Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Ignore It

Hello, my peeps. It's National Infertility Awareness Week, and the theme this year is "Don't Ignore It."

One of the most painful aspects of infertility is isolation. You feel like the only woman on earth who is not either currently pregnant or raising children. You avoid talking about it because people don't really understand what you're going through, or they make comments that make you feel worse. So my plea to the world at large is, "Please don't ignore it. Please don't ignore us."


- Don't ignore kindness. If you know someone who is going through infertility, someone who has lost a child, someone who has experienced a failed treatment, say something. Something like "I'm sorry you're going through this," or "I'm thinking of you," or "How are you doing?"

- Don't ignore the emotions. People who struggle with infertility are going through a lot emotionally. And those emotions may be exacerbated by all the crazymaking fertility drugs. If you see the tears, the anger, the frustration, don't look away. Offer comfort if you can. And don't take it personally if your friend or loved one tells you she can't bear to see your children or your pregnant belly right now.

- Don't ignore the impact of your words. Out of a desire to comfort, sometimes people say things that hurt. Just about every woman I know who has suffered from infertility cringes whenever someone says:
  • "Just relax. It will happen."
  • "Well, you could just adopt. Lots of babies need good homes."
  • "My cousin's neighbor's daughter-in-law's orthodontist had the same problem, and . . ."
  • "Everything happens for a reason."
  • [In the case of miscarriage] "At least you know you can get pregnant!"
- And finally, one that I need to remind myself about -- don't ignore your own past. If you've been through it, talk about it. Make yourself available to others who are going through it. It helps.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's Okay To Be Grumpy

When I was in the depths of the Great Barren Wasteland, when I thought I would never get to be a parent, I promised the gods and all the forces of the universe that if I had a child, I would cherish that child and always be grateful and never be cross or angry or thoughtless.

What a dumb promise that was.

Not that I regret making it, not for a minute. It was heartfelt, and I did not have my fingers crossed behind my back. It's just that it was a promise impossible to keep.

Last weekend was tough. My darling miracle children were acting like wee demons, intent on pummeling me and each other. They were whiny, destructive, heedless little savages. I lost my cool. I screamed at them. I put the little one in time out and took toys away when he threw them, which make him even madder, so he threw more toys, which I also took away, until there was a great big pile of taken-away toys on a high shelf. I threatened to throw away all playthings not put away by the time I counted to some arbitrary number. And then I called a friend and committed the unforgivable sin: I joked about putting my darlings up for sale on Craigslist, or perhaps offering them to a traveling circus.

Oh, how I hated people who did that! How I swore I would never ever ever . . .

I cowered in fear that some vengeful deity would hurl a well deserved bolt of lightning at me and my progeny.

And then I realized something.

All parents go through this. All children have days when they work their parents' last nerve. The tantrums of the much-wanted, cherished child are no less terrible than those of the child conceived without much thought or purpose. The yearned-for child kicks just as hard, screams just as loudly, poops just as often as any other.

Similarly, my difficulty conceiving my children did not make me a perfect mother. Far from it. It may have made me a bit more patient, a smidge more grateful, a tad more affectionate than I would have been otherwise, but a parent who never screams at her kids is a parent who is either (a) wealthy enough to have a full-time childcare staff; (b) Buddha; or (c) on some serious drugs.