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

Friday, 28 April 2017

National Infertility Awareness Week: Listen Up!

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, when bloggers, Facebookers, Instagrammers, etc., are encouraged to share their stories and raise awareness about the issues surrounding infertility. This year's theme is "Listen Up". I really like this theme as I've been extremely slowly making my way through a book called Living the Life Unexpected by Jody Day, which helps women come to terms with the fact that they will not have children (due to various reasons). One of the things Day says is that we need to be more vocal about our stories, because the stories of the involuntarily childless are often not heard. We hear all the miracle baby stories, but no one wants to hear the ones that don't end in pink lines or successful adoptions. Our stories make people uncomfortable, but it's precisely because of that fact that they NEED to be heard. We need to normalize the fact that some infertility stories don't have a happy ending.... Or maybe it's better to say: Some infertility stories end with a new and different definition of a happy ending, because I would say that learning to live on and find joy when your biggest dream has died is still a miracle story.

Why aren't we sharing our stories? Sometimes it's because we're embarrassed or ashamed, or because we think find it awkward to talk about something so personal, but other times, it's because we tried sharing and it didn't go well. We stopped sharing because when we said we were hurting and struggling, the response was "Parenting is hard, you know." We stopped because when we were exhausted from getting up at dawn for ultrasounds and anxiety-ridden sleep, we were told, "You don't know tired until you have kids." We stopped because when we had the flu, people said, "You're lucky you don't have kids, because moms don't get sick days." We stopped because when we opened up cautiously, needing love and support, we instead got every piece of advice under the sun and were peppered with questions about our choices like we needed to prove we'd tried hard enough to deserve pity. We stopped because when we sought empathy, we got one-upmanship. We stopped sharing because it felt like no one was listening. (In case you're wondering, all of these happened to me personally, and this is far from the most hurtful comments that I have experienced.)

So how do we change this? I believe many people want to be helpful, but their discomfort with pain and loss and sorrow leads them to say and do hurtful things. I think we start by LISTENING. Most of us like to think we're good listeners. It's not like we tune out all the time, or interrupt constantly, or just walk away, right? Right? I would say that a lot of people - myself included - are not actually that good at truly listening to our friends who are going through the deep water.

We're not really listening if we're jumping in to give advice all the time, or to tell stories of someone who we know - or maybe we know OF - who overcame infertility. Our friend needs someone to hear her story and love her amidst the pain. She doesn't need to know your Great Aunt Edna's tried and true pointers on how to get pregnant. She doesn't even need your Google search results, because she probably has done eons more research than you have.

We're not really listening if we're trying to find the silver lining for someone else. She will come to a point where she can find her own joys and silver linings, but they may not be the ones that YOU would choose. When we try to find someone else's silver lining, it often feels like we're making light of her struggles.

We're not really listening if we're talking a lot, plain and simple. The book of James says we should be "quick to hear, slow to speak", and the book of Proverbs says "Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." Wise words from God's Word. It might seem like you're not doing much, but a physical presence, an impromptu card, or a "I'm so sorry" can often say what reams of well-meaning advice or miracle stories cannot. We know it's hard. We know you don't have the right words. You don't need to give me all the best words; just give me yourself.

I encourage you all: If you're infertile, feel free to be bold and share your story. We need to hear it. I need to hear it. If you're a family member or supporter take a page from Frasier Crane, call up your friend and say, "Hello Friend, I'm listening." And then just stop talking.

1 comment:

  1. Hello

    After a history of painful, heavy periods and having had an ovary removed,I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Because that my remaining fallopian tube was blocked, the only chance I and my husband had of conceiving was through IVF.
    The condition meant that fertility treatment was very painful in spite of the treatment it wasn't successful .

    "From the age of 17 or 18, I had very bad periods, but my GP seemed uninterested. At 21, I had emergency surgery for appendicitis and awoke to discover I had also had an ovary removed, due to a large cyst. Although I had a histology (examination with a microscope of tissue removed during surgery), endometriosis (a condition in which endometrial cells, which normally line the uterus, implant around the outside of the uterus and/or ovaries, causing internal bleeding, pain and reduced fertility) was not diagnosed until much later.
    With all these challenges, the possibility of getting pregnant was very difficult...I read an article of how Rahany Herbal Center, that helped a woman to conceive with the use of the herbal treatment...I contacted the address rahanyherbalcenter@yahoo.com....I ordered for the herbs and it worked. I conceived through the use of the herbs as instructed also. Contact rahanyherbalcenter@yahoo.com for help.