This week is Infertility Awareness Week. I can't write about this topic with authority or experience, except what I've learned from listening to other people, reading blogs, and realizing that life isn't fair, babies don't go to the most deserving parents (SHOCKER), and modern medicine is as exasperating and expensive as it is miraculous.
Probably the most important lesson I've learned about infertility is that unless you have a medical degree in getting people pregnant or you've experienced it yourself, the best thing you can do is shut the hell up about it. Or at least THINK before you open your mouth.
What I do know from personal experience is the way a innocent comment can hit like a grenade, and while that's true for those of us in the trenches of grief after an unimaginable loss, I know that people struggling with infertility frequently find themselves navigating minefields in everyday conversation.
Last night we went to dinner with some good friends (who just married a year ago and don't have kids). We had plenty of non-pregnancy things to talk about during dinner (travel plans, recent dissertation defenses, an experiment with sausage-making) so the conversation had not gone in the direction of babies. As we were signing the check, my friend asked me how things were going really. I didn't want to get too deep into the emotional rollercoaster, so I just said that I'm looking forward to weekly monitoring, and I am so ready for this baby to be here. The conversation wandered one direction and then another, and we were keeping it light and making each other laugh. Then there was mention of tax credit and how expensive kids are, and then my friend said, "I mean, you better go ahead and open a 529 now."
I managed to smile through the rest of our conversation and our good byes. I made it to the car before I burst into tears.
Because, yeah. We have a 529 college savings account. We opened it when I was six months pregnant with Eliza. It was for her. One more piece of evidence that we were prepared, dedicated, enthusiastic parents making the best choices possible for our baby. We opened it with a small lump sum and a plan to make monthly deposits. I felt so smug and secure and confident that day.
We made four monthly deposits before... we canceled them. The small sum has just been sitting there. For sixteen months.
My friend meant no harm, but it was another unexpected grief trigger that caught me off guard and completely threw me for a loop. It got me thinking about all the "harmless" comments that can slice and burn people who are struggling with loss, or grief, or struggling to get pregnant.
So here are a few things that might have / would have / could have / did come out of my mouth at some point in time, some things that people have said to me (or that I've heard them say to others), and other pregnancy-related comments that might seem completely harmless, but that I will NEVER say again, excepting unusual circumstances (like a lobotomy or a VERY close friendship with another person in which we already know each other's backstories).
"So, when do you guys want to have kids?"
"Is this your first baby?"
"Why aren't you knocked up yet?"
"I am so tired of being pregnant."
"You want kids? Take mine."
"Have you considered adoption?"
"Everything happens for a reason."
"I'm eight weeks pregnant!"
"One boy and one girl? You have the perfect family!"
"So do you think she looks like you or your husband?"
"Did you know So&So is pregnant AGAIN? It was a total accident."
"Why did you wait so long to have kids?"
"It's better that he died and didn't have to suffer."
"At least she died before you really got to know her."
"Well, she lost one of the twins, but she's got the other one, so that's good!"
"Do you want it to be a boy or a girl?"
"Oh, that due date [of Christmas or the hottest point in the summer] sucks!"
"You are probably just really stressed out and need to relax. It will happen when the time is right."
The best answer or response to any of these comments (as far as I'm concerned) is the title of a Cee Lo Green song that has the lyrics changed to "Forget You" when it gets radio play.
So anyway, while I can't write about infertility awareness from an experienced perspective, I certainly have experience with being the recipient of insensitive remarks and (I cringe) I'm sure I have probably been thoughtless and self-absorbed enough to say similar things to other people.
My suggestion (and personal goal) for Infertility Awareness Week is: Think Before You Speak. You never know what your listener has been through.