I have to admit that I have had this post largely written for over a year, but for
reasons that will become obvious, I’ve been a little scared to post it. Bent Not Broken
’s post about being ambushed by a work colleague with a scan video has finally prompted me to hit the big orange button, Publish.
These days, in my happily ever after No Kidding life, I
don’t have many triggers. I can watch birth scenes on TV (I’ve always been
curious about the act and process of giving birth), and
breastfeeding (even though that was a particular loss I felt) with little or no
discomfort. But scan pictures can still throw me off kilter. My only scans have
been to diagnose (or attempt to diagnose) my ectopic pregnancies, to see the
seemingly endless (at the time) problems in resolving my second ectopic
pregnancy, to show that IVF wasn’t working for me, and to diagnose my fibroids
that lead to my hysterectomy. None of these resulted in good news, or happy
memories. So I flinch whenever I see one.
I of course admit I have been scarred by my history. I’ve
recounted before my story of emailing good friends offshore to tell them of my
second ectopic. They didn't know about my first either, but I updated them at
the same time – I was responding to their Christmas/New Year message (how
joyous). I received an almost immediate response. It said, "sorry to hear
that, but hey, we're pregnant, and attached is our scan photo!" Needless
to say, I deleted the email, and never opened the attached photo. This couple
had struggled themselves with infertility, requiring IVF/ICSI to conceive, so I
could understand their excitement. But as we know, infertility doesn’t necessarily
breed sensitivity either.
It’s the same in the ALI blogosphere. Now, before I offend
anyone, I’m the first one to support those who are pregnant or parenting after
infertility in writing about their realities. Once it is clear they are
pregnant or parenting, I don’t believe they should have to put disclaimers, or
particularly censor their words. If they’re finding pregnancy or parenting
hard, then they should feel free to say so. If they are joyously happy, then
they can say that too. We have the choice of reading their posts – usually you
can see the direction a post is heading, and choose whether to continue – or
not. Self-protection for us is relatively easy.
Pictures, however, are different from text, or spoken words in a podcast, and research shows they are far more likely to elicit negative emotions. And the issue is wider than just scan photos, but these are most commonly posted. If there is a lead-in to
a post that suggests I might not want to scroll down to a visual image, or simply refers to coming images, or is hinted at in the post title, or has a photo one click away, then I very much appreciate the warning. I can then choose not to click , or simply to look away,
or even just mentally brace myself. But if a photo (scan photo, for example, or birth/baby photo, or
breastfeeding photo, or photo of a positive pregnancy test - or whatever might
be a trigger) is the first thing we see when we open a post or see a Fb update,
then there is no option but to see it. In a split second, unlike with text, we
have seen the full image, and will experience all the emotions that surround that. Likewise, in real life if we are asked if we’d
like to see baby photos or scan photos or video, or whatever, we can see what’s
coming, mostly, and choose to avoid it. But where people want it to be a
surprise (like BNB’s colleague), we have no choice, no ability to protect
ourselves, and we’re hit when we’re least expecting it.
Now, I do understand that a finally pregnant IVFer might be
thrilled to have a good news pregnancy test/scan/birth/breastfeeding experience
at last, and may want to share that with their readers. It’s become a rite of
passage that some people have desperately wanted to experience. I think many of us can relate to that.
But I have to ask, is a
photo of an ultrasound scan (for example) – especially on what, until the scan photo is posted, used to be an
infertility blog - really necessary?
I don’t really understand why people
want to share their scan photos anyway – especially if we already know they’re
pregnant. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have shared mine. After all, they don’t impart any extra knowledge – unlike birth
photos, where you can see the baby, learn if they have red hair (like my
adorable niece), or if they’ve got long limbs (like my sister), or dimples, and
start to get to know the new little human. Scan photos though, all look exactly
the same (with the exception of scans for multiples), so sharing them online with
others seems unnecessary. Wait. I acknowledge that they are of course
completely necessary and important for the parents-to-be, but probably only the
parents-to-be or okay, maybe the grandparents-to-be too. But for the rest of us,
they’re pretty irrelevant, perhaps even incomprehensible. After all, it’s not as if we require proof of their
claim that they’re pregnant! We can still be happy for them or to offer our
I know that
someone who hasn't experienced infertility might not really understand that sharing such images (or the way they share them) can be painful, and I can
choose to educate them (or not), depending on who they are and the relationship
I have with them. It is much easier to do that these days.
But that’s the thing I don’t understand here in the ALI
blogging community. People who are pregnant after infertility know, for
example, that scan photos can be painful. They know how it feels to be
side-swiped by suddenly coming across an unexpected photo. Or even if it
doesn’t affect them, they know that it can and does affect others. We all wish
we didn’t know that, that there was no reason to know that. But surely a cost –
and I would argue, a benefit – to infertility is that it can bring greater awareness and compassion into our lives, especially when we consider how our actions will affect others.
Yet despite that, some still choose to post scan photos,
arguing that they have wanted to be able to do this for so long, they should be
able to. That’s a fair enough argument. I agree, it isn’t fair that some women
and couples can, without guilt or thought, spread their happy news this way, and that it is harder for the infertile.
But, knowing what we know, do we really want to be those women? Can we, after
experiencing so much, really be those carefree people? We all know former
infertiles who seem to suffer from infertility amnesia, treating current
infertiles and those of us without children in ways that would have appalled
them even weeks/months earlier, when they were going through infertility themselves. I find it hard to
believe that they truly forget, that there is never a wee pang of guilt as they
join the insensitive parent/pregnant person club. It's a choice. And it isn't as if that is the only choice, either. There is a
thoughtful parent/pregnant person club, and - although it is unfortunately smaller - you don’t have to have experienced
infertility to be a member.
So what I find hard to accept is that some of our fellow bloggers then consciously
choose their own wishes over the pain of the people they know will be reading
their posts. It’s not done through ignorance, but rather is a decision not to care.
Does this mean I hold those who’ve been through infertility
to a higher standard? Yes, it does. And I guess that's why I'm writing this here. Because I like to think that when
we know better, we do better.