The Comments I Don't Want to Hear as a Woman Dealing With Infertility
My husband Philip and I are a couple who have been dealing with infertility for the past three years. We have tried to keep our struggles to ourselves, and we have only shared with close friends and family. I have taken drugs from a fertility doctor to help me ovulate better, I pee on a stick daily to check for either conception or ovulation, and my hormone-induced rages have left us (me) rather stressed at home when we get questioned about our unknown future, from friends, coworkers, doctors, etc.
Questions and comments come in all forms from our “support system.” Things like “When are you guys going to start a family?” or being told “It will happen when it’s supposed to” or it will happen when we “relax.” We have heard them all, and believe us when we tell you, it’s not that simple. Sometimes friends who don’t even mean to hurt us end up hurting us with their words of “wisdom.” Comments like, “If it’s not meant to be, then it’s not meant to be” and “If you guys are so great, why haven’t you guys had a baby yet?” stab our hearts like knives, but we strive to not show our the pain that comes with waiting. That is, until we are home with each other, and we can face the harsh words together with a good cry (for me) or talk.
I went to the doctor’s office recently for an unrelated issue. I was sent to a hospital bathroom and peed into the cup, submitted it and waited; fingers crossed, just in case. Before I even took the test, I knew it was negative — our new record is 40 months pregnancy-free (sarcastic woo-hoo!) My husband knew it would be negative, too; we always expect a negative. We are pretty positive it will be a negative, as we like to say.
While the nurse hooked up equipment, we discussed my medical history, everything from my stomach to our infertility issues. As we were discussing my procedure and what to expect, another nurse came in to inform us of the pending pregnancy test results so we could complete my prep.
As she entered the room to give us the news, she wiped her brow with her palm in a “wiping away the worry”-style gesture, and she told us very cheerfully, “Shew, the test was negative! Thank goodness, right?!” And she looked to me for approval as I stared through her, my blood boiling and everyone speechless.
How could she have known I would find offense to these words or her excitement? How could she know we had just celebrated our third anniversary of not having a child or pregnancy? How could she know that some couples, like us, are actually trying for that positive, not worried of a potential pregnancy “scare?” How could she know how much money and time has been invested into pee sticks, thermometers, doctor’s visits and prescriptions? How could she know how many sleepless nights we are tormented by our lack of ability to build our family?
I know the first nurse felt my pain and was embarrassed for the other nurse’s lack of bedside manner and concern. She looked at me and then to the bad news nurse, and no one said a word. I couldn’t breathe, I could feel my heart breaking and my mind was racing. The approach taken by this nurse had me in a fluster that I never experienced. We were not some teenage couple, we are a couple who have tried for years — years that felt like decades.
In my opinion, this nurse should have kept her comments to herself and should not have shown any emotion regarding my pregnancy status. Her job at that time was to express test results, not form an opinion on my pregnancy status, as if I was a girlfriend of hers who had a pregnancy “scare.” She should have thought about how her words could further hurt those who are already in pain, like so many others who make the mistake by voicing their comments.
People who assume younger females are hoping for that “negative” result aren’t around for the years of waiting these women, like myself, endure. They are not there for you when you are late for a period and stressing out in worry or hopefulness. They are not there for you when you are temping, hot-flashing and peeing on a stick. They don’t see the other side of the story before they make their opinions or share their comments.
The female who is physically trying everything possible to conceive is not comforted by enthusiasm for a negative test and we don’t need to “relax.” How is it anyone but the (future) mother’s business? Assumptions that I’m too young to be trying, too stressed, too baby-crazy come from anyone I share my infertility story with. Advice sometimes joins the assumptions, but unless you can share from experience, I think it’s best to keep comments about infertility to yourself.
When ignorant comments come our way, I spend the rest of the day dwelling on how “broken” we are. Dwelling on how broken I am. We shall try again next month, fingers crossed.
Follow this journey on Mary Horsley.
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