"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: Are Infertile People "Oversensitive"?

I've noticed something lately. I'm not sure if it's isolated, or a trend, or what. On the one hand, I've noticed people trying to be honest and speak up about infertility, miscarriage, and child loss. On the other hand, I've noticed some of these postings and honest confessions meet a host of negativity, criticism, and accusations of "oversensitivity". "You're just sensitive" is something thrown around a lot, often in ways that simply leave a bad taste in one's mouth, and frankly, it seems to be used on the Internet a lot as a way to say, "I see your opinion, but I'm going to ignore it and keep doing this anyway."

I've definitely seen this attitude as a response to infertility. From posts noting that fake pregnancy announcements can be hurtful to addressing the church's handling of Mother's Day, for every two people that find these helpful, there seems to be at least one nay-sayer. Paraphrased comments seem to say lots of the following:
  • The world does not revolve around you.
  • You should stop being jealous and celebrate those around you.
  • Should we stop posting about birthdays because it isn't someone else's birthday.*
  • You should get off social media / not go to church if it hurts.


So, am I just oversensitive, and should I just 'get over it'? Well, the answer is YES, I'm sensitive. I don't like the term "oversensitive", as it implies that there is some kind of a scale that determines who is allowed to be upset by events, and to what degree, but I will admit to being sensitive. Sorry guys, but I am. In fact, we all are. When we go through a crisis, it affects the way we view our lives and others. Prolonged infertility is a personal crisis and a constant grieving process. There is not a moment of the day when my infertility and longing to become a mother are not somewhere in the back of my consciousness. It's ridiculous to ask me to put those feelings in a box and not be affected by them, just as it's ridiculous to ask that a person undergoing a health crisis should just "forget about it" for a while. So how should I deal with this, and how should my loved ones and my church?

Those going through infertility need to recognize their sensitivity... and be okay with it: Accepting that it's okay to be sad has been very difficult for me. It's so easy to feel guilty about it, because shouldn't I be glad about my loving husband, my wonderful house, my collection of quirky but loveable family members and friends? It's taken a long time to be understand that I can be happy about those things, but at the same time profoundly sad for something that is devastating to me. That said, it is my responsibility to manage my sensitivity. That may mean that I avoid occasions where I know I can't keep it together. It may mean doing what I can to deal with my emotions, whether that is therapy or exercise or binge-watching crappy television. I need to be the first person to take care of myself, and I also need to understand that people WILL say things that hurt, often unknowingly, and to learn how to deal with it without punching them in the face.

No, really. Try not to slap people. (Source: Here)


Those with friends who are / may be going through infertility need to recognize their friends' sensitivity... and deal with it: Why? Because that's what friends do. We've ALL got stuff we're sensitive about. It may be our parents, our bodies, our health, our food issues, our weird phobias, etc. You may think these are legitimate concerns, or you may think they're ridiculous, but if you want to be friends with that person, you accept that s/he has flaws, sensitivities, and quirks, and you decide to deal with it. Some of these sensitivities may be temporary, like a job loss, and some may be lifelong struggles. You can choose to drop your friends because they don't make enough money to have the same lifestyle as you, or you can choose to go to a restaurant where the prices are lower. (Yes, shameless Friends reference.) You can choose to have vegetarian dishes available when your non-meat eating friends come for dinner, because even if *you* have no interest in giving up meat, you value these friends enough to cater to their decisions. Likewise, you can choose to say your infertile friend can suck it up if she doesn't like your "hilarious" April fool's day prank,** or you can handle pregnancy and children with sensitivity (note that I say sensitivity, not that you stop talking about it at all). This applies in person and on social media. Like it or not, we have people on our friends list going through a myriad of personal issues, some of which we know about, and others we do not. We don't have to censor ourselves constantly, but it behooves us all to stop and think about what we post from time to time. I myself frequently think of something that sounds hilarious at the moment, only to realize a few minutes later that it's actually mean-spirited or bratty or just plain not that funny.

More than anything, I think we need to give grace to the "sensitive". You know what they say about walking a mile in someone's shoes. Who's to say that it won't be you next who has a deep personal issue that causes you to well up with tears or want to hide from the world? If we walk around with the attitude that anyone who doesn't like what we say can just suck it up, we may end up with a lot of pride, but not a lot of friends.

ETA: I'm linking this post up with Amateur Nester's Tuesday link-up. Check out her post and some other great blogs as well.


*I think this is a pretty ridiculous argument. First of all, we ALL have birthdays, whereas we are not all able to become parents. It might be John's birthday today and not mine, but at some point it will be my birthday and not John's. Also, I've never known a church to ask all people with a birthday to stand and be celebrated. It will be Mother's Day once a year, but I've yet to see Hallmark have a "Let's celebrate and love women (and men) who contribute yet are not parents" day...

**Does anyone actually think fake pregnancy announcements are hilarious? Even before infertility, I found them pretty lame. What's fun about getting people excited, and then telling them you're lying?

15 comments:

  1. Hi! I'm popping over from www.brightside-babs.tumblr.com today! I love your frankness!!!! I am sensitive too, and I've been told I'm over sensitive my whole life (I AM a middle child after all) as if this is somehow a negative character trait. I don't get hurt over everything. I just tend to see the world much differently than some. It's enabled me to love people differently and sometimes better than others. So I refuse to apologize anymore for the qualities God gave me. Infertility is awful. Period. Hugs to you and best wishes on your journey!! I'm on Twitter @brightside-babs

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Honestly, it's frustrating that people treat sensitivity like it's always a bad thing. I like to think that it also makes me kinder, and helps me empathize with others in hard situations. I tell my husband that if my lows are lower than his, maybe my highs are higher too, and that's a good thing.

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    2. Monica, everything you said was exactly what I was going to say...except that I'm the "overly sensitive" baby in the family, not the middle child.

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  2. Hello! I'm here from Amateur Nester's linkup. And I completely agree with you, we aren't being oversensitive! Infertility has been proven to be as stressful as cancer or AIDs. And when we advocate for the infertility community, we are not looking for sympathy or for others to cater to us, we are simply asking for understanding and spreading awareness. So many people are so ignorant about infertility simply because they have not lived through it, and instead of calling us oversensitive they should read our posts with empathy. Because that's really all we're asking for. And in general, I don't think being "oversensitive" is a bad thing. It just means we feel more than most people, and although it can be a blessing and a curse, I think it leads us to be more empathetic and understanding of others.

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    1. Thanks for commenting! I totally agree about the empathy. Going through the trial of infertility has made me more sensitive to others in difficult situations, no question.

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  4. Thanks for linking up. I think it's a balance. It's okay to be sensitive because we are going through TOUGH stuff! But I don't think it's good to be looking for ways to be offended. (Not saying that's what you're doing here. Just sharing my thoughts on the topic). I know I've done that many times during my lowest moments. I agree with what Jessica said about how being sensitive also makes us more empathetic.

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    1. Thanks Lisa! Yes, I agree. There are times when I *am* very sensitive. People are going to post baby bumps on Facebook and complain about their kids to me, and I can't take that personally. (I work in reception, so strangers complain to me all the time!) That's my problem. However, I think I don't give myself enough grace for the times when it truly does hurt, and I'm also tired of people assuming I should just get over my infertility.

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  5. Thanks for linking up. I think it's a balance. It's okay to be sensitive because we are going through TOUGH stuff! But I don't think it's good to be looking for ways to be offended. (Not saying that's what you're doing here. Just sharing my thoughts on the topic). I know I've done that many times during my lowest moments. I agree with what Jessica said about how being sensitive also makes us more empathetic.

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  6. I love this entry! I can't tell you how often my family says I'm too sensitive. And you can do shameless Friends references anytime you like. They make me so happy!

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    1. Thank you! I'm pretty sure there's a Friends reference applicable to any and every life situation. :)

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    2. Yes! Friends seriously covers everything. I LOVE watching the episodes where Phoebe is getting pregnant with the triplets. I had no idea how inaccurate so much of that was. It's hilarious! 2WW is 2 hours in TV life...we wish!

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    3. Hahaha, YES! And then the birth: Oh yeah, she's having triplets, but they can't find a doctor to deliver them?!

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  7. Your response to the ridiculous idea that "everything happens for a reason" made me think of these empathy cards I saw on Upworthy: http://www.upworthy.com/7-new-nontraditional-empathy-cards-that-say-what-other-cards-can-get-totally-wrong?c=ufb1

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