Friday, October 28, 2011

A Reply...

I received a comment on my 'Insensitive' post that I thought deserved a reply. I didn't have a way to reply to the poster specifically, so in hopes that she is reading- Amy, here is your reply! I hope you don't feel like I'm calling you out in anyway- I think your thoughts were well written and I can understand where you're coming from. I just feel like it is really important for me to put out there the feelings that so many of us face.

Amy writes (in black):
That's the thing though--some people really ARE clueless regarding what to say in those types of situations. It may have been insensitive, but it doesn't sound like she was purposely trying to be that way. (Agreed)

Like an earlier commenter said, I think trying to relate in some way is a natural human reaction. She probably doesn't know what to say but wanted to make you feel like you were not alone.The issue I have with this is, when does comparing situations EVER may anyone feel better? And for the record, I was alone, I was the only one who could go through that miscarriage, no one else was going to do it for me. I had to do it. Me. Alone. 

As for the adoption question, maybe she really was sincerely asking? I think most of the time, people who ask that aren't saying it like "OMG here is the greatest idea you've never thought of!" I think people are generally interested in if that's something you've considered. It might come across as insensitive, but I don't think it's inherently meant to be so. Bottom line, it came too soon after the most heartbreaking loss we'd ever experienced. There is a time and place for everything- days after losing your baby is not the time to be asked about adoption. No one wants to think about another baby when they are still grieving the one they just lost.

Having never dealt with a situation such as yours, I find my typical response to this type of tragic event is "I'm so sorry." Is that wrong? Should I be saying something else? No, you are absolutely right to say you're sorry, and honestly I think that is a good place to leave it. You can tell a person you're there for them, and offer a meal or a shoulder if they are ready, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not tell them about your neighbor's sister's brother-in-law who it all worked out for- it is not the time. And no matter what works for someone else, it isn't going to change their situation. I tell people all the time, the best thing you can do for some who is suffering is meet them in the 'suck.' Don't try to dig them out of their pit of despair. Meet them there- be present. 

I can't say that I wouldn't have thought to ask the very same questions she did--I think those types of questions are a natural reaction when you find out someone is having trouble conceiving. Maybe she honestly just wanted to know more about your situation and that's why she asked about adoption? Maybe she's secretly struggling herself & wanted to know what your thought process was? Again, timing is everything. Can we agree that if you just heard about someone's kidney cancer you wouldn't likely just say to them- well there's always donor kidneys. Sure you might eventually ask if that is a possibility, but hopefully in that moment you would just meet them in their heartache and not start throwing out 'fixes' right away. 

This is going to sound like a huge generalization, but in my experience, it seems like people who struggle with infertility expect everyone else to immediately know how they should act, speak, and think about the situation. And as someone on the other side of that, that's not the case. Often, I see posts discussing how stupid "fertiles" are and bemoaning people who celebrate their pregnancies in natural, normal ways, and what jerks they are for doing so. The truth is, I DON'T know what to say. I DON'T know how to act. But I strive to be sensitive and understanding. I don't know that the infertile community thinks everyone should just know how to act around someone who is struggling, but I do think as a whole we expect people to at the very least think before they speak. Telling us that you'd gladly give us one of your children- not helpful. Telling us that we're "lucky" we are able to sleep in because we don't have kids- not helpful. Again, but being present as a friend/sister is the most comforting thing you can do. Google is a great resource- don't expect your friends or family who are going though IVF or the like, to explain the entire process to you. Knowledge is power, and it will feel great to the person that you're supporting if you've taken the initiative to find out what they are going though.  

And yet, I still think if you are able to get pregnant, with the help of drugs or not, you deserve to celebrate that whole-heartedly. Absolutely! 

I think sometimes that understanding and sensitivity that's wanted by people struggling with infertility could go both ways.  I have to say, I think it does. Though I often vent about 'fertiles' on my personal blog as I would in a journal- more often than not I just allow the words and actions of others to just roll off my back. I get that there is absolutely NO WAY to understand the heartache if you've never been there. More importantly, people who are dealing with infertility are suffering from a DISEASE and grieving the loss of many things in the process. Theses individuals are likely not concerned about how THEIR infertility is making OTHERS feel.

I've posted this link before- and I'm posting it again because I think it is perfectly written. 


House of Duffy said...

Very well said W&W!

Amy said...

Thank you so much for responding to me! I totally did not feel like you were calling me out because I think you knew my questions and response come from a heartfelt place, in that I really don't know how to say or act but you laid out a lot of great points I haven't thought of--specifically, the kidney disease analogy really was a great way to put it. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Thank you so much--I really do want to relate to infertility more because I feel like it's really not talked about or supported like other causes are, at least in the mainstream. I know lots of people go through it but it doesn't seem as widely talked about. Thank you for linking to the other blog article, I bookmarked it for future reference.

Seriously, I appreciate this so much and I hope you weren't offended in any way by my original comment. I really am very sincere in wanting to know what to say or how to act. I have been reading your blog for a long time and I think you have such incredible strength.

Thank you.

Jessica said...

Unfortunately I think that often times when people are trying to console you it turns out being about them wanting to feel comfortable. (Without them even knowing it)
People should simply think before they speak and know, am I really saying this to comfort them or to make myself not feel so uncomfortable. If you don’t know what to say I agree I’m sorry is all you need to say.
Maybe this is a bad comparison but I just gave it to my mother in law when she once again told me “you know there are options.” I really got upset and told her “I know better than any of you that there are OPTIONS (if that what were calling it) having my own biological child does not feel like an OPTION so please stop treating it like one! I asked her when she decided to have Nick my husband did you sit down and say what are our OPTIONS? Of course her response was no. She got a little defensive and told me well I don’t know what to tell you. I told her I don’t “need” her to say anything there is nothing anyone can say to make this different. All I ask is to understand that this is hard.
I think people need to treat this like what it is a “Disease.” Don’t try to make it better because you can’t. Just like any other disease/illness there is nothing you can do personally to make it go away but you can be there for them and sometimes that means saying nothing at all.

Sorry for the long comment I got carried away!

E and R said...

I think you are right in your response - saying "I'm sorry and I'm here for you" is about all that is needed in most situations. ESPECIALLY when it is A) currently happening as it was in your case or B) you/the person going through whatever it is has just found out about the situation. When/if someone wants to talk about it, they will - until then advice is generally not the best way to start off. I agree that the instinct is to try and "fix" it, but I don't think that this is the best way to approach most situations and I think it just causes hurt feelings in the long run.
I guess it comes down to this: If you don't know what to say to someone, don't say anything other than I am sorry you are going through this. And then save the commentary for later.

vicki said...

It seems to me that you might have some underlying "issues" with your SIL that contributd to your reaction to her response. To be honest, I would've probably responded in a similar fashion with a friend or family member. For me, with empathy as my #1 strength (from Strengthfinders, sorry to bring work into it, but it has made me realize why I respond a certain way) it's in my nature to try to make others feel better by relating and sometimes asking questions that they perceive as inappropriate. But the bottom line is, my intent is always pure and it's unfortunate when the message is conveyed as insensative and the opposite of my goal. So long story short, I don't think she meant any ill will (from you story alone) but could probably use some education from you on how YOU would like her support. Everyone responds differently and I can't imagine that all "infertile" women in situations like yours would react the same. I hope that you don't find this comment as rude or insensative, I just wanted to offer another perspective.

infertile-thoughts said...

Great post. I'm really glad you addressed this issue. I am also really glad Amy posted a comment like this to give us a "fertile" point of view(at least I gather that she is fertile from her post), though I disagree with some of it. Thanks for making me think about this :)

waiting and wishing said...

Cliff notes to this post, which I think some people are missing....

Bottom line if you don't take away a single other detail, take these-

1. Timing is everything.
2. Think before you speak.
3. Sorry is enough, don't feel like you need to go deeper. More often than not, it is what you don't say that is more comforting that what you do.

Nichole said...

I agree with Jessica. I think people that make hurtful comments are socially awkward or just ignorant of the situation. HOWEVER, it doesn't make it sting any less. Unfortunately, we can't change anyone, but we can choose how to respond to them. I give people a couple chances and then drop the hammer... Maybe not the nicest approach, but I'm sick of biting my tongue and seething in silence.