22 June, 2012

Infertile weirdness

I met the new man of a friend the other night.  I knew when she first started seeing him that he wasn’t interested in meeting her friends.  I don’t know whether that was an accurate reflection of his feelings, or whether he was a bit shy or nervous.  I have a theory, but no evidence to support it, so will keep quiet about it.  Anyway, they've been seeing each other for a long time now (over a year), and this was our first opportunity to meet him officially.

It was to be a cosy evening in by the fire, getting to know each other, and catching up with my friend.  In general, he was as she had described him, and we got on fine.  At least he would engage with us, unlike her ex.  But there was an odd moment, one which I chose to ignore at the time, and just get through the evening, but one which I can't fully let go.  He raised a discussion – tell me why – about an item he had heard on National Radio about breasts.  (Yes, we stopped for the obligatory jokes about men and breasts as we tried to break the ice).  He had been surprised to learn that women’s breasts don’t “fully mature” until  (note the use of until rather than unless) they have breast-fed, and that breast-feeding reduces the woman’s risk of cancer.

Well, yes.  I knew that.  A few years ago, as studies came out trumpeting these legitimately important results, I felt more and more marginalised.  But I thought I’d come to terms with this.  There's nothing I can do about it, so these days I usually just shrug and move on.  His choice of subject gave me a twinge though, so I just said I knew that, nodded, looked at my husband, and changed the subject. 

I want to think that he was a bit nervous and was trying to find interesting topics of conversation.  I want to think that he didn’t think.  Because I know if there is one thing my friend will have told him about us, it will be that we don’t have any children.  And I strongly suspect she will have added the point that we tried to have children, but couldn’t. But you know, I have this grating feeling that it was deliberate, even pointed. I can’t imagine why, so I’m just going to say that obviously I am a bit paranoid (missing out on breast-feeding a child is one of my great regrets), and obviously I have read far too much into this. 

Infertility really screws with your mind, and potentially your friendships, even years later.


  1. Ahhhh...I can relate to this. Months ago I wrote something that someone wrote (she's TTC) and I bristled. I flared up and my self-defense mechanism went on full-force. I typed a LONG paragraph about what I thought about her text, but didn't send it yet.

    I let the email be saved and let myself calm down...only after that I reread her text and realized that I had a skewed perspective on what she wrote. I gasped and deleted the long paragraph and felt so much relief that I hadn't sent it yet!!! I feel that ever since I'm thrown into IF, I have this IF glasses on - whether I like it or not.

    Sometimes when I hear people say "It's too hard to describe" when they're sharing their mommyhood or feelings that occur concerning that (knowing that I have no kids), I just want to say, "Ditto. That's what I feel about sharing infertility with you, too."

    1. Whoops...typo...I mean I READ something that someone wrote.

  2. Wow. I really don't understand why he would bring that up, other than him just being awkward and not knowing what to talk about, like you said. I hope it's awkwardness and not a pointed jab at you.

  3. I know it's hard to not read into things, but it was possibly just him being socially awkward. First - he was talking about boobs. Second - he was talking about bearing children. Two topics about which men do not generally speak. Add to that, he hasn't wanted to meet friends - well, to me that all says social anxiety.

    However, if you got a vibe about him otherwise (some sort of sly, sneaky air about him), go with your gut. He might improve upon further acquaintance...or he'll show that he really was making a dig at you.

  4. I like that.. IF glasses. that's very accurate for me, and I'm sure it's the same for us. I TRY not to read into things, but seems it is that my "spidery senses" is very much hyperactive since finding out I can't have children.
    I don't know about you, but I have known guys who'd talk about boobs or having kids- especially in THIS state of Kentucky. :P Dont' ask, don't tell.. Although I hadn't encountered that after the surgery. many guy friends seem to stay under the radar lately. Now that you brought it up, I need to check with them, maybe I had been snappish or peevish with them, than I thought.. I don't know.
    For that guy, you said he's social awkward; might that he has no common sense, or that now that your friend told him, he coudln't get it off his mind, and he burst it out- without censoring his own mind or mouth. he's an idiot nevertheless...

  5. dear Mali,
    what an asshole!!!! It is good that I was not there. I would KILL him!

    Breastfeeding is still a touchy subject for me. It will always be, I know.

    I invite you to read my post:

    (I wrote it 2 years ago, as a guest blogger).

  6. I have found myself down that rabbit hole a few times.... a girl saying "who would actually think of doing donor eggs.. do people actually do that" - my landlord trying to offer me an egg container for the fridge... but ever thing out of his mouth was about "using eggs before they are all gone" and "you never think you'll run out of eggs till you do" and the whole room was staring at me for a response.... so many awkward moments that wouldn't occur to many, but are like words in neon, on fire, with a sub-woofer backing them to those who've lived through IF. Then on the flip side, my husband once went headlong into some reference to formula in China and changes in lactation in different cultures and no amount of kicking under the table could get him to stop-- in that case we lucked out (american meaning for him, Kiwi meaning for me) and the hostess was thrilled because it was the perfect opening for her to announce her pregnancy:) I kid you not.

    Sorry he ran headlong into one of your such topics. Breastfeeding is something I wonderful a lot about too... I am very sorry you missed out on that and what it represents to you. And had it brought up in such a weird way...

    And i hope your next dinner party is a better flavor of interesting!!!

  7. A friend of mine was recently visiting me from overseas for a bit over a week. For some reason we also started talking about breast cancer and how prevalent it is. She made the connection between not having kids or having kids later in life and what she thought of an increased numbers of breast cancer... people waiting longer to have kids. She is an older woman in her 70s and had her kids in her early 20s. On an earlier occasion we had talked about women not being able to have kids because they had put it off because of careers, etc. That was her view, not mine. I told her that most of the women I knew who were unable to have children were not able to because of premature ovarian failure, PCOS, low sperm count, early hysterectomies, simply not being lucky enough to find someone to have a family with early in life, etc., and that I actually knew of no one who had failed to have kids because they consciously put building a career first. Maybe some wanted a bit of financial stability, but not necessarily advancing up the career path til their mid 40s and then deciding they wanted a child. I'm glad I gave her that perspective. When we were talking about breast cancer, she realized she was talking to someone who didn't have children and changed the subject... or stopped the conversation by simply saying, "Well, you never know what life will bring you." I like my friend a lot. She was widowed in her 40s when her 40 something husband died of cancer so she knows that life throws you curve balls and that you have to make lemonade out of lemons all too often. Life is not perfect for most of us. All that said, it seems that having a child later in life puts you at greater risk than not have a child at all. You might have gotten a strange vibe from him, but without being there or knowing anything about him, I wouldn't guess that he meant anything about you when he initiated this conversation.

  8. Ugh, I hate that. I've had those moments too, when I genuinely ask myself if I am being paranoid or if someone is deliberately bringing something up just to see me wince.

  9. Okay - even without the whole infertility overtones - that's just a weird topic to bring up for discussion.

  10. I think it's a bit of a strange topic in any case. Maybe I'm prejudiced, but IME who have 'interesting' things to say about breastfeeding, childbirth etc etc mostly don't know what they're on about and make themselves look a bit silly and make for awkward conversations.

    I am very nosey and dying to know what your theory about his non-engagement with her friends is!

    1. me too!

      Didn't quite know what to reply to this post . . . I can see how easy it is to be a bit para, and when certain topics are laced with a new dimension, but also the sort of thing that you'd blunder into and 20 seconds later realise and shut up. Hard to know - truth being stranger than fiction half the time

  11. Definitely a strange topic for someone you just met. I mean, face it, guys love boobs and I am sure they talk about them all the time to their friends, but it seems really strange to bring the breastfeeding/cancer topic up with someone they just met. I mean, there are so many more interesting topics out there.

    I am so sorry you had to go through this on what was suppose to be an enjoyable night out.

    And yes....infertility really does screw with your mind. I seem to struggle with things people say to me all the time...wondering, exactly what they meant by it.