Well, when Michelle was first putting out the call for guest bloggers for the summer I thought that it would be fun. Little did I know how many witty, intelligent bloggers she knew! Now I’m a little intimidated, but ready to give it a try.
I’m Stacy, of An American Girl in Canada. I moved to Canada in 2003…for a man. That’s it, plain and simple. He’s a great man, one of the main loves of my life…the others are my faith, my son, and the relationships I have with people that I love. Those are the things that I usually blog about. I wish I were a funny blogger, or a creative woman that can create a castle out of egg cartons and my own spit…but I am neither, so you get simply me. I thought and thought about what to write in this post, and after a long conversation by a campfire with some of our best friends-my cousins who we were vacationing with-last night this topic came to mind. Fertility. Or infertility…or all of the things surrounding both of those big words. I know, it seems like a pretty big topic for a summer guest post, right? Maybe I should have blogged about my vacation, the things we are doing, the people we are seeing, but I think this is what I need to say today. If you don’t want to hear it, stop reading! (I know, I have you hooked, right?)
I am surrounded by friends and family that haven’t had the easiest time on the road to having children. It’s interesting. When you decide to have a baby you think that it’s going to be so easy. You will try and voila…that very first month you will get pregnant! For some people, this is the case. In fact, it is for my own sisters! Although I sometimes envy them, I do not wish them harm or wish for them to have a long and difficult road. I would never wish that upon someone else. For us, it has been a long road. I have learned a lot along the way, and although it hasn’t been easy, I am thankful for the way it has molded me and even for the kind of mother it has turned me into. If you want to details, you can read up on them in my blog, but let’s just say, it’s not always easy. After having these experiences and going through hard times with some of my dearest friends, I decided to compile a TO DO/NOT TO DO list for helping friends with fertility issues. It is tough to know what to do or say for someone going through this. And it is even harder for the person on the other end, trust me. In that light, here goes: in random order, my top ten dos and don’ts when dealing with friends with fertility issues list.
1. If you have a friend that has just had a miscarriage, I know that it is extremely tempting to tell them the story about your aunt’s sister’s niece that had two or three miscarriages and went on to have five perfectly healthy children, but please, please refrain. Despite what you may think, this is NOT going to make them feel better. Especially if they currently have no children. You could tell your dear friend 100 stories like this, and although she may smile politely and thank you for the piece of wisdom, inside her head she is probably screaming. So, just don’t.
2. What IS the appropriate response then, you ask? Well, that’s a tough one. You’ll have to think about your friend. When we had our first miscarriage, we had a variety of responses. Some friends invited us over for pizza that very night. Although I didn’t feel much like eating, the idea of getting out of our own house and our own sorrow for an hour or two sounded really normal and nice. We went over, they ordered delicious food and then they made us laugh. Seriously. They told us funny stories about their relationship and marriage, stories we had never heard. It was probably my emotions running high, or the crazed hormones raging through my body, but I laughed until I cried that night, and then I was really crying, and my friend Tara was holding me and saying it was going to be ok, some way, some how.
Another response that totally touched my heart in a different way came from my friend, Jen. When I called to tell her she simply broke down into tears, total and complete sobs. They were sobs that I hadn’t even expressed myself yet. Hearing her cry with such abandon allowed me to do the same. We didn’t even say much at all, we just cried together there on the phone, and with each tear I shed, a little part of my heart was healed. With our third miscarriage, a group of my girlfriends came over. They brought all of the crappy foods that we never allow ourselves to eat and we gorged ourselves and watched the Super Bowl-without really paying attention-and just laughed. None of them, not a single one, MADE me talk about it, unless I wanted to. We just ate, talked, and laughed.
In short, who knows what the appropriate response is! Just think about your friend. Maybe she’s the kind of girl that would love to get all dressed up, go out for drinks, and just be away from thinking about it for a moment. Maybe she wants you to meet up with her at the mall and shop. Maybe she wants you to come over, make her tea, hug her and cry with her. Whatever it is, please don’t tell the story about the woman who had three miscarriages and then five kids. I know, it will be hard. You will feel it coming to your lips but seal them. Stop it in its tracks and instead, give her a big hug.
3. If your friend that is going through fertility problems-be it a miscarriage, not producing enough eggs, whatever-already has a child, please don’t say to her that at least she has one baby and she should feel blessed. Trust me, she has already told herself that very same thing a million and one times. She knows that. She thinks that every single day. She looks at her little munchkin and thanks the Lord that she has that baby or toddler or whatever. It doesn’t mean that what she is going through doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want that child to be a sibling. Even if that thought crosses your mind, or you think she is being ungrateful…she isn’t. She is saying everything that you could ever think to say to her to herself every day, just to try to get through it.
4. Here’s a do. DO let her be mad if she wants to! Maybe your friend has been trying for a year to have a baby, and according to doctors nothing is wrong and she is perfectly fine, yet, she’s mad. Let her be mad! Tell her that yeah, it totally sucks! Yeah, it isn’t fair…let the woman rant, come on. And when she sees that pregnant lady smoking in the parking lot of the donut shop and wants to go over and beat her up because she has a baby and she is filling that baby with smoke, well, don’t let her beat the woman up, because hey, she would regret it, but let her be mad! Let her rant! Say how unfair it is with her!
5. If you have a close friend that is having trouble having children and you suddenly find yourself pregnant, don’t hold it back from her. I can’t promise you that a little part of her won’t hurt and be jealous, but I do promise you that she will be more hurt if she finds out from someone else, or from facebook or from meeting up with you for coffee one day and wondering why you are suddenly ordering decaf and have a wee bump. Yeah, that hurts. So, even though it feels awkward for you and you feel sad for her, tell her. One other thing…be understanding if maybe she pulls away from you for a bit. It’s nothing personal, she is probably just trying to process everything in her mind.
6. Don’t give your friend advice/articles/tell stories about how she can become pregnant or why she probably lost the baby. I had someone give me an article about how working out can cause miscarriages about a week after we lost our first baby. I almost lost it I tell you. The woman is probably already blaming herself, don’t add to it! Also, if your friend seems unable to conceive, don’t tell her about the experimental hormone therapy that your cousin’s brother’s wife tried and it allowed her to have triplets after ten years of trying. She’s probably already heard about it, read about it, or had her doctor tell her about it. She doesn’t really need you to tell her. Plus, she also doesn’t really need to know how your mom’s best friend’s daughter tried for seven years and finally had a baby. Even though you look at that as a success story, to her she is hearing the phrase seven years and thinking REALLY? SEVEN YEARS??? Yeah…to you it seems ok, but when you are in the middle of trying, seven years seems like F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Think about it. I’m serious, take a minute to really think about it. Think about trying every single month for even a year, and every single month having that test say negative. Talk about heartbreak. Think about the way your heart would feel. Think about how similar pregnancy symptoms are to PMS symptoms and how they can wreak havoc with your mind. Imagine experiencing that chaos every single month for not only one year, but maybe even SEVEN! Think about how it could take the joy out of something that should be fun for you and your husband. Think about all of these things, and then keep them all in. Don’t give the advice. Don’t pass on the article. She has probably visited that website, read that book, gone to that doctor. When she wants your advice about these things she will probably ask. If she isn’t asking it doesn’t mean you aren’t her friend. It means she just wants to keep it to herself. Okay?
7. Try really, really, really hard not to say, “Well, there is always adoption, right?” Now, let me precursor this. I have an adopted brother. He is one of the lights of my life. He brought incredible, amazing joy into our family. I can’t imagine our lives without him in it. I thank his mother in my own head for giving him up so he could be a part of our family. I think of him not as my adopted brother, but as my own brother, so much so that when people say, “Hey, who is that Korean guy in your family photo?” I have to stop and think about whom they are talking about. I truly hope to have a chance to adopt someday, and if Kevin and I had not been able to have our own babies, we would have made that our first option, but saying that to someone in the middle of fertility difficulties? It doesn’t make it easier. They know that it’s an option. They know that there are lots of babies out there that need homes. They know it is a wonderful thing. Does that mean it hurts any less to think you may never feel the amazing wonder of your own child moving within you? That your husband won’t miss out on putting his hand on your belly and feeling your baby kick or seeing that hand morph out and move back in as the baby moves across the womb? What about seeing your husband’s silly squinchy face in your son’s face as he concentrates? Or talking about how tall you bet your little boy will be because both you and your husband have height in your family? Or saying, “Yep, he gets his blue eyes from his grandma, that’s for sure!” It’s not that you can’t still revel at the wonder of your adopted baby, and trust me you will, but first you have to say goodbye to those other thoughts and feelings and that is a tough thing to do.
8. This one goes for ANYONE. The next time you are tempted to go up to that young couple you know and ask them when they are going to get on board and have kids, think about the fact that maybe they are already trying. Maybe they have been trying for a few years. Maybe they have already lost a baby. If you are close friends with someone, you might know what they are going through, and try hard not to ask how things are going. They will tell you if they want to. Don’t assume that just because a couple has been married for ten years and has no children that they must not want them. Maybe they do, and they can’t have them. Or if they don’t want them, people, it’s not a crime. It is hard for some of us to understand, because we love our kids and can’t imagine somebody else not wanting a child, it doesn’t mean it is wrong. So, maybe just avoid that question all together. My cousin last night was talking about an experience where he said he felt like a total heel. He was ribbing someone about the fact that he and his wife didn’t yet have kids, and he later found out that this person had been trying for almost two years. Ouch. He felt really bad, even though he hadn’t been too hard on the guy and knew him pretty well. He said he has never done that again.
9. Don’t be offended if you find out from someone else that your friend is having fertility difficulties and didn’t share it with you. It’s a tough thing to go through. Everyone reacts differently. Some people put it out there for the world to see, because ranting about it or talking to a lot of people is their mode for getting through it. Some people tell no one, and suffer in private pain, because that is the easiest way for them to cope. Some people tell just a few people, and even though you might think you should be one of those people they share with, don’t be offended if you aren’t. Just let them get through it however they can. Don’t make them feel even worse by somehow implying that they should have told you or by harboring resentful feelings when you find out that they had a miscarriage a few months back and they never shared that with you. Maybe they just needed to keep it inside. Telling them that it hurt you will only make them feel worse and hurt even more.
10. Finally, #10! DO BE THERE. Be there in any way that your friend needs. If you think she is doing great and she randomly calls you up one day sobbing, be the shoulder to cry on. If she has a miscarriage and asks you to take her out for drinks because gosh darnit, she’s going to drink if she wants to, then take her! If she wants to keep it all inside, be waiting on the wings for that day that maybe, just maybe she just wants to talk about it, and don’t ask her to tell you more than she wants to.
That’s it, that’s my advice. You might not agree, but isn’t that the beauty of a blog? If you don’t, just quit reading! Not witty, not creative, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t keep it real. Trust me, not all of my blogs are this deep…but a lot of them are! Stop on by if you want more of it!
P.S. Happy Summer! I had a great vacation by the way. We went and got old time photos done yesterday and my little monkey? He is an ADORABLE cowboy. If you stop by my blog you might get to see the picture! AND vacation updates! Cheers!