Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Rules

I appreciate your support and comments. Please read these rules before participating:

Don't Tell Me to Relax
By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as "infertile" until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. In fact, most infertility specialists will not treat a couple for infertility until they have tried to become pregnant for a year. This year weeds out the people who aren't infertile but just need to "relax." Those that remain are truly infertile.
Comments such as "just relax" or "try going on a cruise" create even more stress for the infertile couple, particularly the woman. The woman feels like she is doing something wrong when, in fact, there is a good chance that there is a physical problem preventing her from becoming pregnant.

Don't Minimize the Problem
Comments like, "Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . .travel . . etc.," do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain. You wouldn't tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father's Day or Mother's Day cards. Losing that one obligation doesn't even begin to compensate for the incredible loss of losing a parent. In the same vein, being able to sleep late or travel does not provide comfort to somebody who desperately wants a child.

Don't Say There Are Worse Things That Could Happen
Along the same lines, don't tell your friend that there are worse things that she could be going through. Who is the final authority on what is the "worst" thing that could happen to someone? Is it going through a divorce? Watching a loved one die? Getting raped? Losing a job?Different people react to different life experiences in different ways.
People wouldn't dream of telling someone whose parent just died, "It could be worse: both of your parents could be dead." Such a comment would be considered cruel rather than comforting. In the same vein, don't tell your friend that she could be going through worse things than infertility.

Don't Say We Aren't Meant to Be Parents
One of the cruelest things anyone could say is, "Maybe God doesn't intend for you to be a mother." How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don't you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn't he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren't religious, the "maybe it's not meant to be" comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.

Don't Ask Why We Aren't Trying IVF
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method in which the woman harvests multiple eggs, which are then combined with the man's sperm in a petri dish. This is the method that can produce multiple births. People frequently ask, "Why don't you just try IVF?" in the same casual tone they would use to ask, "Why don't you try shopping at another store?"
IVF is Expensive with Low Odds
IVF is Physically Taxing
IVF Raises Ethical Issues

Don't Offer Unsolicited Opinions If/When We Try IVF
On the flip side of the coin, don't offer unsolicited advice to your friends who do choose to try IVF. For many couples, IVF is the only way they will ever give birth to a baby. This is a huge decision for them to make, for all of the reasons outlined above.

Don't Play Doctor
Infertility is a complicated problem to diagnose, and reading an article or book on infertility will not make you an "expert" on the subject. Let your friends work with their doctor to diagnose and treat the problem. Your friends probably already know more about the causes and solutions of infertility than you will ever know.

Don't Be Crude
It is appalling that I even have to include this paragraph, but some of you need to hear this-Don't make crude jokes about your friend's vulnerable position. Crude comments like "I'll donate the sperm" or "Make sure the doctor uses your sperm for the insemination" are not funny, and they only irritate your friends.

Don't Complain About Your Pregnancy
DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY. I understand from my friends that, when you are pregnant, your hormones are going crazy and you experience a lot of discomfort, such as queasiness, stretch marks, and fatigue. You have every right to vent about the discomforts to any one else in your life, but don't put your infertile friend in the position of comforting you. The fact that she is willing to be a part of this time in your life, despite her pain, speaks volumes about how much your friendship means to her.

Don't Treat Me Like I Am Ignorant
Let's face it-no one can fully appreciate the responsibilities involved in parenting until they are, themselves, parents. That is true whether you successfully conceived after one month or after 10 years. The length of time you spend waiting for that baby does not factor in to your appreciation of responsibility. Perhaps part of what fuels this perception is that infertile couples have a longer time to "dream" about what being a parent will be like. Like every other couple, we have our fantasies-my child will sleep through the night, would never have a tantrum in public, and will always eat his vegetables. Let us have our fantasies. Those fantasies are some of the few parent-to-be perks that we have-let us have them. You can give us your knowing looks when we discover the truth later.

Don't Gossip About My Condition
Infertility treatments are very private and embarrassing, which is why many couples choose to undergo these treatments in secret. Men especially are very sensitive to letting people know about infertility testing, such as sperm counts. Gossiping about infertility is not usually done in a malicious manner. The gossipers are usually well-meaning people who are only trying to find out more about infertility so they can help their loved ones.

Don't Push Adoption, Foster Care, or any other option
The couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption/foster care decision. Before they can make the decision to love a "stranger's baby," they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy's eyes and Mommy's nose. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point. If your friend cannot love a baby that isn't her "own," then adoption isn't the right decision for her, and it is certainly not what is best for the baby.

For FAQ about my stance on various treatment options, see this blog post.

For the complete article referenced in the paragraphs above, see this posting.


Wes and Dani said...

I just have to say THANK YOU. Thank you for posting this "Rules" page! I just ran across your blog through Lindsey's blog at the R House....I have been struggling with fertility problems for the past 15 months (nothing, compared to your 6 years!! :() But I wanted to say how much I really appreciate your comments on this post. Also, it's SO nice to find another LDS infertility blog....hopefully we can be blog friends.

Best of luck to you in your oh-so-difficult endeavor.

Lots of Love,

Lyndsey said...

I would love to borrow some of these rules to post on my blog. People just don't know how much it hurts.

Danielle said...

Hi from ICLW! Okay, THIS. IS. BRILLIANT. Thank you for writing this. From now on, I'm referring everyone here, before they say one word. You're awesome! :)

Christina Banks said...

I love your rules! They are so right! I would love to borrow them for my infertility blog. Please let me know if you'll let me.

Christina Banks

TJ & Alicia said...

I wish I had the courage to post this link onto my Facebook page...if only some people would get a clue. Especially about not telling me your pregnancy "hardships"! After 3 years & 3 months I'd give almost anything to enjoy the discomforts of expecting a child.

Liz said...

I've known people who have dealt with infertility in the past. I appreciate the rules listed above as things to avoid. Do you have any suggestions on what form love and support could take? What would be most appreciated and welcomed?

RMCarter said...


In my opinion, I think it is best to just ask the person how they most want to be supported. I'm sure everyone is different. Open and honest is the way to go. Perhaps an email stating you want to be there for them, but you also want to give them space if they need it.

I wrote this:

Towards the end of the post I list the "Top Five Things to say to a person with Infertility". That might give you some ideas too.

Thanks for being such a good friend to those gals you know with infertility. Just the fact that you are willing to read about the issue and ask questions about how to support them is really awesome. :)

Ashley said...

With me, it was just ask, "How are you doing?" Not "What" but "how." You'll probably get a nod, grimace and a "fine."

Invite them to a movie. Go shopping. If they do show up to a baby shower, take them out afterward to a movie or some good old girl time. Just ask what you can do for them. Tell them they're in your thoughts and prayers. Randomly showing up at their house with cookies is always a good thing.

Just understand they're going through an on-going trial that people tend to lose interest in after a while. It doesn't go away until they have a child with their last name in their arms. Just understanding that they just need to be loved is the best you can give.

Krista said...

You took the words right out of my mouth. Can you give these rules to all of my friends and family?! Please!!!

Jen said...

I LOVE your rules. I can't imagine the good impact your blog has had! The "relax" one..I was on vacation away from my husband when I found out I was pregnant and my md said, "look, all you needed was to go on vacation and relax!" Um, sorry, but conception happened during the most stressfull time of the year - the holidays - before the vacation. I finally laugh about it but encourage others to not make that same well-meaning but hurtful statements. I will definitely be passing this blog onto some sweet friends. God bless you in your journey! :)