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

Monday, 21 September 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: Why I Don't Think We Should #StopAsking

A lot has been going on in infertility circles lately. A few months ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife are expecting a baby girl, but also noted that she had undergone several miscarriages. Last week, celebrities Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, and Gabrielle Union opened up to the media about their struggles with infertility. Tyra and Chrissy apparently discussed infertility and IVF on the program FABLife today, and though I haven't seen the segment (since I don't have cable), I hope to find a way to watch it. I am thrilled about these developments (although obviously I'm not thrilled that *anyone* had to go through this battle.) On the other hand, I have an issue with something that Tyra said. Her FB feed posted the following:

"I can’t believe that I’m talking about how all of this personally affects me Monday on my new show FABLifeShow but I hope that by sharing my story, I give someone the strength and courage that all your stories have given me. As women we shouldn’t feel ashamed or pressured to talk about plans for a family. But we shouldn't feel pressured to either. We need a space where we can really help each other – and most importantly listen to each other – because a lot of social media is about snap judgments and being well...judgy and just assuming things. The questions hurt. Why? Because you never know what someone may be going through. So you know what? Let’s ‪#‎StopAsking‬."

I wasn't sure at first why this bothered me. I mean, I completely agree that women shouldn't feel ashamed to talk about family plans. I also agree that sometimes people act like your reproductive choices are everyone's business, and they really, really, really aren't.

You know what, though, I don't think not asking is the answer either. I'm worried that the message that gets received is that we shouldn't talk about these things or bring them up. Yes, I've had experiences where people asked about our family plans, and the end result was pressure to discuss my private matters. On the other hand, I've had people ask questions which gave me the opportunity to open up in a way I hadn't been able to before. Usually the key factor in whether it's a negative or a positive interaction is context: What is the context of our relationship and what is the context of our conversation? If you're asking because you are curious or you feel like I 'ought' to be pregnant by now, chances are that the conversation will not be positive, but if you ask as my friend, I will feel safe to share my journey, and that's a good thing.

All that to say, I don't think the message should be "Stop Asking" but rather "Think Before You Ask". Think about whether you actually know this person and whether you are ready to potentially share their burdens with them. Think about whether you are asking out of a desire to be a loving friend or whether you are just merely curious. Think about whether you're in a situation where this person might feel comfortable sharing a struggle with infertility, miscarriages, or any other reason why they may not have chosen to have children yet or whether the setting is not conducive to a heart-to-heart (e.g., the person is working - happens to me all the time! - or you're at a family event with several others looking on... you get the drift). Don't be afraid, however, of bringing up something that's hard to talk about. Chances are, someone out there is longing to open up to someone who really does care.

ETA: I'm linking this post up with Amateur Nester's infertility link-up. Go check her out, as well as some other infertility bloggers.

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