Monday, January 24, 2011

Sometimes just saying "I'm Sorry" really is enough...

I remember several years ago when my Grandfather passed away, all the well meaning, but down right stupid things people said in attempt to bring comfort. While it was such a blessing to see the city's out pouring of love and respect for the man (I swear he had hired 75% of the city's teachers) I remember thinking "Just say 'I am so sorry' followed by a few things you loved about the guy and move on! Quit trying to make it 'ok' with your words, because you can't." Maybe I can be a little caustic in my thoughts when I am emotional.

I am reminded of these same sentiments as we walk down the path of infertility. If you ever want to render someone speechless, only to have them follow up their speechless moment with several well meaning remarks that so miss the mark (often doing more harm then good) - just tell them you are dealing with infertility. As a nurse, I feel pretty well trained/learned in what to say in difficult situations. I have been around the death bed of kids, from babies to adolescents, since I was 20 years old, attempting to provide care and comfort to the patients and their families. However, now that I am on this journey, I can think back on multiple conversations I have had with friends who were struggling to conceive their own child, and it makes me want to go back and just say "I am so sorry." So sorry they are having to go through this, and so sorry I opened my big fat, unknowing mouth. What I now know is, infertility leaves you utterly helpless - you have very little control over your situation. You do have control on making sure you are maintaining as healthy a lifestyle (spiritually and physically) as possible, and seeking medical help... but after that, you really just have to sit back and get swept along on what I call the "infertility treadmill."

If you come across someone who is dealing with infertility, chances are they have already done their own research, and are well versed in things that are in their control - things they can do to support the optimum environment for conception. They know stress can have negative side effects on their situation, so saying "Maybe you just need to relax," generally just stresses the infertile out. Relax, really? Well, its kinda hard when you are having to track and detect even the lightest change in your hormone levels. Most likely, they are already daily tracking their basal temperature, utilizing saliva home tests, as well as urine tests to track the progression of their cycle. The lack of any positive signs, leaves them feeling like "great, I can't even spit or pee right." Every twinge in the abdomen makes them fight the hope that "maybe this time I am ovulating," or "could this be the conception cramping everyone else talks about?" Relaxation and infertility do not exist synergistically. "It just takes time," is another one of my favorites, especially from people who got pregnant while on the pill, or who get to experience the "my husband just has to look at me and I get pregnant," phenomenon. Chances are, you probably don't know how much time has already elapsed for this infertile couple. And if you ever laugh (like I used to) when you hear someone tell an infertile lady (often in a whisper) "maybe if you prop your butt up on a pillow afterwards..." hold the laughter - we (infertile couples) have done it... and maybe even still do it. Side note: if you have tilted uterus, research does show that gravity might be of some benefit. Consider that you helpful healthy hint of the day!:) Maybe statements of "faithful knowing" are helpful for some, but being told "I know you are going to get pregnant!" is not helpful for me. And that might be my medical mind getting in the way of my faith. If doctors can't guarantee we will conceive, the general public saying it doesn't bring any comfort at all. And I am not proud/happy to admit this. However, I am fairly confident we will be parents someday, so if you want to stake your claim of faith on that - go for it!:) 2nd side note: In case you haven't picked up on it already - I can be a tad schizophrenic when it comes to my logic... also known in our family as pretzel logic.:) God isn't done with me yet.

The journey down the path of infertility is different and individual for each couple. And if most couples are anything like myself and my husband, the challenges, struggles, hopes, and fears change daily (mainly for me). Add to this lovely scene, fluctuating hormones (whether natural or medically induced) changes ... well hormones rarely make anything easier. There is no exact recipe for how to communicate your infertility to others, or how to communicate and comfort someone you know who is dealing with infertility. One thing I think works every time, for every difficult situation, is a simple "I am so sorry." This allows the recipient the chance to accept your condolences, and guide the next part of the conversation. We all want to feel in control - right or wrong. It is at the base of our human nature. If you allow the person who is going through a difficult time (infertility, loss of job, loss of relationship or loved one, etc..) to feel like they maintain some control in the conversation, you will "get" more out of them, while providing the most comfort at the same time. Let them guide the conversation where they want it to go. I know there are many times I can talk about many aspects of my infertility for extended periods of time, without any difficulty. Other times, merely the sight of a pregnant lady, or baby can send me on an emotional tailspin. I really feel bad for people who have to walk along side infertile couples - there is no way to know what type of day they happen to be having, often until the wrong thing is said, or done. Most of time we are able to be mature enough to realize to pain was not intentionally caused. Please be very prayerful for your infertile friends when the weight of the burden they carry is about to overcome them momentarily, leaving them very helpless, and a bit irrational.

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Psalm 73:21-22
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts Amy. BTW I work at Trevecca and found your blog randomly on facebook. Matthew had mentioned your struggles with getting pregnant but I had no idea that you wrote. My wife and I have been down that path for almost 3 years and have realized that many people who struggle with infertility stay silent. I appreciate your story and your faith. I pray that God blesses your new family addition and continues to give you the faith that you had during your trials of infertility, we get it...