On “Forgetting” Infertility

In my online infertility network (Twitter), the topic of pregnant or parenting infertiles “forgetting” their infertility roots has cropped up several times in the last few months. A recent comment made me stop and really think about this idea. Do they really forget their roots? What is it about their words and/or actions that make those still in the trenches believe that?

The truth is that infertility is traumatic. No one likes to think about a traumatic experience, and most people try to move on from trauma, don’t they?

The same goes for infertility. Part of moving on may be distancing oneself from those who are still going through it. I know it sounds awful and cruel. You supported your friend through her roughest time, and as soon as she has a baby, she disappears. When you try to talk to her about your recent failed cycle, she ignores you or responds with a classic line from what not to say to an infertile. You find yourself stunned and angry. How could she? Has she forgotten what it’s like to be in my place?

No, she hasn’t. I can’t speak for everyone, but speaking from personal experience: There is an element of PTSD at work. Quite the opposite of forgetting, I vividly remember everything from the day we found out our first baby was gone, through all the infertility tests, surgery, pills, injections, and procedures… month after month of heartbreak with each negative pregnancy test… coming to terms with the fact that I can’t get pregnant without IVF… worry and resentment over the high price tag that comes with IVF. Reliving all of that through another person – even a friend – is sometimes too much. Obviously, my residual pain is nothing compared to the pain of someone actually living through it. But it’s enough to make me step back at times and let others provide the support. From time to time, I know I’ve said the wrong thing. Or worse – nothing at all.

I’m not saying that I or anyone else should be excused from supporting friends who are currently facing infertility head on. What I’m trying to say (not very eloquently or efficiently) is that we are all human with limitations and a tendency to avoid pain. So, when it seems a previously supportive friend has abandoned you and your infertility journey, it may be her way of coping. It’s not fair to you, and you have every right to feel angry and let down, but I hope looking at things from another perspective will help you understand what might be going on within her. Perhaps acknowledgement and validation of her feelings can lead to a better mutually supportive relationship.

Just food for thought.

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20 thoughts on “On “Forgetting” Infertility

  1. I really appreciated this blog post. I can see it from both sides. I stepped away from twitter because there is the occasional talk about how pregnant women were disliked (strangers, Facebook announcements, family members) Yes, I get how it is painful when one is asking “what about me? When is it my turn?” I was just asking those questions. But as an infertile, I am finally getting my turn (…so far, 17 weeks is not take home babies) and I don’t want the residual anger that can be flung my way inadvertently or not; I am super sensitive to that speak. I still read and like blogs here, cheering on those still waiting and hoping and when I think what I have to say might be hurtful or at the very least, not seen as helpful, I am quiet because the last thing I want to do is hurt someone that is already hurting.

    • I think the other thing for me is that I feel guilty that right now, things are working, we might actually be able to have children and that it isn’t working for people I have come to care a lot about here – yet…

      • All of this comes into play for me, too. Sometimes I feel like my mere presence might be hurtful to some, no matter what I say or don’t say. I feel like that could be a whole other post!

  2. I’m the ignorant person who thought that people who got pregnant and had kids forgot where they came from by being insensitive to those still going through the struggle. To be honest early on, I thought you forgot where you came from. But now that you’ve enlightened me, I realize I’ve been the insensitive prick to you and others who are either pregnant or have kids.

    Just as those going through infertility stay away from baby showers and other things that are triggering, those that have resolved are protecting themselves from things that are triggering to them. It makes so much sense and has given me much to think about. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Yes, exactly, it’s about avoiding triggers. And being more empathetic all around. And giving everyone, including ourselves, a huge break when it comes to our emotional responses. Learn and grow.

  3. I think this isn’t hard for anyone. I keep trying to write a post about it, but it never turns out right. There is just no right way or wrong way to do things. There isn’t an easy way to be an infertile who is pregnant or an infertile with a baby or an infertile who is still in limbo. Unfortunately, we all have those days where we can’t be the supportive friend we want to be and we lash out at others, even though it has nothing to do with them. I think sometimes we expect a little too much of each other. Infertility is a big pile of shit no matter what stage you’re in.

  4. You offer a perspective that I have never thought about before. Thanks for being so honest about it. Definitely something different to think about.

  5. This was a great post. Honestly, I often appreciate an infertile’s perspective on pregnancy. I don’t think it’s as easy as flipping on or off. I’ve seen some infertile women who go on to be pregnant become seemingly oblivious to the rest of the community. I think that’s often insensitive. But for the most part, infertile women who become pregnant sort of bow out gracefully. That’s fine with me. I know the struggle. I know how hard it is. I also know if I were to become pregnant, I wouldn’t stay in the trenches. I wouldn’t want to. I’m trying to get out of the trenches, whether that is through a pregnancy or just an emotional shift. I like to think when it’s all over I could offer perspective and guidance to someone else, but I don’t want to relive it either. I think your blog is a really nice balance of the struggle of IF and pregnancy after IF. Some people, like you said, are in different stages of coping and some of those stages are anger and bitterness at everyone and everything.

  6. I think an element of guilt gets thrown in there too. One of my friends was pregnant through IUI three weeks before my IVF cycle worked. When she hit 8 weeks, she miscarried. I went on to have my son. I had no idea how she felt around me and I pulled away a little because I was afraid of hurting her. Thankfully she had a daughter a year later, but it’s just so freaking complicated. I wish it didn’t have to be!

    • Definitely. Sometimes my “survivor’s guilt” gets the better of me and I distance myself from the IF community for a while. Of course, then I feel bad about that. I know it’s all internal – no one has ever made me feel about how I cope with any of this – and I need to be gentler with myself. But I remember how sad I felt when someone with IF got pregnant and seemed to just disappear, so it’s important to me not to do that to anyone else.

  7. Pingback: I’m the Insensitive Asshole | A Few Pieces Missing From Normalcy – An Infertile Man's Perspective

  8. Very well said! Like you, my situation has changed dramatically. For so long, I only knew what it was like to be on the bad side of the fence. It’s hard for me to talk about pregnancy-related things because I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that conversation and for me, it always felt horrible. I want to support everyone as best as I can but at the same time there is that element of PTSD. It’s not about not supporting others it’s about trying to move on from your own personal nightmare. While I was struggling, I felt abandoned by many bloggers, but now I realize that it’s about survival and reclaiming your life. This was something that I had to learn on my own.

    • I felt the same way as you did. We all have to learn on our own that it’s a complex situation to be pregnant/parenting after IF and still trying to support those in the trenches.

  9. Good post. I try to be sensitive when talking about my pregnancy, but I don’t think I always succeed. The hardest thing for me, after so many failed treatments, is getting my head around the fact that I really am pregnant and will get an actual baby at the end of all this… and talking about my pregnancy helps make it feel more real. It’s probably also true that I’ve pulled away from some people a little for fear of upsetting them. Infertility is so cruel and I wish everyone could be as lucky as I have.

  10. Pingback: The Power of Privilege and Making a Difference in the Infertility Community | A Few Pieces Missing From Normalcy – An Infertile Man's Perspective

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