That's what if feels like sometimes, I admit: The fertiles against the infertiles, or, more likely the other way around. The fertiles are usually blissfully unaware that anyone in the universe might be having difficulty conceiving, therefore they are just as unaware that infertiles as a rule generally detest 1) pregnancy Facebook updates 2) smug pregnant women 3) baby showers 4) pity 5) themselves.
I've been thinking about this quite a bit since a friend innocently asked me recently how a person ought to respond when a woman tells them she is infertile or having trouble conceiving. Because I'd written here recently that some women at BlogHer had said to me: "I'm so sorry," when I told them I write for an infertility blog. This response completely rubbed me the wrong way, and when I thought about it later I realized their responses were not inappropriate; I'd simply developed a knee-jerk emotional reaction to pity, particularly pity from fertiles.
This realization led me to mull other classic infertility minefields -- the ones listed above -- and I've been breaking them down in my mind ever since.
Let's begin with Facebook. I follow hundreds of infertile women on Twitter, and in my assessment their number one gripe about fertiles is the Facebook updates. I understand, completely. There've been plenty of surprise updates from my "friends" on Facebook that read something like: "Sally and I are happy to announce that we're expecting a little bundle of joy in October!" Or simply an ultrasound photo. For someone who's been trying and failing to conceive for a while, these updates feel like a slap in the face. And so infertiles as a whole have come to resent them.
The deal with Facebook is that it's become a place where people overshare. You wouldn't normally tell some former coworkers and a douche you went to college with a million years ago all about your vacation to the Grand Tetons, but on Facebook it's become a no-holds-barred arena of this shit. Facebook has become, in short, extraordinarily annoying, and it's not because of the fertiles. My personal number one Facebook pet peeve is the way we all suddenly wish happy birthday to people we wouldn't normally wish happy birthday to. If it's your birthday? And I want to wish you a happy birthday? I will call or text you. Facebook is the last place I'm going to try to express anything meaningful to you. BUT THAT'S JUST ME. And that's not a completely rational thing to be irritated about. Just as it's not completely rational for infertiles to get upset about pregnancy updates. We need to accept that Facebook is a place of oversharing and then make a decision about what we're going to do about that. As I see it, here are the choices:
1) Delete Facebook.
2) See the pregnancy update, then hide all future updates from that person.
3) See all updates, seethe, eat ice cream, and move on.
I'm going to skip over the smug pregnant women point because two women made a very catchy song about that and you can just watch it on youtube for all the information you'll ever need. And I'm going to go straight to BABY SHOWERS.
Now. Here is what I demand you do if you are infertile or struggling to conceive and the idea of attending a baby shower bothers you in the slightest: DO NOT GO TO THE BABY SHOWER. For God's sake, woman!! Unless the shower is for your sister or some other close relative or a very good friend, do not go. If you do go, ensure there will be alcohol there. If there's not going to be alcohol, BRING YOUR OWN. This is very important.
Because as many of us know, baby showers are already kind of freaky, right? They have always freaked me the hell out, even before I started trying to have a kid. And when you finally decide you want to have a kid? And then you figure out you're not as fertile as you thought you were? And you attend a baby shower? It's like someone is scraping your soul out with a dull spoon. You must smile and declare all things cute and play games and you will stare at a wall and wonder if you start banging your head violently against it if anyone will notice/care. They will notice. You mustn't attend baby showers. The end.
Now to pity. What is an appropriate reaction to infertility? I am sorry -- I don't know. My preferred reaction is a facial expression that reads: I am frustrated for you and I kind of feel sorry for you. If someone said: Dude, that blows, I probably wouldn't mind that. You're just kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't in this situation. UNLESS! Unless that person has suffered a miscarriage. In which case "I'm so sorry" is more than appropriate. That person deserves all the pity afforded to a mother who's lost a child.
Last but not least, infertile women have a tendency to hate themselves. I see it every day on Twitter -- women who hate their bodies because they just won't cooperate and do what every normal body is supposed to do. They ache for babies and their damned bodies have shut the figurative door on the prospect. I wish it weren't this way. I wish I had a way a person could be happy with themselves even in the midst of trials like these. But I don't. I've been there, every month for many months. It's become rote, the knowledge that it didn't work, again, that I will try again, but without any faith of anything taking hold.
And how about the infertiles who suddenly -- miraculously! -- become pregnant? I admit I've lost interest in many of them. It's part jealousy, part sickness at reading about joy and pregnancy. Earlier today I read a post by a woman who tried for a long time to get pregnant and then, she did! It was unbelievable. All her readers were happy for her. And then she wrote a post about how sick she's felt, and how she's vomited in every public restroom on her way to work. And a reader responded:
"Boo hoo ... you pee and throw up. At least your pregnant you mindless twat. Some of us would kill to feel that way and your complaining. I guess you forgot what it's like, just like every other so called infertile who gets a BFP. Whatever."
(By the way it killed me not to correct that commenter's spelling.)
This is a standard reaction to an infertile complaining about pregnancy symptoms. Because GOD FORBID the woman not ENJOY every single fucking minute of morning sickness. The commenter says she would kill to feel that way. You wouldn't kill to feel that way, madam, you'd kill for the baby. If you suddenly got pregnant and were vomiting every day, no way would you smile as the bile shoots out of your mouth and you crouch pathetically on the bathroom floor. Give me a break.
Let's not villainize people who have "put in their time," as I'm fond of saying. People who have put in their time have tried a good long while to get pregnant; have had miscarriages; have gone through IVF; have cried over their inability to just get pregnant. Hating ourselves and each other, plus the fertiles is a recipe for disaster and an acidic uterus (I'm sure it's true!).
All these things will continue to bother me, I'm sure, but only as I consciously realize whether or not my reaction is rational or irrational. My preferred method of dealing with these things from here on out: Seethe, eat ice cream, and move on.