Friday, August 17, 2012

Teaching the Public

As church let out on that Sunday morning and the lobby began filling with people, I smiled across the room as another couple we knew began maneuvering toward us through the crowd. When they reached us, we exchanged hugs as the wife took my arm and pulled me to the side. “Did John tell you?” she asked, excitement and life and joy spilling out from behind her eyes.

I glanced at my husband and watched as a wave of panic spread onto his face. I don’t even remember the rest of what the woman said to me. I just remember trying to look happy. I remember trying not to cry. I remember that all-too-familiar lump growing in the back of my throat.

My husband apologized on the way to the car for the oversight. He had gotten the announcement through the husband. He had meant to tell me. He had forgotten. I nodded. Being prepared for it would have helped. But it wouldn’t have changed the fact that we were still childless - that five years of infertility treatments had left us no closer to the children we always thought we would have. That even though that couple were newlyweds, they were going to have a child.

And we weren’t.

During the years we spent begging, yearning, praying, crying for a child, there were many moments like the one in that church lobby. Moments where I felt my heart breaking when someone said something that reminded me of the losses we had faced.

“I had so wished we could have babysat each other’s children,” one friend said days before she delivered. “Have you thought about adoption?” another asked as their three children played by our feet. “I had a friend who drank this tea,” another woman told me, tucking a piece of paper littered with a scary sounding concoction into my jacket pocket. “Relaxing,” was the key for us, another friend whispered. “Have you thought about taking a weekend away?”

Their well-intentioned words flowed easy off their tongues as they pierced my heart. “You are so young.” “Just be patient.” “Maybe it isn’t meant to be.” Or the husband who, after having a daughter through their first IUI told me, “I so hope this happens for you because there is nothing better than being a parent.”


I would always manage a smile and a polite nod. Sometimes even a few words of thanks would tumble out. But always, when I got home and climbed under my blankets, the tears would come. I would grieve. I would cry.

But always, I would remind myself that these friends and acquaintances, and yes, sometimes even strangers, were not trying to hurt me. It was important that I reminded myself that their intentions were pure. Sure, there was the occasional person who may not have had my best interest at heart, but for the most part, people are good. They are trying. They don’t know what to say. And so sometimes they say something they shouldn’t.

My way of combating this ignorance was to educate people. I started a blog. I told people our story. I wrote posts explaining what you should and shouldn’t say to a woman dealing with infertility. I helped start a Support Group at our church. I encouraged people walking alongside someone going through infertility to use me as a sounding board. I realized that I couldn’t expect people to say the right thing if they didn’t know what the right thing was to say.

If you are in the midst of infertility, you have no doubt found yourself at the receiving end of hard-to-hear words and missed-their-mark comments. I hope you too will remember that people want to help. It is WE, the infertile, who have to teach them how.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. It is so hard to know what to say in so many situations, especially for people like me who seem to perpetually have foot in mouth disease.