Open to Debate

I have given a lot of thought about posting this particular entry because it is bound to raise tempers, spirits, passions, and heckles within the IF blogging community.  I think in the name of support, there has always been an unspoken rule that we do not talk about questions of IF Etiquette.  And, for the most part, I think this is a good policy.  But, tonight, I want to talk about it – politely, intelligently, delicately and evenly – with my fellow IFers. 

I was spurred into action by BabyChaser’s request last week for reading material for her RE’s office staff because – and I’m still shaking my head over this one – there is at least one nurse Who Doesn’t Get It.  In the general population, this is understandable and accepted. But, at an RE’s office filled with women who are doing extraordinary things to do that which most people take for granted as happening in the back of a car after a few too many, it is unacceptable.  Is it too much to ask for the staff to be caring, compassionate and not tell an infertility patient that a negative is maybe God’s way of saying to take a break? Apparently, Virginia, the answer is yes.

Anyway, in my quest to help, I found this page on Resolve’s website, designed to be given to people who have not dealt with infertility and have not been hit with the Enlightenment Stick to help them see the error of their words.  There are a lot of good suggestions covering everything from What Not to Say to an infertile couple to What Not To Ask an infertile couple. 

Re-reading this list, though, I saw something that piqued my curiousity.  There is the very understandable and laudable Commandment “Thou Shall Not Complain About Your Pregnancy”. It’s a no-brainer that a fertile lady who is about to pop should not complain to her infertile friend about how Junior keeps numbing her left leg or how she can’t wait to get rid of her fat ankles.  That is just not cool.  I’m pretty certain the edict was written for the woman who is so fertile-my-husband-just-has-to-look-at-me-and-I-get-pregnant who has no idea how hurtful it is for someone who longs to experience even a twinge of pregnancy to hear about how much of a pain the miracle of pregnancy is.

But, what if the person complaining is an infertile who has spent years trying to get pregnant and is now pregnant?  Talk about a hornets nest. 

On the one hand, there is the argument that these ladies have fought through enough crap that they have earned this Rite of Passage, perhaps above all other Rites.  How many times have they had to endure other women complain? How many times have they had grit their teeth from not saying something incredibly hurtful (but really satisfying) to the lady in the next cube yaking about yakking? They went through all of this to get pregnant, and they are going to get the full experience that they paid for. 

On the other hand, are those other ladies who still are not pregnant or who have experienced loss.  Regardless of who is doing the complaining, I bet there is at least one amongst the infertile ladies who still thinks, “I would kill just to have one minute of morning sickness or I would give anything to have fat ankles if it meant I had a baby growing inside of me.”  But now the person doing the complaining is not a clueless fertile myrtle friend (who, I’m afraid can be easily dismissed on this basis) but someone who has been through countless procedures, experienced disappointment after disappointment to get to this moment.  

So, here’s the question: should the Commandment apply to any woman who is pregnant – regardless of the road that she took to get there – or should it be limited to those who have no clue how difficult even getting knocked up can be? 

Tough question. I have excused myself from having to answer so don’t expect any wisdom out of me on this one.  First, I’m tuckered from writing the post and second I want to start a debate, not preach from a pulpit (which as an Atheist would be exceedingly difficult for me to do anyway). 

So, dear Reader, speak up!

image:  Articulate Matter

13 thoughts on “Open to Debate

  1. It is a tough question. Pregnancy is not all sunshine & rainbows, & you’re bound to feel crappy sometimes. I know plenty of women who have been pregnant after infertility & loss who feel guilty about making any kind of complaint — after all, isn’t this what they have wanted for so very long?

    But, I’ll admit, I probably do hold women who have been through loss & infertility to a higher standard than people who get pregnant easily. You expect some sensitivity from someone who has previously been in the trenches alongside of you. If you’re going to complain, it’s probably wise to keep your audience in mind. Even just to make some sort of qualifying comment, like “I know I really shouldn’t complain, but…” would likely help take the edge off for the infertile listener.

    I have a few friends who have had losses &/or infertility problems, had or adopted subsequent children, & lapsed into making those dumb comments that parents make. It makes me cringe. Frankly, I expect better from them.

    One friend in particular used to talk about her adopted daughter & how she was wearing her out, rolling her eyes, even ask us if we wanted to take her for a week (!!) — AT OUR PREGNANCY LOSS SUPPORT GROUP MEETINGS!! Dh & I couldn’t believe it. Hello, do you remember who you’re talking to?? (She’s still prone to making comments like that to dh & me, but thankfully does not attend group anymore.)

  2. Oh yikes! I just read The Baby Chase’s post & I am appalled. You have to wonder about people sometimes.

    That being said, I am a complainer. I cannot help myself. I must tell the world exactly how I feel (tired, irritated, bloated, elated, constipated) at any given moment. Most of my complaints were not of the “I have fat ankles” variety during pregnancy. They were of the “I cannot walk because my hips are so out of wack that every step is painful & I’m sleeping sitting up because laying flat is an exercise in torture” variety.

    That being said, I was also very aware of how blessed I was to be not only carrying , but carrying full term. I had a friend who’s babies all came painfully early who wished she’d reach the point of “Please induce me now before I snap.”

    I think in general, people do not see past the ends of their own noses. Especially pregnant people. It becomes all consuming (as I can well imagine infertility does but in a completely different way).

    That being said, I’d like to think I’d never sit with a friend I knew was struggling with infertility and air my woes about pregnancy in that “woe is me, my life is so hard” way. And to have a nurse be that insensitive is mind boggling!

    People can just be thoughtless sometimes.

  3. wow hard question, I think it all depends. On a blog, it’s their blog, they can do as they please, complain about being pregnant all they want (especially if their are complications etc.).
    Otherwise…. who knows.
    I’m also in the “I would give my left toe to feel what you feel b**ch” category because I will never ever ever be pregnant.

  4. Yeah, I read that post too and just about fell off my chair. The insensitivity of people amazes me (I just wrote a similar post two days ago).

    You know, I do think that even the most sensitive infertile can wake up (on the other side) and become just as much a blubbering idiot as those who haven’t a clue.

    Personally, it grates on me either way. But coming from an infertile, it sort of makes my head spin. In fact, it really gets me a bit angry.

    Maybe because I’ve been on both sides. If I ever get pregnant again, I can guarantee I’ll tip toe very lightly on the complaining, and thank my lucky stars every. single. day. to be in that position.

  5. Hmmm… It’s really hard for me to make a call without thinking about specific situations I’ve encountered, and without the caveat that I have a very specific reaction to pregnancy, namely I couldn’t care less about the preg experience–it’s been all dolled up and mythified imho–but I very much long to be a mother to a biological child. So for me, pregnancy is a necessary evil of sorts. (sorry, I know other women feel very differently about this, and perhaps I will, too, someday.)

    That said, I can think of times when complaining is very frivolous–i.e. when it is more about a woman’s vanity or inability to deal honestly with her condition (you will likely feel sick, bloated, tired, etc. when pregnant)–and when it comes from profound physical suffering.

    I know of one recently pregnant IF comrade who’s been through hell with intense, soul-sucking, health-threatening nausea. Her complaints struck me as legit, because hell, I’d be crying out, too, in that situation. Many women–ferts or inferts–have terrible pregnancies and can’t deny it.

    It’s hard, however, to always keep your compassion at the ready, especially if the symptoms of pregnancy are linked to an eventual tragic loss. The visceral pain of that association would likely override any intention to put yourself in your IF buddy’s shoes, I’d imagine. So I feel the pain on both sides.

    I guess the etiquette–rules meant to prevent unnecessary discomfort even if they discourage honesty–should be to avoid complaining except in the direst need, and then give potentially sensitive listeners full warning so that they can withdraw/click away/take careful aim… Seriously, though. Everyone deserves a tactful preface to a litany of pregnancy bitching.

    Good question, Mrs. X!

  6. I think those who have gone down infertility road should show more sensitivity and watch what they say to whom. If they want to blog about their complaints about pregnancy, I think that’s perfectly normal. If you don’t want to read it, you can always click away. I know one blogger that thankfully always warns you up front if there are going to be pictures of ultrasounds or whatever. (I’m not on the ttc train anymore so it doesn’t really bug me anymore.) But if I hear any woman complain about her pregnant state in my earshot, they shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t want to hang out with them anymore. PARTICULARLY if they’ve suffered infertility.

    And a pox on nurses or staff who work in RE offices who make dumbass comments. That’s simply unprofessional.

  7. I’m going to say complain if you want, but be careful who you’re doing it to. I mean were I so lucky I’d certainly not be bitching about my pregnancy on a blog where so many great women helped me through the crap stuff, and where a lot of them are still in the trenches. You know come to think of it, yeah pregnancy is hard but that’s what I’m fighting for, the sick, the crap and he ugly. I also think there’s a difference between the I’m so sick I’m worried about my health, vs the oh I hate being pregnant I can’t wear hot pants. I complain a lot, but on this issue I’d have to go to my suck it up camp.

  8. This is such a good, tough question. I have felt completely guilty for complaining on my blog, but people kept telling me that it is okay to complain. I’ve earned that right and it in no way means that I am ungrateful for where I am today. Of course, this is on a blog and if someone is offended, they don’t have to read. It is my space to speak my mind and I am generally not the quiet type. I usually say what I think (sometimes to my own detriment).

    In person, well that is a different story. I am very cognizant of who I’m talking to and if I know they had no issues getting pregnant, I’ll complain away. If I don’t know the person that well, I usually won’t say anything at all unless they ask how I’m feeling. At that point I’ll be honest because they asked and I’m not going to lie.

    If it is a fellow infertile, I will try not to complain at all, but they are usually even more empathetic knowing what you’ve been through and sometimes you still need support. It is a little difficult when our Colo group has meet-ups now because some of us are pregnant, some are still in the trenches and some are on the other side. The last time we met, I was having a really hard time and these group of women are possibly the only ones who understand that my complaining is in no way ungrateful. In fact, sometimes I think it is harder to deal with the pregnancy uncomfortableness after going through IF because you are also worried. Constantly. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. And you wonder why it has to be so hard, when it was so hard just to get to that point.

  9. I am similar to Shinejil in that pregnancy to me is more a necessary evil to have my own child. Even more so now that I’ve come across so many difficulties when I actually got pregnant and losing them that I don’t romanticize that experience. But, I do believe that as an infertile I am very very aware of sensitivity after being told so many stupid things at this point. So I would like to think that if I were pregnant (even though I won’t be since I am using a surrogate) that I would only complain to other people I know who are mothers, NOT to anyone I know still struggle with IF. It’s just unfair to bitch about all these fertile people while being infertile and then become one of them once you reach the other side. However, I make a distinction between complaining about stress and complaining about the physical discomfort of pregnancy. If a post-infertile is stressed about their pregnancy (losing it, something going wrong, constant testing) I would certainly understand since how could any of us not be super stressed out after the mess of IF. But if they are complaining about their ankles being fat, then I would tell them to talk to other pregnant people or mothers.

  10. For me, there is a big difference between blogging about these things (because that gives me the choice to read or not) and complaining in person.

    Most of my pregnant friends have been sensitive to my situation and try not to complain too much (or qualify it by saying “but it’s all for a good cause” or something like that). It’s not a conversation that I particularly enjoy, but I know it’s part of the process….

  11. This is a question I’ve thought about a lot recently. As a secondary infertile, I already felt like a bit of an impostor any time I complained about my infertility, because I was always aware that at least I had one child. Add in an actual, seemingly viable, pregnancy, and I kind of feel like I’ve lost any right to complain.

    I find myself avoiding talking about my pregnancy with other infertiles. And since the only other infertiles I know are in the computer, it means there’s a lot of stuff I don’t say on my blog that I would totally have mentioned if I’d been blogging while pregnant with my daughter. For now, I choose to try not to alienate my (few) readers, even if it means a little self-censorship.

    In real life, pretty much everyone I know is disgustingly fertile. And even with them, I’m careful what I say. My girlfriends in particular have seen me have emotional breakdowns about the infertility thing, so I kind of feel I’ve used up my quota of complaining. So even of someone asks me how I’m feeling, I’ll couple any admission of “like dog food” with an enthusiastic “but hey! It’s better than the alternative!”

    With an IRL infertile friend (if I had any), I’d just keep my darn mouth shut. Not need to pour salt into those particular wounds.

  12. I think that it’s a really tricky issue. On the one hand, it’s your blog and you should feel able to write about whatever you want… on the other hand, you should perhaps take into account the feelings of your readers, many of whom have supported you up to this point and who may still be struggling with infertility themselves (I am of course using ‘you should’ in the sense that ‘one should’, and not ‘you personally should’, dear Mrs X).

    There’s also different types of complaining – there are some women out there who seem to get selective amnesia along with their BFP. They appear to forget what they had to go through to get to that point, or that there are others out there still in the trenches, and expect everyone to sympathise while they complain about their fat ankles/morning sickness. I do find it difficult to carry on reading blogs like these (although I have noticed that they also seem to stop reading and commenting on my own blog). But there are also women who struggle with what it means to be pregnant after IF, who are terrified that they may lose the baby etc, etc. I think that this latter group should feel free to explore those anxieties, and to know that they will be supported by others in our community.

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