Guest Post – My Mom
I’ve been noticing that it seems our family members need to speak on our behalves a lot more. I envision a future where people speak up for family members dealing with infertility as much as they do for any of life’s other crisis and unexpected heartaches.
I know that eliciting support from family is not always feasible. Not everyone has a parent, parents or siblings within reach, due to death and other circumstances. And, since we have about as much of a choice of who our parents are as we do over our reproductive situations (please read: none!), some of us are dealing with more astronomical levels of crazy than others. Please know that I abide with these circumstances too.
The path to incorporating the hardship of treatments, the losses brought by infertility and the needs that arise because of them into my extended families’ reality has not been an easy one. But we all persisted and I’m glad we did. It touches on a spirit present in some of my other posts, which is that one doesn’t matter less in any given equation because they couldn’t have children easily or at all. So, with that said I’ll turn things over to Mom.
My strongest “aha” as a mother was realizing my two greatest wishes (beyond health and safety) for our children: 1) that they would never be lonely and 2) that they would have work they loved. My focus at this time is upon loneliness relative to infertility/childless not by choice.
Ironically, loneliness can eventually bring meaning to the value of togetherness. And time has taught me that it will enter most any life sooner or later. Although definitely not a stranger to grief and how it can make one feel lonely and misunderstood, it was once my routine to assume that life events like infertility happened only to OTHER people.
How wrong I was. Childless not by choice – an extreme/hard or even impossible to explain form of infertility – visited our family starting several years ago. Our daughter and son-in-law spent their life savings and untold energy on a grueling range of infertility treatments – to no avail. Void of financial and emotional resources to adopt, they have been left facing the daunting process of figuring out a life much different from what they had ever expected.
While grateful for the one grandchild we will ever have (our son’s child), I’ve hardly stopped to be sad that I will never experience Grandma time with the dear but grieving couple I’ve just introduced. Instead, I’ve become painfully aware of the thoughtless, inappropriate way our culture responds to infertility. Fortunately, we are – with varied comfort levels – increasingly aware of civil rights, sexual abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, and the rights of women, the handicapped, and LGBT. As with most difficult conversations, these have become important conversations.
By comparison, society has yet to focus on specific knowledge and etiquette regarding infertility. Most folks squirm with discomfort at the mere mention of the word. Those who do respond tend to be dismissive or resort to a narrow menu of standbys. (i.e. “Oh – you can just adopt.” Well, not if you’ve spent all your energy and savings. Or “I know someone who finally got twins after X number of IVF’s.” Be aware: there are many who walk away from fertility treatments empty handed). Meaning well, I made many such comments myself once upon a time. Now I see how mindless they were and that they really didn’t make people with infertility feel less lonely or even a bit more understood.
Early on when my grief was most raw, I was known to break my relative calm by tearing into a couple of people (i.e. one poor soul who stopped me in the grocery store and rattled off all the people in HER family who were “due” and – oh yes – those who had luck with IVF.) And I do admit that I asked the man driving the ice cream truck by our house to tone down the loud, crowd-drawing music for young customers – while within earshot of our visiting daughter when she was in the midst of treatments.
My comfort level hearing about the milestones of others’ grandchildren is now limited to longtime family and friends. I am grateful for this mostly continued interest. (But I don’t want to hear about THEIR friends’ current or pending grandchildren.) Just as parents are entitled to share good fertility news and milestones, people dealing with infertility also deserve a listening ear.
I notice and appreciate people who:
– continue to inquire about our daughter and son-in-law
– still appreciate and respect me, knowing I may present as outspoken on the reality of infertility
– manage a thoughtful question to increase their infertility awareness
Our family has every reason to be amazed at the strength and courage of our daughter and son-in-law as they work through their loss. The pain we feel for them is truly a measure of how very much we love them.