***Added Preface: I did not write this post because anyone has offended me personally. I'm not thinking of any particular circumstances and don't harbor any ill feelings toward anyone! Obviously, some people have said things to me in the past couple of years that have been hurtful, but I understand that they weren't trying to hurt me. People, in general, are just trying to relate to you and just looking for the right words to say. I wrote this post to give you some insight to how some particular comments might be taken, not as a jab at anyone for anything they've said or done in the past.***
I'm writing this post for the second time since it somehow got deleted by blogger last time! :(
This is a post I've been putting off for awhile. I feel like it's good information and could be useful for people, but I also know I'm treading on difficult waters. I'm always leery of giving advice on how to deal with women who are going through things like infertility and infant loss because every person deals so differently. I don't want it to sound like every person feels the same, is offended or hurt by the same things, or acts the same way. Every woman is different! Please keep that in mind while reading this!
The holidays are a fun-filled, busy, party-packed time! Ideally the holidays are joyful and jolly, but we know the reality is that the holidays can also be painful. When you're in the midst of infertility and your life is filled with month after month of "trying", the holidays are a reminder that you STILL don't have a baby in your arms. Every year you think, "maybe next year, I'll have a baby to bring to Christmas", and every year it hits hard when you don't.
I wanted to give a little advice for those of you who have women in your family or as close friends who may be experiencing the pain of infertility this Christmas. I don't want to sound harsh. I just want to be helpful. Here are some tips for handling holiday conversation...
1. Be cautious about complaining incessantly about your pregnancy or you child. Obviously we know that sometimes pregnancy is uncomfortable and that sometimes children can be difficult. There are times when your frustration is going to come out in conversation, that's natural. Be careful, though, of dominating conversation with your complaints. It's hurtful and it's hard to suppress the urge to say "I'd give anything to be nauseous or exhausted from pregnancy. I'd give anything to have an infant that won't sleep through the night. I'd give the world to have too many gifts from Santa to buy and not enough time to buy them." Just keep this in mind.
2. Don't tell us about your "feeling" about this month. What I mean is, when you've been trying to get pregnant for a long time, everyone and their mother has a "feeling" about whether or not this is the month for you. Everyone wants to chime in that they really feel like you're pregnant this month or that they feel like you'll definitely be pregnant in February, by Mother's Day, etc. I know that you're trying to give a little ray of hope, but it can be very difficult to navigate your own "feelings" without adding in everyone else's.
3. Which brings me to the next point....don't ask us how we're "feeling" about this month either. When we're pregnant and ready to tell you, we will be happy to fill you in. The holidays just aren't a great time to bring up whether or not we "feel" pregnant.
4. Don't say that you understand if you haven't experienced it. For some reason, people always want to say they understand how you feel. This can be very annoying if that person has never actually dealt with what you're dealing with. If you haven't experienced infertility, you probably don't fully understand. Familiarize yourself with the phrase "I can't even imagine". It's much more supportive and sensitive.
5. If you are in the club of women who have been there and really do understand, but now you have a baby of your own, don't be offended if we don't want to talk to you about it. This topic came up with one of my good friends recently. Although I know that the feelings of disappointment and hurt are probably still very real for you, some women feel like once you've had a baby, you're out of the "club". Some women have a hard time hearing advice from you because in the back of their mind they're thinking "yeah, well, you have a baby now and I still don't!" Personally, I've never felt this way. I actually see these women as hope for my future!
6. Be attentive and listen! Notice if your friend is quiet or withdrawn. Pay attention to the fact that she's 'just not herself'. Take a minute to let her know you notice. A quick hug will work wonders.
7. Be sensitive, but don't walk on egg shells. Don't stop talking about kids when we walk into the room. Just be empathetic and compassionate. A hug can go a long way...no words needed.
8. Finally, and most importantly, know the person!! Everyone is different. Some women are private and some are open and find talking about it therapeutic. If she keeps mentioning it, and you change the subject because it makes you uncomfortable, she probably needs someone to talk to. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a minute and let her talk! If you ask questions and her answers are brief and then she changes the subject, she doesn't want to talk. Let it go! If we start to get emotional and walk away, just give us some space for a minute. It will make the holidays much jollier!
I hope someone finds this helpful and no one finds it offensive. If you're a woman who is currently or has previously dealt with infertility, please feel free to comment and add your own suggestions. May God richly bless you this holiday season!