Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Making Small Talk

I've had some time to think (what a dangerous thing!) and it’s amazing to me how insensitive people can be. After all of this time and how far we have come as a society, it is more apparent everyday that we have a long way to go. Especially when it comes to infertility.

While DH and I were visiting FIL a few weeks ago, we had some unexpected visitors. FIL's best friend and his wife stopped by to say hello. We are good acquaintances; they even came to our wedding. However, we hadn't seen them since then. The men got to talking and I was talking to the wife. The FIRST thing she asked me after the traditional "hey, long time no see, how are you" was "oh, so no baby bump yet, huh?", all the while examining my abdomen for any sign of pregnancy. I was caught a little off guard and just responded with "no, not yet. In His time, I guess". To which she responded, "well, you're still young. You have plenty of time."

So, in the course of 60 seconds, she had hurled 2 careless remarks in my direction. I know that she didn't intend to hurt my feelings like she did, but it made me realize how ignorant people are when it comes to personal matters such as fertility. It brought the following issues to mind:

(1) Since when is fertility a public matter? Why is it so acceptable for people to pry into our private lives? I mean, it's not okay to ask someone how their sex life is going so why is it appropriate to ask whether or not you've conceived? Is it just the infertility demons inside of me that cause me to take these matters to heart or is it truly nobody's business but mine, my husband's, and anyone else we deem worthy? I hear so many instances of women being bombarded with questioning about their fertility and it is sad to think that something so private is paraded around like some sort of scholarship. It's like once you get pregnant, you belong to some sort of exclusive club and us infertiles are kept out until we earn some sort of pass (the BFP). It is as if infertile women are constantly screened with the “Are you or aren’t you” questions. It’s a pass/fail exam that I consistently fail, and with each “no, not yet” answer, I am shunned away from that exclusive club.

I was watching the show 'Rome' on HBO and something was brought to my attention. The women of that period were rewarded for bearing children and taking care of the home. Women were only deemed suitable for marriage by royalty if they had "proven fertility" - not virgins as some would suspect. Even in 40 B.C., infertile women were treated as lesser citizens, rendered useless, disabled or defective. Have we really not changed in over 2000 years? It's as though fertility is the end all be all to life, and without children, your life is meaningless. Certainly, it is not worthy of small talk or people would not feel so rushed to immediately ask about pregnancy. We infertiles are constantly judged by our imperfections and what we DON'T have, rather than the accomplishments we HAVE achieved.

I read another great blog on IF,
Kir's Corner, that delves into the issue of infertility coverage. I HIGHLY suggest that you take a gander at it, as we all can empathize with her – it is the common thread that links us together. Infertility is often not covered by insurance companies because it is considered to be a "life choice". Isn't pregnancy a "life choice"? Why are maternity benefits covered if having a child is a life choice? There is a certain double standard here. Also, smoking cigarettes is a life choice and yet we pay out millions upon millions of dollars for patients with smoke-induced lung cancer and COPD. Why should I be forced to pay for their life choices when mine are left out in the cold? Unfair just isn't the word for it. With millions of infertile men and women in this country, you would think we would have built more awareness. What can we do as a community to teach people about infertility? Will people show an interest in learning, even if it doesn't affect them directly?

(2) Why is age even an issue? I am 24 (will be 25 in December) and happily married to my husband (who is 28). We are financially stable, although things could always be better, and have lots of love to give to a child. At what point are we considered to be "old enough" as opposed to "so young"? It's either "you're too young to have a baby" or "what are you waiting for? You're no spring chicken." There never seems to be a happy medium. Your twenties are too young and your thirties are too old. So what is the "optimum" age to have a baby?

I mentioned before about how women are punished for putting their career first. In their 20's, they focus on getting a job and working hard to afford a certain lifestyle. Once their 30's roll around, they decide it is time to have a baby and suddenly realize there are time constraints. They learn their eggs are no longer as mature as they once were and must struggle to achieve pregnancy. Unfortunately, women are punished for wanting both a career and a baby. It is almost like a physically imposed rule that you must choose one or the other, but not both. If you try for both, you are bound to cross land and sea to get there - if you ever do get there. Women must sacrifice their career, family dreams, or even their sanity to make it and even then, we are often told we "want our cake and eat it too". Is it honestly too much to ask?

I entered the vast world of TTC in pretty much the same way that everyone else does. I expected a baby to come pretty quickly. Maybe not after a month or two, but definitey within the first six months of unprotected, regular intercourse. I thought, "I'm 23 and should be at the peak of my fertility. I should be able to walk past my hubby in the kitchen and get knocked up". If it is true that fertility declines as you age, and I'm already having issues in my early to mid 20's, what is going to happen as I get older? I am thankful that I started when I did so I can resolve the problems now and have the opportunity to have more than one child later in life, as opposed to waiting longer and only having one, if at all. Plenty of time, my ass. I may be "young", but I feel wiser than my years for being aware of these societal inconsistencies.

Some of you may be thinking, "get over it, Kristen" and that this isn't that big of a deal. Maybe a month from now, I will feel differently. But it is true that it has become part of my daily life to be more forgiving. I tell myself that "they didn't mean it" or "they didn't know what to say". I just get tired of defending myself and others suffering in the same way. I wish there was some way we could program people to be more sensitive. That way, the only inferiority complex I would have would come from within.


s day said...

of coarse we aren't thinking "get over it"..... I hate all those comments as well. I feel the same way as you and I am sure most all IF'ers do too. Keep at it!:0)

Sticky Bun said...

Yup, people just don't get it. We're all there with you. Hang in there!