Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Things Not to Say (or to Say) to an Infertile Couple

Taking a little detour for the moment, but I thought it might be useful to share some things of what not to say to an infertile couple. Recently a visitor at church kind of cornered me and put me on the spot with question after question about if I had children, why I didn't have children, and pointed at one of the kids and said "see, don't you wish you had one of those, now?" I was incredibly speechless and nearly broke down in tears when a quick thinking Liz came to my rescue and diverted the conversation to something else when she responded with "Well Mary will be doing something very important when she goes back to school to work with animals!!" The topic then turned to animals and Florida and all was well with the world again. I later thanked Liz profusely for stepping in at the very moment I needed someone. Admittedly, there are moments where I feel selfish and tell Wes how much I am enjoying it just being the two of us. Disney World is a great example. I love it just being me and him. But most of the time, I'm thinking of how great it would be to have a little one running around. My emotions are a rollercoaster on the topic, and nothing embarrasses me more than to start crying in front of other people, especially when the majority of those people don't know what's going on. I can't even bring myself to look people in the eye when I'm in tears, I usually just keep my head low. So as you can see, I do a pretty good job giving myself an emotional beating. So in efforts to keep that "beating" to only myself, I'm sharing with you a list of things that should never be said to an infertile couple. And yes, these are things that have been said to me. The italics are what shouldn't be said, the regular font is "Inner Mary" and what she wishes she could say, but doesn't. I am warning you now, "Inner Mary" is full of sarcasm.

NEVER say:

You need a vacation, then you'll get pregnant.
If that were true, we'd have around 8 kids by now....

I can't believe you sought medical treatment. Seeking medical treatment just shows you are spiritually immature and you don't trust God. Crying over it is also a sign of spiritual immaturity.
So do you usually comfort cancer patients this way as well?

Have you tried praying about it?
Now why haven't I thought of that before?

You should try standing on your head after sex so "it" can rush up to your egg.

[in reference to our miscarriage] Well at least you know you can get pregnant!
Wow, thank you for minimizing my loss of my child to just a test run to see if pregnancy is possible. Yeah, I appreciate that.

It's all in your head. If you stop thinking about it, it will happen. ("Just relax")
Infertility is a real medical issue. I have endometriosis which is a biological reproductive disease and causes my infertility. But yeah, thanks for implying that I'm mentally unstable enough to cause myself to not have kids.

[One that Wes detests] You must not be doing it right, let me show you how it's done.
Keep it up! My husband really enjoys being told that he's apparently inept when it comes to our sexual life.

You must be having lots of fun trying!
Oh yeah, it's a blast when there's all this pressure on both of us, and then you're poked and prodded to get test results and you're asked all kinds of questions about your sex life to a doctor you've never met before. LOADS of fun. Wish we started sooner.

You should adopt, then you’ll get pregnant right away (or the "you could always adopt")
I would never ever ever use adoption as a method of getting pregnant. How absolutely terrible for the adopted child!!! Besides, check your facts. There is no correlation between adoption and having a biological child. The percentage for getting pregnant after an adoption is exactly the same as the percentage of getting pregnant before adoption.

My husband just looks at me and I get pregnant
Good for you.

Here, you can just have one of my kids
The next time someone says this to me, I might just grab their kid, hop in my car and drive off, just to prove what a heartless comment that is.

Things could be worse
For me, this IS the "worse." My feelings are valid.

You're still young
I'm well aware of my age, thank you. I'm also well aware that my endometriosis makes conceiving a child more and more difficult with each passing year. Six years is a long time to try to conceive. I'm not quite keen on adding more and more years to that just because you think that I'm "still young."

There must be unresolved sin in your life
Well thank you for implying that I am such a horrible person that God would punish me by not giving us children!! Nevermind the fact that there are people who are in such sinful lifestyles who are getting pregnant all the time. But no, apparently I'm the one who is too evil to have children.

And while the following comment is sweetly well intended and I never take offense to it, it's a comment that I have go in one ear and out the other:
We know it will happen for you (or other variations such as "I had a dream you'd get pregnant and my dreams always come true")
Wes and I were doing a devotional written for infertile couples when this type of comment came up. The author warned that trusting in these comments, rather than listening to God reveal His will for us, was like trusting in a psychic. Why would we think that God would reveal His will for our lives to other people, and yet play a hide & seek game with us? So I have learned that while I appreciate that people are trying to help us feel better, I will not rely on the word of man who doesn't ultimately know what God's plans for us are.

The following are comments that we truly love and appreciate. But because I get so embarrassed, I don't usually know what to say...but please know that if you're reading this and you have either done or said these things...we love you so much for it.
How are you?
Is there anything I can do? (not likely, but the fact you care enough to ask means the world)
Can I get you some tissues?
I'm here if you want to talk about it
We are praying for you/can we pray for you?
And the actions...
a hug
crying with us
a card in the mail
remembering that while I do not have a child in my arms, I AM a mother and my child is in heaven...and remembering that I am not less important or that Wes & I are not some sort of "lesser" family because we don't have a child with us.

Updated 4/28/13 - I am still receiving comments on this blog, which tells me this is speaking out to many in similar situations. I want to share that I am now a mother of two very beautiful children...a son born in February 2009, and a daughter born in April 2010. I continue to leave this up because people need to know just how much their words can affect people. Even though I am a mother now, I will never forget the emotional pain I went through...nor do I ever want to forget because I can continue to help others.

**I have noticed this particular blog entry has been referenced on several infertility sites, and even articles regarding infertility. I think it is fantastic that this is getting out there, so others can understand how words affect people. If you are interest in using this as a source, please let me know. I would love to see a link back to whatever you are working on that uses this entry!**

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Natural Calling

Saturday evening, Wes & I had the awesome experience of getting some photos done of us. Aside from the occasional photo of us from vacations that random strangers took or that we took of ourselves by outstretching our arms, we haven't had any photos done of us since our wedding. So this was a real treat for us. It's really nice to have so many photos with my husband and not just of one of us while the other is taking the picture! We were asked to pick a location of where we wanted to have our photos taken. After some thinking (and then deciding if we should do two locations), we ultimately went with Cherokee Park here in Louisville. The reason was kind of two fold...though we haven't done it recently, we would take picnics at the park and usually go walking along a particular trail. In fact, all the photos done of us are on this exact trail. The other reason was because of our deep love for nature. When I was told to think of a location for the photo shoot, I knew right away that I wanted lots of green in the photos...grass, trees, bushes, etc...as long as it was nature.

Wes and I (though primarily me) have a passion for God's creation and being good stewards of the environment He has given us to live in. My passion has been so sparked up in me that I am now pursuing a dream of working with wildlife. Career-wise, there is nothing more thrilling to me than to work with an animal and know that I am caring for it and working to conserve and protect where it comes from. Few things hurt and anger me more than to see and hear about the callous and cruel treatment and views of animals. I was heartbroken when I learned that the Baiji dolphin had become extinct, primarily due to humans. I cried when I heard of when a person had tortured a couple of rats. And poachers? Don't even get me started. Without hesitation I would put myself in between an elephant and a poacher in order to protect that elephant. There's no question in my mind about. Yes, I receive weird looks when people realize that about me. Sometimes I had wondered to myself if Wes viewed me as " that crazy animal woman" as well. Then we took a marriage enrichment class and on the first night we all were to say one thing we loved so much about our spouse. Wes said "I just love that Mary has such compassion and love for the tiniest mouse all the way up to the largest elephant." Yup, those were the exact words...I remember them word for word because how much it meant to me. And Wes may not be on the same passion level as I am (and that's quite fine), but I love that we have conversations about animals, nature, and the environment. I love that I can talk to him about this stuff and not have him call me "tree hugger" as if it were some insult. In fact, the evening of our photo shoot, Wes & I joked on how we should take a picture of us embracing trees just for fun.

This Tuesday will mark the year anniversary of the death of one of my heroes. His death really put things into perspective for me. As I reflect back on how distraught I was over how someone who was fighting to save the creation of God could die so young (though I do not know if he was saved as he never publicly discussed the topic), it really reminds me of something: that I do not know when I will be called home...so how will I use this time now? I can almost hear God ask, "What if it were next year? What are you doing now to live out the passion I put in your heart?" This passion was not placed on my heart by chance...God put it there. When I die, I want people to say that I was faithful to God and that I lived out what He called me to do. And in all honesty, while I'm alive, I want people to say that I am faithful to God and that I am living out what He is calling me to do. I pray that I can be that kind of light to the world.

I wanted nature for our photo shoot location. It best represented us...it represents me. I was asked if I minded sitting on the ground since I was wearing a skirt. Goodness no I don't mind. I feel most in my element in nature and sitting among it. These pictures are a physical and visual reminder of the calling in my life and the passion in both mine & Wes' lives.

Thank you, Kara, for capturing not just our images...but capturing us.

Photo by Kara Guffey