Trying.... to bite my tongue
Someone I love, who should know a whole lot better, said one of those things recently you don't say to a woman trying for a baby with medical assistance.
I am pretty choosy about whom I mention anything to in terms of how I am feeling when I am mid IVF cycle.
Generally I don't really like to verbalise any of my pain or discomfort, as I feel it makes it larger and I want to block it out and make it smaller.
This is an attitude across my life, covering all sorts of discomfort - from the serious - such as endometriosis-induced pain - to the trivial - a bad night's sleep for instance.
So I'm afraid I am not very sympathetic to people who fill their conversation with complaints about the more trivial things - such as how tired they are. Is there any worse chat? Regardless of how true it is. And I, too, have been severely sleep deprived. Or even worse, those who moan about how busy they are? No thank you. Jog on and please tell someone else.
Of course regarding the more serious life problems, I do believe in talking about and seeking help. But my point is - I am judicious about my audience and also one of my regular coping strategies is to try to block it out - as someone who has terrible monthly pain for around seven to eight days per cycle.
Regarding the recent conversation I am referring to, I decided to switch it up and let my guard down slightly. I also did something people often resist; I properly answered that question we all ask each other at the start of conversation without any expectation of a truthful answer: how are you?
On this occasion I replied, confiding: "I feel quite ill on the drugs at the moment."
They in turn, said, with a slight jokiness to their voice: "Well don't complain. This is what you want after all."
Whoah. Mountains moved in my mind, as I tried to compute the hurt. And yet, knowing them, and that they love me, I know they have struggled to find the right words during this time of us trying and failing to have a second baby. I also know they loathe what the IVF process does to me - from the side effects of the meds to the crushing sadness when another embryo somehow disappears. And they want me to stop; not because they don't want us to have a second child; more they want the pain to cease. Believe me - I do too.
Weirdly I think they were trying to own the fact that we have kept going and dole out some tough love - something I am usually quite the fan of. But it came out all shades of wrong.
I then replied through gritted teeth: "I wasn't moaning. You asked me how I am and I shared how I was feeling." Quite. (Unspoken subtext: I haven't even touched the surface of how unwell I have felt at times - all I did was give you a glimpse.)
And that was that.
I have countless examples of insensitive things people have said to me or around me during my two periods of trying for babies - usually unwittingly and with no idea of the impact.
If you are on this road or have been, I know you will have a greatest hits list too, carved into your memory.
Some of my top ones, in no particular order:
- The woman in the playground who looked at our son and said: “One and you’re done? Very smart. I went for two and it’s HELL.”
- The woman who said the proudest moment of her life was just after giving birth to her fourth child and knowing she had “completed her family”. She said this in my company, albeit in a group, knowing my husband and I had just lost our latest embryo.
- Someone, trying to empathise with my infertility and having to hold down a job on IVF drugs, comparing it to coping with their crippling morning sickness during both of her pregnancies. I kid you not.
I could go on but you get the gist.
I share these clangers today in a bid to raise a wry smile and well, just put it out there.
One great older female friend, who is a bit of an unofficial life mentor to me, advised, ahead of a particularly tricky weekend I was facing, post another failed round, to play a drinking game with myself. The drink could be tea or otherwise. I chose whisky. Every time I saw something or heard something that was difficult in relation to our infertility, I was to reward myself with a wee dram. And for the one comment that stung so badly I had to take a sharp intake of breath, I did two drams. The weekend passed and I was merrily cocooned by my pal Laphroaig.
Through the gamification of such pain, I had a much better weekend.
And that is all I wish for you today. Wherever and whatever you are doing.
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