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Staying a Step Ahead

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a blog by Ellen Glazer, January 6, 2011

Several years ago a friend of mine lost her elderly mother. I was talking with her in the weeks following her loss and made the mistake of saying, “Well at least she had a long and good life.” We were close friends, and so my friend felt she had the freedom to react. She got angry and said to me, “Don’t say that. It doesn’t help. Her long life meant that I had her for a long time in my life, and I miss her all the more.”

It was a tough lesson, but one worth learning. In the intervening years, I have never, ever made the same mistake again. I learned that day that it offers no comfort to comment on someone’s long life except in terms of how much the grieving person must feel the loss. So what does this have to do with infertility? I think that my blog readers may find themselves in the position of my long ago friend: going through a hard time with people, who may mean well, saying foolish things.

Educate Others

Consider yourselves educators. Your job (among all the others in infertility!) is to stay a few steps ahead of your family and friends. You need to sort out for yourself what helps and what does not, and be prepared to instruct others. Of course, it is better and kinder to do it in a calm, thoughtful way than to snap like my friend did.

Here are some examples …

  • You may want to say to your friends, “Please don’t tell me you ‘know’ it is going to work. It's better to say, ‘you are really hoping that I’ll have some good news soon.'”
  • Advise your friends, “Just be sure not to tell me about someone who became miraculously pregnant right after they applied to adopt,”
  • And don't forget to remind them, “Whatever you do, please don’t make any suggestions about how I can remove stress in my life.”
  • Most likely your friends will be at a real loss about what to do or say to you when they are trying to conceive and when they become pregnant. Unless you teach them otherwise, they may make the mistake of trying to shield you from their news. Rather than tell you early and in private, they may leave you in the horrible position of having to figure it out when they decline wine at dinner or worse still, order milk.

A Step Ahead

These are but a few examples of what it means to stay “a step ahead” when you are going through infertility. It may sound like yet another burden and in some ways, it is, but it is also empowering.

I think you will find that you are more comfortable with your friends — and with yourself — when you feel you have taken steps to master potentially difficult conversations.

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