The topic on my mind tonight is platitudes. Not because I've heard all of this over the last year, though I have. But because a friend of mine is facing a very likely diagnosis of M.S.
She's scared and sad. I'm scared and sad for her. Apparently some people think this is part of God's plan.
Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn't. Perhaps God's plan was for her to be healthy and the devil is lurking about.
I believe in God. I think we've established that. I even believe God has a plan.
What I don't believe is that I know what it is.
Sometimes I think I might get a glimpse at it. I heard a story about one of the victims of the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. He had survived the Holocaust and died while helping some students escape. The story made me sad and for a moment, I questioned, "Why?" I'm not sure if I was asking myself, my friends, the stars or God, but it seemed so unfair. And then I thought that perhaps he had also questioned Why. Maybe all these years he wondered why he survived the Holocaust when so many others perished. And I wondered, if in that moment, as he watched the students escape out a window to freedom, he knew the answer. He survived to save them.
The thought was still sad, but somehow comforting. Perhaps it's just my way of making lemonade from a bushel of lemons, but I can hope.
But it some people seem to think they've got some inside knowledge. And it troubles me.
For myself, when someone tells me that it's God's plan, I can't help but feel insulted. Particularly when that person already has children. Apparently God's plan meant children for them, but none for me. Does God think I'd be a bad mother?
What about babies born to crack addicts? Was that God's plan?
My favorite was a woman on a message board who was fairly public about being "extremely fertile" but not liking children. She'd had more than 1 abortion, a miscarriage that she openly admitted was a relief and a son she often complained about not wanting. She told me that perhaps it was God's plan that I shouldn't have children.
I didn't bother to reply, though some people I feel forever indebted to suggested that if that were the case, it was clearly God's plan that she have multiple children and should get busy.
I sometimes feel bad when I tell people what NOT to say. I know they mean well. And being ignored or avoided is far worse than hearing the wrong thing. (Well, other than telling me God doesn't want me to have kids. If that's all you can come up with to say, feel free to shut the fuck up.) And often the reply I hear is "I don't know what to say." It's often accompanied by a sheepish look as they realize they've said the things I've just condemned.
For those, I offer this list:
I'm pray for you.
I will think good thoughts for you.
Can I do anything for you?
Would you like some company?
Would you like some time alone?
Want some ice cream?
How 'bout cookies?
I'm going to hug you now.
I love you.
Can I bring you anything?
I'll be right over.
I'm very sad for you.
Sometimes, all we want to hear is silence. Having you sit near us is great. I promise, we're not contagious. And if whatever we happen to be afflicted with IS contagious, you are excused from coming over. But try to call once in a while, okay?
I'll also include some of the highlights of what NOT to say. I don't think any blog about infertility is complete without one. Other than the above mentioned "reason" comment, here are a few common platitudes.
Everything happens for a reason.
Really? What reason is that?
It'll happen when the time is right.
Yep. Cause any time now would be the right time. I suppose this means nothing ever happens at the wrong time?
Just relax. (mix this with any suggestion of vacation or a trip, or a romantic dinner that all translate into "just relax.")
Probably the most hated phrase in all of infertility. Trust me, no matter HOW relaxed I am, my husband's sperm will not swim faster. As a matter of fact, there is some evidence that the boys respond to caffeine if consumed right before ejaculation. Relaxing will not make my eggs grow stronger, it will not increase my progesterone level. It won't regrow a missing ovary or fallopian tubes. And quite frankly- YOU relax! I'm pumped full of extra hormones and sitting in waiting rooms and being poked in my nether regions by doctors on a nearly weekly basis. You whine when you have to get a pap smear. Spare me.
Why don't you just adopt? / Have you thought about adoption?
This one is one of my favorites. I really like it. As much as it troubles me, I see it as in invitation to educate. That's when I roll out statistics like "for every white American baby up for adoption, there is an average of 40 couples vying for it." "Domestic adoption costs average about $25000 and can take years to bring a baby." "Foreign adoption costs even more and requires at least 1 and sometimes more lengthy stays in a foreign country. Nevermind the intrusion of home visits and interviews and paperwork."
Sometimes I think about saying "ADOPTION?! HOLY SHIT! WHY DIDN'T *I* THINK OF THAT? I'll stop trying to experience birthing a biological child and pregnancy right this instance. I'm a fool!"
OF COURSE, we've ALL thought about adoption. And I love the word "just." As though I can drive down to the local infant-mart and pre-order one. I'll take one with blonde hair and blue eyes. And I've always been fond of a dimple- yes- throw in a dimple. I'll be back to pick it up on Saturday. Thanks so much! Ta ta!
Yes, adoption might be in my future. Honestly, it might be in my future even if I am able to conceive and carry a biological child. I'm telling you that I'm trying to get pregnant. Did anyone try to talk you out of having a baby when you wanted one?
You can have mine!
Ahh, yes. I often say "okay." just as flatly and sincerely as possible. The mother usually looks confused as though I didn't get that they were joking. Then they get uncomfortable and explain "oh.. I'm just kidding. I wouldn't trade them for anything.. " to which I say "Yeah. If I could have one, I wouldn't either." I'm a bitch like that. When you say something assy, I like to make you feel like an ass. This goes along with "are you sure you really want one?" Huh. No. Now that you mention it, your kids really are some nasty brats. I better reconsider.
And last, but not least- Please.. for the love of all that is holy, do not try to tell me how to conceive.
I can't tell you how many times I, and other infertiles have heard some of the following:
"Are you guys having enough sex?"
"You know you should try the missionary position, it gets the sperm in there farther."
"Put your legs up after sex!"
"You know, Mary and Sue had been trying a while and they (insert sometimes not remotely related to fertility here) and boom, she was knocked up!"
Seriously, I'm telling you that I'm on fertility meds. I'm having a doctor inject my husband's sperm directly into my uterus. Do you SERIOUSLY believe that the missionary position is going to help? I've been at this a year. Do you think I've never tried putting my fucking legs up? And having enough sex? SERIOUSLY? ARE WE HAVING ENOUGH SEX? Jesus H Christ, WHY didn't I think of that? WE have to have SEX..... to get PREGNANT? Knock me over with a feather, we'll try that next month.
I realize you're just trying to be helpful, but please do not treat me like a moron. I'm literate. I had sex ed in school. I'm pretty sure I've got the basics.
I will never, for the life of me, understand why "I'm sorry" is so hard to say. We don't need you to fix it. You can't make it better. What you can do is be my friend. You can listen to me. You can try not to judge me. You can hug me when I cry. That's all I ask of you.
That's what I wish I could do for my friend facing M.S. She's several states away, but I'm sorry for her and wish I could take her some ice cream and hold her and cry.