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Infertility Sensitivity Doesn't 'Time Out'

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a blog by Pamela Tsigdinos

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a tidy set of rules to guide conversations around infertility? An etiquette book sure would come in handy or, better yet, a simple set of instructions. Yeah, that's it! Just think of the applications. We could laminate them. Perhaps create coasters. Or Stickers? T-shirts? Encase them in glass and distribute as paper weights...

Sigh. We infertile folk certainly don't advocate censorship or misplaced political correctness but one has to wonder sometimes what happens to simple, good old common courtesy. Yes, we do our best to let random acts of insensitivity or misplaced hurtful comments from strangers or acquaintances roll off our back. We usually take the hit and walk it off with this handy explanation: They didn't know any better.

We also do our very best to reshape our lives and our expectations, to not focus on the losses, nor to let infertility define us entirely.

But what happens when someone closer to home drops a zinger into a casual conversation? For instance, recently one of my newest online pals told me she was innocently venting about a misbehaving dog only to have her sister-in-law respond with a harrumph and declare in a patronizing tone: "...that's because you've never taken care of a two-year-old..."

ZING. Wow. Ouch. Thanks, she thought, for that little reminder that yes, you are fertile and I am not.

It not only poisoned the moment it left a lingering sting. It unnerved her more than she anticipated. I know why. I've had similarly weird encounters. That's because while our friends and family are only too happy -- relieved actually -- to put our infertility firmly in the past, they sometimes fail to appreciate that it's not quite so cut and dry for those of us more intimately affected.

I'd hazard a guess that just about all couples who have lived with infertility have developed a thicker skin than most. We have to. It's a survival tool for the rough and tumble world that is infertility, but our skin is not so thick that comments still can't cut deeply.

Our wounds may not be open and raw. The scars may no longer be visible but, as my friend pointed out, "as much as I think I'm ok with who I am -- my infertility will always be an issue for me."

I'm here to tell you, dear friends, family, acquaintances and strangers alike: Infertility doesn't come with an expiration date. There is no point in the future when it's okay to be callous or indifferent.

Thank you in advance for your understanding. Now, are you in need of any coasters?

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Comments (1)

Yep, you're right about that. Even though I consider myself one of those who have moved beyond my infertility, the adoption process, for me, often underscores the fact that I still have to prove to a score of people that I am fit to be a parent. Something that fertile people don't have to go through. I've even had a close friend suggest to me to take parenting courses to prepare me for life with a newborn. Yeah, cause so many fertile people do that.

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