Terrible things people have said to me

I have refrained from writing a post about the terrible things people have said to me mostly because I’m not sure how healthy it is to rant. But so many barbs have accumulated in my side that I’m going to try writing about them and see if it helps me in some way. Sometimes I laugh at this stuff. More often, I feel a sense of anger and injustice. Maybe writing it all out will help me move on.

**

WOW you are really f*cked up!!!!!!

Today, I contacted several psychotherapists in LI via email, describing my situation, my pregnancy losses, and that I’d like to begin therapy. One therapist wrote back immediately: “Hi, WOW so many losses!!!!!!” 

“WOW so many losses !!!!!!” ???

From a psychotherapist?

If I’d had advanced stage cancer, would she have written: “WOW that’s a LOT of cancer!!!!!!”

She is a social worker, and I am dumfounded by her ignorance and insensitivity—especially since she lists infertility as one of her specialties! I had been feeling pretty good today until I got her message and felt like a complete infertility freak, defined by my extraordinary, astonishing, jaw-droppingly unusual number of losses, so many that they require six exclamation points.

**

I hope you don’t have 8 babies

This from my smart, kind, educated friend, in response to my telling her that we are going to try IVF.

These tabloid-headline words from her, even after I explained to her what my fertility issue is, and the prognosis from Dr. Schoolcraft (at best, we will have one normal embryo to transfer). I tried to explain to her that no doctor would transfer 8 embryos, but she still didn’t seem to get it. “Well, you just hear of these cases of women having eight babies,” she said, her voice trailing off, and I realized that she was concerned for me—but she must also think I am so desperate to have a baby that I would allow something so irresponsible and dangerous to happen (as if such a thing would ever be possible for me). I wish I had never told her what we were doing. I’d like to undo that conversation, and preserve my good feelings toward her.

**

Just eat more yams!

A woman, after hearing of my five losses, said, totally serious: “You know what you need to do? Yams. Eat more yams. I had a friend who couldn’t hold a pregnancy, and she ate yams, and now she has a nineteen-year-old.”

What’s infuriating about comments like these is that they imply that silly me has, throughout the past year and a half of losses and fertility treatments and countless hours of research, overlooked the simple cure right under my nose: yams. And that this person actually believes that if I go home and eat buckets of yams from now on, I will become a happy mom.

Don’t people realize that I am the expert on my situation, not them? That I have taken every test under the sun, researched every avenue that exists, and changed my lifestyle and diet in countless ways? Don’t they see that their ridiculous suggestion implies a judgement of me—that I have not done enough? How can anyone think yams alone will be my miracle cure, after five losses? And when they make these suggestions, they are not doing it for me, they are doing it for them–it makes them feel better to make suggestions; they don’t have to deal with the severity of my situation, they can avoid my pain and make themselves feel better by saying “You should do this, you should do that, you should, you  should…”

Another woman told me I should stop eating butter. It amazes me.

What is also frustrating is that dietary changes can be helpful in treating hormonal imbalances—and my hormones are in balance and normal levels! Even after I try to explain to people that my problem is not hormonal but has to do with egg quality—and we are born with all of the eggs we’re ever going to have and I can’t possibly turn back the clock on the rate at which my eggs have deteriorated up to this point, though I wish I could—they still don’t seem to get the distinction and go on to give me more half-baked suggestions, as if they are the expert.

**

Oh don’t worry about it—think about climate change and overpopulation. Just adopt!

I was having dinner at a friend’s house, someone I hadn’t seen in a while. I ended up drinking too much wine and telling her everything that had befallen me. She said that she was sorry for what I had gone through, but “think about climate change and overpopulation. Just adopt!”

Because I have had miscarriages, I am suddenly supposed to become numb to the strongest desire I’ve ever had in my life—the strongest instinct in the animal kingdom, to reproduce—and become, instead, anti-climate change and anti-overpopulation? Turn off all that messy desire and turn it into a political platform?

When she sees a pregnant woman on the street, does she think to herself: “What about climate change and our natural resources?” Would she ever dare turn that woman’s motherly impulses toward a political stance? Why am I different—because I’ve had traumatic loss? It doesn’t make sense. It is cold and unthinking.

And also—just run on down to the infant-and-toddler pound and pick you up a kid, just like picking up a dog at the dog pound—because didn’t you know that it’s that easy to get a kid? Just adopt!

“No, I’ve never researched adoption myself, but I know someone who adopted a child, and I don’t think it was that hard for them”—these were her exact words. “Or what about getting an inner-city black kid? Are you saying that’s hard, too?”

Another highly educated woman. I haven’t spoken to her since.

**

“I’m sorry you’re having a hard time. What about adoption? Have you researched that at all?”

This was a friend’s response to my reporting the second or third loss, I can’t recall now which. She has no ability to even utter the scary word “miscarriage.” Only the vague: “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time.” Wow. Like I’m having a hard time growing out my bangs or getting enough sleep. And then, of course, the leap to adoption—no room, no time, for the pain of your loss. Let’s move on, come on–haven’t you researched adoption at all?  

I wrote back to tell her that we had, actually, gone to a day-long adoption conference. And then I didn’t write to her for a long time.

**

Women who want to become pregnant and nurture their infants are not judged for having these desires—-IF they are able to fulfill them.

But women who desire the same basic things are judged for having those desires—if they CAN’T fulfill them.

The message is: Oh, just forget about this  extremely strong biological and culturally reinforced desire you have had forever and suddenly start thinking about things in a totally different way—climate change! Adoption!

**

I’m surprised there aren’t more baby-snatchings

After my first miscarriage, I was talking to one of my best friends about how common miscarriage is. After relating a lot of what I’d researched to her, she said, “Wow, with infertility being such a problem, I’m surprised there aren’t more baby-snatchings.”

I don’t remember how I reacted at the time.

But now I want to say to her: “Women who experience infertility don’t become criminally insane and desperate to the point of sociopathy. What a dehumanizing comment!”

She became pregnant soon thereafter. I haven’t spoken to her in quite some time.

**

I bet you wish you hadn’t been so good at natural birth control all those years

I can’t write who said this, because it pains me too much.

**

Maybe you’re having problems conceiving because you once lived in a cabin in the woods

DH’s mother said this to me.

We were at dinner in Florida, me, DH, and his mom. We were talking about our losses (four, at the time) and what we hoped was in the future: IVF.

When we’d told her about the second pregnancy loss, many months previously, she had been emotionally supportive in a huge way, because she was thrilled that I could get pregnant—and she’d been worried about that, because of my age. Now that she knew I  could, she’d determined that it was only a matter of time before it happened successfully.

But after the third loss, and the fourth, she grew distant and less supportive. She eventually started signing her emails “DH’s mom,” and advised me to write to my own mom more often.

By the time we’d made it to that restaurant table in Florida, I had an understanding of where she was coming from. These situations bring out the best and the worst in people. Unfortunately, I have seen the worst of her, and I’m not sure if I can ever un-see it.

I’d told her, earlier that weekend, that I lived in a log cabin in the woods in the Midwest back in the late 90s. It’s something I’m quite proud of—I was in AmeriCorp; I kept a huge vegetable garden; I chopped wood for the wood stove, that sort of thing. I had electricity and running water and was not exactly roughing it. But I guess she had gotten it into her mind that living in a cabin in the woods must have been hard on my body, and she said, “Maybe that’s why you are having miscarriages now.”

“I feel judged,” I told her. “I am not having miscarriages because of past bad behaviors.” And with that I got up from the table and disappeared for 20 minutes.

She agreed to help us finance IVF, and we were of course very grateful. Even after this horrible comment and others she’d made, I hugged her and thanked her profusely. But about a week later, we received an email saying that although she is helping us financially, the money is not a gift, “because a gift is something you give willingly. And I wish neither of you had put me in this position.” There were more hurtful words about her nightmares of me having a baby with birth defects, but I don’t think I can stomach relating all that here.

**

Okay, that’s enough for now. Do I feel better, having purged all this? I’m not sure. But I do hope that if there are women out there feeling isolated by people’s outrageous insensitivity, they will feel a little less alone, reading my litany.

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2 Comments

  1. E

     /  January 9, 2014

    I know this is a really old post, and I just stumbled onto your blog yesterday, but I”m so glad that you vented all these comments. I’ve had 2 failed IVFs, and have never told anyone we were even trying–even close friends–and now I know I never will. I’ll willingly forgo the possible social support in order to skip hearing these kinds of comments. I had one frenemy say about my mom’s sudden death at age 60 “everything happens for a reason!” The stupid things people say about OTHER people’s life tragedies makes me cringe, but they also fortify my decision to never disclose my IF to anyone.

    Reply
    • Everything happens for reason—-arrrggh. Incredible. Yes, this post is old, but it is still true, and these comments that happened have probably led to more self-protection than I’m even aware of. It sounds like you have found the path that is right for you! I hope it brings you peace. It’s okay to have secrets, after all. We don’t have to broadcast everything. (I have only shared this blog with a few very safe people I know; to the rest of my readers I’m anonymous.)

      Reply

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