Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Guest Blogger: Infertility Sensitivity Training

By Anonymous
The author studied at day school, attended yeshiva high school, spent time at a seminary in Israel, graduated from a Jewish college and works in the Jewish community. She is your average orthodox Jewish girl next door. If you wish to get in touch with her, please e-mail blog@ladymama.org 


Infertility Sensitivity Training

Last week (April 22-28) was National Infertility Awareness Week. Our childfree-by-choice contributor has returned to offer some "sensitivity training" for women who have kids.

As a child-free woman I am very aware of how much the conversations of the women around me revolve around their pregnancy, births and children. But don't just take my word for it; here is an amazing video from the author of the http://theinfertilityvoice.com/ site:

While for me I understand it is the stage of life most of my peers are in and usually just walk away to go join another conversation, I have become extremely sensitive to how these same things may be hard for a woman suffering from infertility. And it should go without saying, unless ANY woman starts the conversation about having kids with you, IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Do not ever initiate comments asking if she is pregnant, why she isn’t pregnant yet, when are you going to have kids/your next kid already!? and so on.

So here are my 5 friendly reminders to my wonderful mother friends:

  1. Watch the conversation topic
If you’re having a nice conversation about something general with a group (especially during a meal where you have a captive audience) and the topic changes to anything pregnancy or child related and there is someone there who is not married, isn’t pregnant or is childfree, change the topic, STAT! Otherwise, I can only imagine it being a kind of slow torture for a person suffering from infertility, and if they’re like me, it’s just rude.
  1. Watch what/how often you post online - Moderation is key, think before you post
I cannot even tell you how many facebook posts I have see about “my belly is moving,” “my odd craving” or “no one stood up to give me their seat on a bus!” or “my kids are not sleeping tonight!” and “my kids are all at home sick now! Need I go on?
It's one thing to ask your mother friends for advice, i.e. “What stroller do you recommend?” It’s a whole separate thing to constantly complain (key words there) about stuff a person suffering from infertility probably is crying to experience. But don’t worry, they probably have either de-friended or blocked you already.
  1. Stop telling me “you’ll understand/see one day when you have your own kids”
Yes, there are MANY things that I am not familiar with (changing a diaper for example) but you may just find that there are things that I do know and perhaps can teach you. Hey, a lot of OB-GYN’s are male; just because you don’t have the parts doesn’t mean you can’t be an expert. I am just trying to join the conversation about childbirth and kids that you keep going back to.
We each have different experiences in life and one of my favorite quotes is “Every life has a story.” Learning from all people, regardless of gender, religion, race or parental status is an important life lesson that may just make you a better parent…not that I would understand that or anything.
  1. Don’t be smug
Ever hear the song “Pregnant women are smug”? Check it out if you have a sense of humor, but otherwise just believe me when I say that ONLY talking to me about YOU and your pregnancy or child does not bode well for our friendship, I do want you to ask me how my day was, sometimes, please? Which finally leads me to:
  1. Don’t act like my life is empty without children
I stopped attending a shalom bayis shuir series because the Rebbetzin speaking related every single lesson to an example involving children. When there was an anonymous question posed to her (it wasn’t from me! I swear!) asking her how one decides when is a good time to have a child she went off talking about deciding how many years apart your second and subsequent children should be from your first. It was quite frankly a disheartening response.
I would have preferred a conversation about what children mean to all the other important meaningful things that are going on in your life (volunteer work, making shidduchim, being a leader in your community, etc.) We need to reinforce this reality in today's Jewish world; every woman has a place in every stage of her life. Single, Dating, Newlywed, Wife, suffering with infertility, Mother, suffering with secondary infertility, etc.  

In an article titled, Infertility Etiquette, Resolve-The National Infertility Association poignantly noted:

“So, what can you say to your infertile friends? Unless you say "I am giving you this baby," there is nothing you can say that will erase their pain. So, take that pressure off of yourself. It isn't your job to erase their pain, but there is a lot you can do to lessen the load.”

I think that concept is important to remember. Don’t be afraid to post pictures of your sonogram, burgeoning belly, and oh so cute professional family pictures with reckless abandon if that makes you happy, as it should! They are beautiful miracles and I certainly pray that every couple suffering from infertility gets a chance to post their own baby pictures soon! But, just remember to treat them as the blessings they are. We really do want to be happy for you.

Venting is important too, no doubt about that, but the key is consideration for other people’s feelings. Try to keep some of the “HELP! My kids are driving me CrAZy!” to the mommy blogs, okay?

4 LadyMama voices:

Esther said... [Reply to comment]

I strongly disagree with the posting part, many ppl(I included) like to use fb as a venting source, sometimes noone is awake at 3am(or u dont know who is) but writing it off ur frustantion with ur kids will help u deal with it. I imagine how hard is to dont be able to have kids(my mom took years to be able to get pregnant), but if the person is suffering from it she will know to dont read about it, or ignore, but I cant stop having kids, talking about them bc of it.
The same as ppl that vent about their husbands, for sure some single friends would love to be married but this doesnt make marriage a easy and amazing thing.
I agree women have many different roles and being a mother is only one of them, but for most mothers is the most meaninful and important so we cant just pretend is the same as doing chessed or shiduchim bc for most of us is not

Rikki said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for posting this. I find that educating people to have sensitivity in this area is incredibly important! Along the same line, I also get frustrated that the shiurim are all (generally) about kids. As much as I thank g-d for my children every day, there are so many other things that are important to me (and no, not just my role as a wife either). I am Woman hear me Roar!!

Princess Lea said... [Reply to comment]

I would come from another perspective when it comes to FB posts: many things don't have to be said. Complaining about your husband or whining about your kids does not belong on a public forum. "Venting" doesn't make it right. It is releasing to the public that which should be kept private, whether it be positive or negative; I certainly can't stand those "My husband is amaaaaazing" posts either.

As for sensitivity, we somehow think our own curiosity is more important. Whether it be yammering about a husband to a single girl, or constantly talking about children to the childless, or praising our kids to someone who has trouble with their own - and in the end, we don't know who could be in those sort of situations, so staying quiet is best.

After all, a person has their own interests beyond spouse and kids. "I like your shoes; where did you get them?" "Did you read that story in the paper?" "How about those Yankees?"

Keiko Zoll said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for including my video in this important post. Infertility is indeed a sensitive subject; it's hard when people who have never experienced or been touched by infertility to truly understand the subtleties of its pain. If your readers are interested in learning more about the infertility experience, join me over at my blog, The Infertility Voice.