A perennial issue amongst the infertile and bereaved is the issue of insensitive comments, and saying the right thing. Recently, Loribeth over on the Road LessTravelled kicked off an interesting conversation, showing that many of us have different views on the words or approaches that we find comforting or isolating. I’ve seen this too in the years I was volunteering on a message board; what worked for some people was like a red rag to a bull to others.
In the blogosphere, there is of course the issue of how to deal with pregnancy and babies after infertility. I know a lot of women don’t quite know how to navigate this in the blogosphere (or on FB etc) without offending those who aren’t in their situation, and may never be.
I have read bloggers who try not to talk too much about their children, or who are very conscious of writing about both the difficulties of having a child, and the sincere gratitude they feel. I appreciate that. These bloggers don’t want their readers who haven’t gone on to have children to ever feel that they are ungrateful, that they take their children for granted, or that they have forgotten what they went through, and what others have been through or are still going through, and how that feels. So I read bloggers emphasising how grateful they are, how aware they are of their great good fortune, even in the depths of sleep deprivation, breast feeding difficulties, tantrums, etc.
I feel three things about this. The first is that I appreciate the efforts bloggers make to ensure that their readers are as comfortable as possible. And I like the fact that they want to remind those who never faced infertility that there is a significant proportion of society who don’t have it so easy. By speaking out, and making other people aware that infertility is common, they are doing a real service.
The second is that I feel a bit sad that bloggers either feel that they can’t talk about their children, or that they need to express their gratitude so regularly. I can understand this because I have seen some people react unkindly to infertiles who become pregnant/have babies, usually reflecting the rawness and grief of the readers (who become commenters) who aren’t in a headspace to hear that having a child is nothing less than perfect, the answer to your dreams. I’m not newly grieving the family I never had, and I am very content with my life, and so I find the information about adapting to life with a child doesn’t upset me at all. Ten years ago it might have, and I probably wouldn’t be reading these blogs. Today, I find it fascinating. And in some cases, vindicating.
The fact is that we all know that having children can be tough, it’s not perfect, and it seems reasonable that a parent should be able to let off steam. I’ve never felt that there should be any onus on bloggers to negate the difficulties of pregnancy or child-rearing, simply to deal with the sensitivities (beyond the reasonable, everyday sensitivities) of those who are struggling with their infertility/losses, etc. And I feel said that they might feel they are not allowed to express frustrations, without balancing that with gratitude.
I do understand, though, that gratitude is a perfectly legitimate way to get through the tough times, and I can see how it helps to recognise your own happiness and gratitude on a regular basis.
But you see (and this is my third point), gratitude and looking on the positive side of things is also how I deal with my life now. So to constantly be reminded of others’ gratitude that they didn’t have to walk the road less travelled towards a no kidding life, that they didn’t have to live my life, that my life was (and still is) in fact their worst nightmare, reminds me that I am not “one of the lucky ones,” and it reminds me that they consider my life to be undesirable, and lacking. I know that this is not intentional. And that at the same time, it probably comforts those who are still hopeful but fearful. But it makes me feel excluded, lesser, and in fact, pitied.
And I find this frustrating because I don’t feel unlucky, and I like to focus on the positives of my own life. An analogy perhaps would be if I constantly said to my sister that I know how lucky I am to be able to travel, to have seen the world the way I have seen it, to have visited so many countries and had so many wonderful experiences. If I did this, I would simply be emphasising to her that she hasn’t had these opportunities, and how unlucky she was to have the life she has had. I know that she would hate my pity. But she’s had other things (children, for example) – our lives are simply different, not better or worse. And she is interested in my travels, so we talk about them rationally, without that emotional level. And I guess that’s how I would like to see bloggers talk about their children.
So yes, if I’m being honest, I could cope with a little less gratitude and sensitivity. Who'd have thought I would ever say that? (And throughout the ALI blogosphere I hear sighs, see eyes rolling, and hands thrown up in disgust and confusion! And I understand!) However – and I want to emphasise this - I don’t expect or ask anyone to change what they are doing.
It just goes to show really - no matter how hard you try, you can’t please all the people, all the time!