back" anything I've said above, instead, I want to add more context.

Thank you anonymous for your comment. I believe that you have some very valid points. I'm sure it does feel like you can't win for losing! Here's the deal: infertiles (especially primary infertiles) don't have the joy of being parents, the awe of creation when they look into their baby's eyes, the excitement and connection to share with their spouses over a positive pregnancy test, etc, etc, etc

... so it doesn't really surprise me to hear that they (we) get upset by most things baby, right? ... as someone who has been through the ringer I can tell you that I wouldn't wish infertility on my worst enemy - words like: painful, exhausting, isolating, heartbreaking ... don't even begin to describe the experience. So yeah, this stuff hurts. But pretending like it doesn't exist unfortunately, won't make things better - well, they might make it better for you, but they won't for the infertile.

I think I did a disservice in my original post by NOT communicating how important it is to approach these topics/discussions with respect, grace, and gentleness ... you can gently (but truthfully) tell someone something they don't want to hear and it ends up being LESS uncomfortable than if you exclaim your excitement over something that would clearly cause pain to another person.

Ok, you are totally right in saying that if you do not know that a person/woman/couple is struggling with infertility then how can you handle it with grace and respect? Let me tell you, I am not suggesting you learn to read minds! Heavens no. But I also don't think it takes a rocket sciencist to see the signs that there might be an infertile among us ... women who get quiet or look away at the mention of pregnancy, birth stories, and the like ... I don't think it would hurt anyone to talk less exuberantly about their child's poop if the signs are so obvious that you notice someone suffering ... and you can then go on to treat them with a little more care. If it turns out you were wrong, well then, you just bored one less person with stories of poopy diapers. (Yes, I'm sure if I'm ever able to have children someday, I will do this too, I'm just saying ... poo, not the most riveting conversation topic!)

Something that you didn't directly say, but that would benefit many people is ... KNOW YOUR INFERTILE ... you're right, some don't ever want to see a baby shower invitation for the rest of their reproductive years ... here's something my AMAZINGLY sensitive friend did ... she emailed me and let me know that friends were going to be throwing her a shower. She indicated that she'd agonized about whether or not to invite me, as she really wants me to be apart of her life, yet she also wants to respect the pain and difficulty a shower might cause me. (Can I tell you that I am crying as I type this, at the reminder of this amazingly sensitive friend!) She wanted to move forward in a way that would respect my feelings ... WOW. So what she did, so beautifully was she became a student of Polly Gamwich. By talking with me, reading my blog, praying with me, she learned that I wouldn't react so well to an invitation showing up unannounced in my mailbox, but one sent with concern and care ... it went a long way. So, if you have any infertile friends, learn about them (don't overwhelm them with personal questions about their lady bits) but use all that desire not to hurt someone and that wisdom to not judge someone until you've walked in their shoes ... and be delicate, and respectfully and humbly ask how you can better love your favorite infertile.

Ok, I'm sure something I've said will get me in trouble, but I really wanted to respond to anonymous, cause I NEVER get "argumentative" (for lack of a better term) comments ... and it's kind of exciting.


  1. Polly...very well said. I would love to link to your post ;) I am still so excited for your beta news. YAY! Whats next?

  2. As a fertile person; we don't really know what to say/do to people we know that are not able to conceive easily. There doesn't seem to be a "right" answer. If you tell them your pregnant, they get upset; if you wait they get upset. If you invite them to a baby shower; you upset them, if you don't you upset them. Most infertiles that I've read about don't want to go to baby showers and usally make up an excuse not to go. No one wants to make another person uncomfortable. It can be really hard to know what to do so you don't upset anyone.
    Also, I wanted to mention that a lot of infertiles keep it a secret that they are not conceiving. It isn't something another person would just know if not told. The hurting can be done without knowing the persons situation. It is such a hard thing. I'm so sorry for all of the ladies blogs I have followed that are going through this. I can't pretend to understand, but do know that we don't want to hurt anyone. Just like anything, if you haven't walked in that persons shoes you just can't fully understand it.

  3. I totally agree with you. Nothing makes me feel worse than someone who is beating around the bush to "protect" me...not protection felt there; only isolation. Well put.

  4. I totally agree with you. Nothing makes me feel worse than someone who is beating around the bush to "protect" me...not protection felt there; only isolation. Well put.

  5. Graeat post! And congrats on the great beta!!:) It also kind of like telling someone who has cancer and is struggling to survive that you know someone else who has been cured of the same type of cancer...you just don't do that.

    I hate that people who are fertile think that us infertiles are petty and selfish and that, as the previous "annonymous" (how fitting) commenter said, there is no "right" answer to tell us things. I think that this is just an excuse to make themselves feel better. You said it best, Polly, Man up people! Sheesh!

  6. Thanks for what you wrote, Polly.

    I missed your post yesterday about your beta...such GREAT news! I'm celebrating for you guys!

  7. It is so true. I have tried to put myself in their shoes and I do realize it is completely awkward, but it is one of those things in life you have to face. Do it in a straightforward manner with some sensitivity and you should be fine.

  8. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

    Informing someone of what is going on with you is not the same as throwing it in their face. So a tactful notification does allow the IFer to have a first reaction privately, dig deep, and come back with the support and congratulations the non-IFer deserves.

    Good post.

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  10. I hear ya sister! The problem with me though is that sometimes I'm just as annoyed when they spring the news on me at what is a "bad" time for me, but as one of my BFFs reminded what time is a good time for infertiles to hear pregnancy announcements. It hurts no matter when and how we hear it because it's a reminder of what we don't have, can't have, struggle to have, and for us recurrent miscarriers that which is always just within our reach but slips away too soon.

    Congrats on a great beta! I'm crossing everything I have that this is the sticky one! :)

  11. This post was so well written and you summed it up completely. There will be a certain amount of awkwardness around announcements and baby showers, but I think that the best approach is to be direct and straight forward, rather than being vague and beating around the bush. I had the very same thing happen to me - someone I knew didn't tell me that she was pregnant and then HAD her baby. I found out when I e-mailed her work and got back her mat leave auto reply - nice! She very defensively told me that they had a lot of trouble getting pregnant (she knew about our IF)...as if I don't know anything about that topic?? Sheesh...

  12. Everything you said is so true, Polly. I remember one of my friends got pregnant soon after my first miscarriage. We had lunch and then poof, I never heard from her anymore. One of my other friends finally told me she was pregnant and at the time had only a few weeks left.
    It hurt my feelings that they didn't trust me with her happy news.

  13. Here from Tiffany's blog. Congrats on your pregnancy. Thinking of you!

  14. Polly I wanted to congratulate you on your wonderful beta - and your wonderful FIL. WOW WOW WOW on both fronts. Really looking forward to your u/s. Am SO with you on your post. A really good frend of mine didn't tell me she was pregnant and I still can't forgive her, I felt so nullified. Although the logical part of me knows that she felt awkward about the situation and had so much on her plate that telling me just went on the long finger, I feel pretty disrespected. Mind yourself xxx

  15. Polly I wanted to congratulate you on your wonderful beta - and your wonderful FIL. WOW WOW WOW on both fronts. Really looking forward to your u/s. Am SO with you on your post. A really good frend of mine didn't tell me she was pregnant and I still can't forgive her, I felt so nullified. Although the logical part of me knows that she felt awkward about the situation and had so much on her plate that telling me just went on the long finger, I feel pretty disrespected. Mind yourself xxx

  16. Everybody has a story about someTHING that isn't going as they had planned.........grow up and get over it!

  17. I just happened across your blog recently, and this post is dead-on. My ridiculously fertile sister made her announcement two weeks ago, and it was HORRIBLE. We're working through it, but she's expressed the same thought as Anonymous -- fertiles are damned if they do, & damned if they don't. I love this post... I'm going to print it off and let her read it.
    Thank you, & a huge CONGRATS on your recent beta!

  18. Hi Polly. My best friend who is infertile pointed me to your website so that I could better identify and I think it’s great.

    IMO, it’s very difficult for ‘fertiles’ to know if they’re about to help or hurt. For acquaintances and less-than-closest friends, the cues are not easily read and the time to find the most understanding approach is not always available. But for those fertiles who are closer to their infertiles, I wanted to share my perspective as an infertile-companion.

    My dear friend has been on a long infertility journey, much of which she has actively shared with me. Then a few months ago, I got the saddest news possible. I was pregnant before she was. After my mom and brother, she was the first person to hear. I let her know the honest truth – I was horribly sad that she was not pregnant before me, and that we were not doing it together.

    I waited a couple weeks before making a broader announcement, allowing some space before the word spread. I also emailed our mutual friends to ask that they don’t send congrats emails that copied her, or conspire about baby showers. I don’t feel it took anything from me, not having spammed everyone with an email that included a scan of an ultrasound (and I do wonder what makes expectant parents think that EVERYONE is compelled by seeing a white, static-y blob?)

    The baby shower issue is a tough one. So MANY women are having infertility issues now, I don’t think it’s possible to have a big baby shower without someone feeling isolated or hurt, or quietly driven further into sadness. So to the fertiles out there, I encourage you to think of opting out or doing an informal one instead. I imagined how sad it would be to suffer thru a shower after just miscarrying, with those feelings multiplied by 100.

    Bottom line is this – encourage your infertile friends to share with you as much as they can bear. It will only help when trying to figure out what will be best for them and your friendship. And if you feel they are not “happy enough” for you, turn to the multitudes that are, and whatever you do, do not take it personally.

    And to the infertiles - as someone who has not walked in your shoes, but whose heart is truly saddened by your challenges, I will pray for happy endings for all of you.

  19. Just to be honest, my feelings about this fluctuated from day to day. Sometimes I was offended if I got another baby shower invitation, others I was offended if I didn't. I struggled within myself, so I can only imagine how my friends felt not knowing how to help/avoid hurt.

  20. Just had to add this in response to your response... "poo, not the most riveting conversation topic!"

    WHAT? I had about 20 more posts coming up regarding poo!

    Totally kidding, Sweetie! I can't wait to read how you handle the poo with your usual grace and humor!!!!


  21. In response to the latest entry from Polly, I can't believe someone would be so insensitive to write something so hurtful! No wonder they were anonymous (on April 23rd) they knew what they were saying was WRONG! I don't know anyone on this blog page except Polly....and she does NOT deserve such rude comments...so whoever wrote it should either come clean, and not be a coward, or apologize. Otherwise, stop reading the Blog with such a mean spirit.Your words are unkind, and the world could use less of your bad attitude!

  22. Well said Polly!!
    You are right on in everything you said and there is nothing you have typed that could ever get you into trouble.

    Anonymous can go jump in a lake!
    Anonymous is rude and a big fat coward. The comment left was uncalled for and completely wrong!

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  24. Polly - I am so sorry that someone left that comment. I can't believe anyone would do that. I just don't understand when people are that insensitive.

  25. Wow is all I can say! So happy your levels are doing so well *huge grin*

    As for the anonymous comment - No one is forcing you (the person who left the comment) to read this blog so you get over yourself! There is no room in this life for horrible hurtful people and if your not here to be supportive and loving - then go away - your not wanted! No one knows what another is going through but that does not give you or anyone a right to be nasty. Golden rule my friend - oh and one more thing - Karma is a B! Remember that!

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