For a long time I toyed with the idea of writing a letter to family and friends explaining why I avoid baby showers and other heavily child-laden activities. My letter never got off the ground and then I stumbled on Angela’s An Open Apology to My Friends with Babies and I cheated. In other words, I pasted her post on my Facebook page with a byline of how I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you read her letter, you can see why. Her letter is heart-wrenchingly honest with a twinge of humor (I adore her pet elephant metaphor). She has since written a post entitled, A voice from the dark: why talking taboos makes for a better society, describing the outpouring of response and her reflections on the letter. In this post, she outlines how important it is for our psyche’s and our society to share our stories of miscarriage, baby loss, infertility, childlessness. While I agree it is helpful, even vital, to share, I also know straight up why I often hesitate to do so…
Many of you will be head nodding as you read some of my experiences.
- The infamous, “have you thought about adopting?” response. Possible interpretation: It is your bloody fault you feel sad/are grieving because you could just adopt and make it all better.
- Here is a copy of The Secret. Possible interpretation: You haven’t had the right mind set yet, honey.
- Everything happens for a reason. Yeah, try telling that to a holocaust survivor and see how that goes over. Not that I am comparing the pain of infertility to the holocaust, but for cryin’ out loud, how is this supposed to help? Furthermore, how about you tell me “the reason,” smarty pants?
- Upon finding out she was pregnant, a friend who was also struggling with fertility issues divulged to me (who she knew was also desperately trying to get pregnant), that she finally felt like “a woman.” I am not sure what that makes me. A man?
- And one of my personal favorites—upon excitedly producing a picture of the lake property My Man and I had just purchased, another friend piqued that she hoped it was going to be a picture of a baby we were adopting and how much joy her children and grandchildren give her. Really? I have no comment for this one.
- And, finally, let’s not forget “a woman without children has nothing” comment documented in my post It Happened Again.
I guess what I am thinkin’ is that it is pretty darned important to have a firm foundation and support system in place before you disclose your tender, vulnerable infertility and decision to not have children. I also don’t want to bad mouth the people who made the above comments, they are human and are dealing with a complex set of emotions regarding this issue just as I am. I do want to dis the insensitivity and sometimes outright boundary violations. In other words, I want to focus on the behavior and how to effectively convey how it makes me feel without shaming the person who said it, so it can be truly heard while taking good care of myself. And getting to a place where I can do that is taking real work. For now, at least, I am incredibly grateful that Angela modeled the type of effective communication I am aiming for by posting her letter and thereby giving me a leg up to “talking taboos.”