Let me be the first to say that before infertility smacked me in the face, I may have hurt or offended others by asking insensitive or even ignorant questions about their fertility struggles. I want to say how deeply sorry I am for whatever words I may have spoken or actions I may have unknowingly taken that hurt you. Clearly, I was stupid and unaware back then and now I know better.
So let’s start with that, our family and friends desperately want to try to help us but they fumble at times. That happens whenever we are faced with a major challenge and it definitely applies to infertility. While their intentions are good, they make mistakes and sometimes don’t even realize that the words they choose may be hurtful and biting. For those that have never been through what we have, there is a lot of curiosity and sometimes questions leave people’s mouths before they ever consider how their words are being received. I am writing this is part to try to educate those around you. Feel free to send my blog to your entire network so that nobody feels singled out; I am happy to be the bad guy in this situation. I have personally been on the receiving end of obtuse comments.
This narrative exemplifies what we sometimes experience as parents who have built our families through creative measures .... After our twins were born, we went as a family to an annual 4th of July celebration. Our friends knew about our struggles and were elated that we had finally completed our family. We wanted to share our happiness and our adorable little guys with everyone. At the time, our twins were 8 months old and our eldest was 20 months old. We had a great day. However, just as we were leaving, one of my husband’s oldest friends and I were chatting and he asked me a question that still irks me to this day. Given our close relationship, he knew all about our losses and how we created our family.
In fact, he was at the party that I wrote about in an earlier blog entry where I had a mini break-down. On that glorious 4th of July afternoon, he literally said to me, “So the twins are Brian’s but not yours, right?” The impact of this question was so stunning to me that it felt like he had punched me right between my eyes. My first inclination was to slap him as hard as I could, drown him with whatever beverage I was holding, and scream, “ALL of my kids are mine! I nearly died giving birth to MY twins and if you think for one second that they aren’t mine, you are a BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP idiot!”Mercifully, I composed myself and simply said, “ALL of my kids are mine. They don’t happen to share my DNA but you better believe that they are MINE.”
Now seems like the appropriate time to share some phrases that one should NEVER say to someone who is facing infertility or has created their family through alternative methods:
- Who are his/her/their REAL parents?
- Do you wish you could have had your OWN?
- So, they aren’t REALLY siblings then, right?
- Well, at least you already have one!
- Are you going to try to have your OWN children?
- Why did their adoptive mother/family give them up?
- Who is their adoptive family? Where do they live? ETC.
- Who is the egg/sperm donor? Where do they live? ETC.
- Maybe God doesn’t feel this is your time/or that you should have children. (Someone actually said this to me. She is an Atheist, by the way. I am still working on forgiving her that one, but very major, transgression.)
- Maybe this isn’t the right time.
- Try to focus on other things
- How much did your baby cost?
Now, if you are in the process of researching alternative ways to build your family and you connect with others who have been down the same path, always start by saying, “Are you comfortable sharing your story…?” Speaking for myself, my goal is to provide you with as much information as I possibly can so that you may find your parental path posthaste. If you ask me a question that falls outside of the parameters that I mention above, you will definitely be forgiven. As I said in the beginning of this post, I am SURE that I asked questions during our discovery phase that probably annoyed or even offended others. I was so curious and I wanted a baby so badly that my questions were often asked with little regard for those sitting opposite of me. Boy, I am having to apologize a lot in this entry! Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!
On the other hand, if you are on the receiving end of this blog from someone who is struggling with infertility, I hope this entry has provided you some insight. Clearly, you want to do whatever you can to support your friend or family member during this tumultuous time. I am sure your heart is breaking for him/her/them. My only advice is to be mindful of the words that you choose. Sometimes, words that are meant to be encouraging can actually cut and unknowingly damage the relationships that we hold so dear.
Lastly, remember that once a person or couple makes it over to the other side and becomes a parent, that child is theirs regardless of the how they were brought together as a family. Asking questions about how that child came to be can sometimes be very intrusive. For children who are adopted or have come by way of a donor, their birth story is theirs and it should be protected until he/she decides to share it. People ask me all the time about our eldest son’s birth family. My simple reply is, “If Brandon chooses to share the specific details about the amazing woman who gave birth to him, that is his choice and his alone.”
My intention in writing this entry was to enlighten all of us. Infertility is a subject that leaves many battle scars. Let’s try to support each other, as best we can, while we are waiting to celebrate the birth of your future children.