Contagious?

There are many stigma’s attached to admitting that you’re infertile.  But for me I think the worst stigma is the one where people think that you’re contagious and they avoid you for fear of catching it from you.

Initially we were very quiet about the fact that we were trying to conceive.  We only told those closest to us – that being my Mom and sister and my two closest friends.  But as the time went by and we realised just how big a challenge conceiving was becoming, we started being more open about our journey.  We started trying before any of our friends did, in fact we started about a year ahead of everyone else.  And now we’re the only couple in our circle of “fertile” friends to still be trying for baby # 1.  Of all the couples we hung out with at the beginning of our journey, we’re the only childless ones. 

As we’ve graduated from clomid, to AI’s to IUI’s to IVF we’ve told these people about our journey.  We’ve shared what we’ve been through and when people ask we like to think that through us they’re learning about something that they would never have imagined.  This openess definitley has a downside.  I’ve seen many a pitiful look in their eyes when we talk about it.  I’ve seen them take (sometimes physical) small almost imperceptible steps back from us – just in case they catch it.  Just in case by hanging out with us they also battle for their next baby.

I’ve seen this in the cyber world too.  You reconnect with someone on Facebook.  They ask if you have kids.  You say no and add glibly “unless you count my dogs of coursem, they’re my kids for now” (Word for the non wise – this is code for I’m battling to have human kids… at least it is 9 times out of 10, trust me).  They comment on how long you’ve been married and ask why not.  You tell them the truth.  And poof just like that, the reconnecting becomes a quick disconnection again.  Cos they do not want to be tarnished with the anguish of infertility.

How sometimes people actually state how they’re so happy that they aren’t like you.  That it was easy for them to have their two children.  How they would hate to not be able to have kids (with a look of abject disgust pity on their faces at the thought).  How they look at each other and think secretly “Thank God its them and not us”.  How when you talk about child rearing you get told “what do you know, you don’t have any kids anyway”.

And while I know that many of these people do not know how to deal with the reality of infertility, while I know that they say glib things to hide how uncomfortable we make them feel, while I know that they mean well when they offer platitudes cos it’s all they know how, I have to wonder if just a teeny part of them wonders if we could infect them with our “disease”.

And if it’s this fear that keeps them from having us over to their homes as often as they used to.  If it’s this fear that makes them ask other friends about our journey behind our backs.  As if asking us directly could make them like us.

Sometimes I just wonder if it’s me that’s pulled back from them cos we are in different places in our lives?  Or if it *is* as my mind see’s it and that its them who have pulled back cos they pity us and see us as contagious.

I wonder.  All the time.

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18 thoughts on “Contagious?

  1. Wow, beautiful post…I have felt that I have alienated people, for sure–and its hard to feel like you cant explain to people the pain, but needing them to be supportive at the same time. Thats why I am SO thankful for this blog community!

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  2. I think sometimes they just don’t know what to say. And instead of being a friend, they just ignore you. It’s crazy isn’t it!

    It makes me so thankful to have blogger friends who get it!

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  3. Absolutely love this post. My experience is that both sides pull back a little. I pull back because I can’t bear to be around the fertiles and their dozens of kids and the insensitive remarks. They pull back because they don’t know what to say, and I think also that they secretly think, “Thank G-D, it’s not us.”

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  4. infertility teaches us who our real friends are, from both sides. there are those that ran years ago because they could not deal with the pain. some we ran from because their way of dealing with the pain was so hurtful. then there are those friends who have gotten in the trenches and fought this right along with us. those are the people who i could not have lived without, those are the people who i know will always be with us, and those are the people who have been privileged to walk this road with us.

    ILCW

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  5. You know I think it is probably more the unknown that scares people, the not knowing what they would say, and once the novelty wears off for them, and they realise it is taking longer than they thought and is perhaps not how they thought it would be, then they pull away.

    We’ve had the same with Bianca’s leukemia.

    I’ve actually had a friend who pulled away because for most of it we coped well and she was desperately hoping I would say that each day I turn into a blubbering mess, how hard things are, how much I hate our situation and she admitted that perhaps if we were not “coping so well” she would be in more of a position to offer support. By her own admission she doesn’t read our blog and doesn’t show an interest to start. Which is actually fine by me.

    I’ve had agents turn me down for jobs because of Bianca’s leukemia (of course not saying that that is the reason, but it was fairly obvious), we’ve had most of our friends and family not staying in touch since Bianca was diagnosed even though they will all declare how supportive they are and yet, we will never hear from them. They will never send us an email with their photos and updates or anything, it is like we don’t exist. And it is tough because you are not looking for sympathy, or pity you are looking for somebody who can accept the situation, who can just treat you like they treat others. Who could be there for you just as you would be there for them. But somehow when there is a name attached “infertility” or “cancer” then that puts people off.

    Unfortunately it is a sad fact that it often takes something big and something significant, something with a name to make you realise who your real friends are, who the real supporters are who could be there for you regardless, who could look beyond the illness and see the person you are. But boy those friends who remain true are lifelong friends who will carry you, who will laugh and cry with you and they know that you will be that friend to them too.

    Although It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when people pull away like that.

    But I’m here for you (even if we’ve never met in person) and I read your blog every single day and feel that I learn so much from you.

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  6. I think it really is a combination (for me at least). I know there are times that I pull back from friends because I’m just not up for all the look-how-wonderful-my-life-is-with-kids talk.

    Several of the friends who know all we have been through have also chosen to pull away from us and even no longer ask “how we are”. I guess after this many years it is a lot to expect of people, but it still hurts.

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  7. You are so much more open than I am. If someone asked me why I didn’t have kids, that would signal that I don’t want to be their friend. That’s one time when I would rather have that conversation in person, because then I could give them a horrified look.

    I’ve gotten a lot of When questions, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a Why. The closest was the brother of a friend — the friend is one of DH’s closest and is also very close to me, but the brother I can’t stand. At a barbeque, in front of people I’d just met, he asked how long we’ve been married (11 years at that point) and then, “Don’t you want kids?” Whether or not someone wants children, that is not a conversation to have with someone you don’t know well nor is it casual barbeque chit-chat.

    Strangely DH said that the brother showed more enthusiasm and genuine happiness than almost anyone else upon learning of our pg — but I’ll still never like him.

    Happy ICLW!

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  8. I think that it’s both. I have pulled away from people and they have pulled away from me. I’ve also been happy and sad to see them go. The people around us now know MOST of our situation and must say that the are very empathetic. However, I am also intolerant when it comes to idiots, so maybe I hav scared them away! 🙂

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  9. I do think people sometimes pull back because it’s better to not say anything than to say something insensitive. And different people react differently, so what I would take offense at, you may not. It is also such a personal thing. I never knew what to say ‘how your ovaries?’ just doesn’t cut it – and now that i am in the thick of treatment, I prefer for people not to ask because really, how does one politely discuss a bicarb douche 😉

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  10. I think it’s a little of both Sam. I know I hold back from sharing too much with others and they either dont know what to say or dont want to ask incase they open a can of worms. The nature of this journey is a very lonely one. It isolates us from so much in life.

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  11. People pull away when they don’t know how to deal. I dealt with it with Mimi’s encephalocele too. It’s the big elephant in the room. No one called or emailed because it’s better to let us come to them, right?

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  12. I always thought it was just me seeing people pull back when they realized we were having problems having kids. Then again, at times find myself pulling back from those who are overly fertile as well. Their fertility in many ways reminds me of my lack of fertility.

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  13. Most pull back or say inappropriate things because they have no clue. Do you ever notice that your fertile friends stop inviting you to funtions because you don’t have kids?

    ICLW

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  14. I’m open about it too, and I think, also, they just can’t comprehend what it means. For them it was so easy. The fear of contagion must be scary for them. Great post.

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  15. Yea, a lot of my friends would comment that I had changed, or they were busy, or whatever excuse they wanted to use that day. And fine, some of it was true, as I HAD changed, but I believe like you, that sometimes it was easier for them to just stay away than deal with something that hard. The same way friends tend to fall away when other bad shit is happening in your life. You find out who your true friends are.

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  16. Totally understand your feelings…its the same way with us, except its because our 1 year old son died last year. People may as well hang garlic around their necks with the way they behave around us. I think mostly they’re just afraid of not knowing what to say or do, and being afraid of our strong emotions. But I also agree with you, that lurking somewhere in their subconcious, is the fear that maybe it will happen to them, too. Its almost like they live in these polished, shiny bubbles, and our tragedy is like a needle threatening to pop their perfect, pretty exsistence….where babies don’t die, and life is happy, and God is good. They like to believe that there’s a “reason” you’ve been handed this trial, as opposed to them (my favorite saying… “OMG, I just KNOW I couldn’t handle that, that must be why God hasn’t given me that trial!” Ummmmm, I wasn’t praying for this, honey. Its either jump off a bridge, or keep waking up every morning…not much of a choice.) And the glib sayings, oh yes, the world of angel babies has many. I posted on my blog that if it begins with “But…” or “At least…” JUST DONT SAY IT!

    Hang in there, girl. There are people who understand, even if they don’t exist in your “real life” circle of friends. *HUG*

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