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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Misconceptions

Some days it frustrates me to no end that the general population is still quite uneducated and uninformed about infertility and miscarriage. Now that most people I know have heard about my pregnancy and now that it's far more obvious when I go out in public, I'm never quite sure what I'm going to get.

Most of the time a stranger will simply ask when I'm due or whether it's a boy or a girl. No problem; those questions are easy enough to just give a simple reply and move on. And it's not that I mind sharing my story anymore, but I am not going to launch into it during a passing encounter with just anybody. On occasion, though, the time seems right or the question is one where it seems appropriate to go into a more detailed response.

Just this week I had to have some lab work done to check my thyroid, which I've done once a trimester. Unfortunately my doctor's office can't draw it so I have to have the blood work done at a separate lab nearby. There, in one of the private rooms, the lady asked me about my pregnancy. I answered that yes, I am pregnant (surprised that she wasn't sure at 8 months, but I understand people don't want to guess at these things), and she asked if I was excited about the baby coming. Oh yes, I said. We've been waiting a very long time for this. She inquired further about my history and I told her about the miscarriages and the struggles. So far, the conversation had gone as I expected. But then came the part that I always dread: "Well, I guess you finally quit 'trying' and your body figured out what to do. You know, a lot of women adopt a baby and then get pregnant."

I guess I'm not offended by these statements, but it still just frustrates me that this is where we end up. I don't know why it has to be about having a magic solution that fixed the problem. No, in fact we hadn't "given up" or "quit trying" and we were not on the verge of adopting a baby. People just don't seem satisfied with the fact that I can't pinpoint exactly what worked for us or fixed my messed up reproductive system. And really I guess it's just a minor annoyance; I just wish that more people understood. It's interesting how these are almost the very same things that used to bug me when I was trying to get pregnant. It's just another form of "just relax" and "why don't you adopt?"

Other times when I share my story, I will have someone say that everything we went through was all worth it to get to this point. I have mixed feelings about that. Was it worth all the years we spent waiting and wondering, seeing doctors and having surgeries, and spending money? I'd say a resounding YES. Not that all of that was easy by any means. And I know that many endure so much more of that than I ever did, and it absolutely can reach a point where it becomes too much to handle. I've certainly learned that not all paths of IF treatment are the same. For me, though, in my own personal experience and because our fertility treatment phase wasn't really very invasive or complex in the long run, what I went through was totally worth it to achieve a successful pregnancy.

The part that I have a problem with, however, is the part of my story where our babies died. I'll just never be comfortable with saying that was "worth it." Don't get me wrong -- I would give up life and limb for this baby I'm carrying. She is worth every tear that I've cried and every hope and dream that I thought had died. And I would walk this same road again if I could know that she was waiting for me at the finish line. I'm just not okay with the terminology that losing six babies could ever feel worth it. Those lives were incredibly precious to me as well. As hard as the waiting part was, the beauty is that there came a point where that part was over and done. Or, I guess more accurately, that point will come next month when this baby is born. I know that she will definitely have been worth the wait! It's not that I'll never have to wait for anything again, but finally that 9-year struggle with never knowing if or when or how will be over in an instant. While there has been healing in my heart from losing my babies, though, I don't think that part will ever really be gone. I don't doubt in any way that the Lord can continue to heal that hurt for me. I pray that He does! But my heart will never forget those babies that I carried and wished for and prayed for.

I hate the misconception that seems to be out there (outside of the IF community, of course) that miscarriage is not a big deal. Anyone who has experienced it or had someone close to them experience it knows otherwise. Anyone who has wished and prayed for a baby and then hoped with everything inside of them that their baby would survive knows otherwise. Even after I had been through it multiple times, I still had people in my life who were confused about why I was so upset. It still boggles my mind that sometimes even the most passionate pro-lifers can be so casual about the loss of a baby. People told me that it was so common. It happens to a lot of people. I needed to forget it and move on with my life. I was still young. I could always have another baby. But I knew in my mind and in my heart that there was no guarantee of that. The odds were definitely stacking up against me. Besides that, the events of the past several years had taken their toll on my body and I sure didn't feel very young anymore. I needed time to grieve, while people outside of my immediate circle didn't seem to understand.

On a related note, I got an e-mail the other day from an acquaintance of mine who had heard we were expecting a baby. I don't know this person very well at all, and it was a very simple, brief message that I'm sure meant well. It was only about three sentences long, including a quick hello, followed by "I heard you were pregnant and I'm excited for you," and then the part that got under my skin: "Things always have a way of working themselves out." I still haven't responded to the message because I don't know what to say. I suppose that a simple thank-you will have to do. I guess it's just a matter of opinion, but I don't personally believe that things always work out the way we want them to. If things really did "work themselves out," wouldn't my body have gotten on board a long time ago and before I lost so many unborn babies? I frankly don't consider what I've lived through for the past decade things working themselves out.

Who would think so? Who would have wished for this? Oh, I wished for a healthy pregnancy. I wished for that when I was a young, innocent bride of 21. I wished for it the first time I got that positive test at the age of 24. Of course I kept wishing for it during our years of loss, but I didn't just sit around the house wishing! It took a great deal of courage and facing our fears to keep going. We had to find the strength to pick ourselves up and try again. We had to seek out the right medical help. We had to grow up very quickly and realize that this wasn't going to be easy. We had to get through some hard times in our marriage, teeter on the edge of depression, and battle anxiety and worry and grief. If I were going to covet or be jealous of something, it would be the easy road! I would have wished for that first baby to have lived, followed by subsequent healthy pregnancies back when we were young and naive! I wouldn't have wished for or been envious of this road we've had to walk.
(Maybe you think I'm being too hard on the sender of that e-mail, but take my word for it. If you knew this person you'd know that it was his way of telling me that I did all that worrying and wondering for nothing. It's pretty frustrating to be made to feel like you were silly for ever feeling that way.)

As the saying goes, though, hindsight is 20/20. I have reached a point where I can be thankful for the difficult times. I can appreciate how that experience grew and changed us even though (and because) it was so hard. I'm simply saying that it would have been my natural tendency, of course, to hope for the easier and less painful way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when I look back I don' think, "Wow, things really worked themselves out." No. Instead I think, "Thank the Lord that He brought us through." I know in my heart that there were times when I didn't think I would make it. That's when the lesson finally came through that His strength is perfect when mine is gone. I will always give God the glory for where we are now.

Remember those lessons in mercy that I wrote about last time? They are still being learned! I have to remind myself often to respond to people and comments with love and with mercy. And although most of the time, thankfully, it's not an issue, I'm learning to be prepared.

16 comments:

Von said...

Couldn't agree more.I had my six over 20 years ago and I'm sad to see that where you live nothing has changed much except the availability of expensive interventions.
The very best of luck for the future, those little ones are never forgotten but they become part of your family history.I look forward to grandchildren sometime in the next few years!May your time come!

Mrs.Spit said...

Ahh. When people hand me those lines I often say things like "Actually that's not true. I can send you some information if you would like?"

Or I say "While I am sure you did not mean it that way, that's actually a very hurtful thing to say."

I feel like I've helped the woman next in line, while honouring my own needs.

Sharon said...

I think infertility and most especially RPL are very confusing for the general population. If I had a $ for each time I'd been told in the past 8 months - Just watch, now that you've adopted, you're going to fall pregnant - I'd be a very wealthy, less irritated woman. Like you, I don't find those statements offensive, but I do find them irritating. Especially when they come from people who know my history, I've been pregnant 7 times with 0 live births, why on earth anyone would think that will miraculously just disappear because I adopted is beyond me and beyond the bounds of science!
Stacy, transitioning from infertile to mother-after-infertility is very very hard and very very complex. As you know from reading my blog, there are many issues to be wrestled with and many emotions to deal with.
I think simply, at the end of the day, once an infertile always an infertile, the issues just become somewhat clouded and slightly more complex after having a child after infertility.
I don't know, I'm 8 months into my mother after infertility journey and still battling to figure it all out.

Journeymark Cards & Gifts said...

Oh sweet friend, you could not be more right. As we have started the process of adoption, more people have told us. "watch, now you'll get pregnant." While I know they mean well, or don't realize this is actually a myth, they just don't understand.

I have come to the point where I recognize they will never understand, unless they have experienced the battle of infertility or miscarriage. Nor, should I expect them to. No one has considered the loss we still have, at least at this point, of not having our own. Yet, there is peace in knowing we are exactly where God has us.

I can't wait to celebrate with you, Chad, and God's precious miracle.

Love you,
Jessica

Amazing Life said...

All of this is so true, as painful as it is right now. Just the other day I was telling a lady at church that we were expecting a baby and she looked at me and said "Well, it's about time!"
I was floored but rolled with it and laughed at her and said "Yes, 10 years and we are THRILLED"

Some people are just so sheltered and have never had to deal with this kind of pain, that they just can't understand the depth of the suffering that happens with IF and RPL. It took me many years before I became comfortable to share it with others because I know that they need to learn how to be compassionate about somewhere and I would rather they hurt my feelings than some young woman who is incredibly vulnerable and unable to share her deepest sorrows. It has become a ministry of sorts to welcome these kinds of comments because I no longer cower to them, I give them the truth in love and I think that changes the core of who they are if that is what God has in mind for them.

You are getting so close to meeting Lily!!!! I love it!

Andi said...

Stacey, your blog has done a great job of raising awareness. The other day I met a new friend and during some initial small talk, I asked how long she'd been married. She said, "Six years. And, no we don't have kids. That's usually the next question." But the thing is, it wasn't going to be my next question, because now I know that it could potentially be an innocent, but hurtful, inquiry.

Birdie said...

Stacey, I just love reading your posts. I can relate SO much! You so eloquently put into words what is often in my heart.
I too have had people tell me things like, "When you adopt, you'll probably end up getting pregnant." Or others will try to encourage me that maybe I'll get pregnant soon. And I have no trouble getting pregnant. I haven't been able to keep my many pregnancies.
The hardest of all for me to hear is when a couple of older women have advised me to be patient and that maybe I should just give it some time or wait a while. Yet, they already had 3 or 4 children when they were my age.
But I know that most all of these people are very well meaning and kind people. I know that they don't always know what to say b/c they haven't been there. And I know that they are trying to encourage me and help me, so I try my best to overlook their words and see their heart.
I loved reading your post. You're such a good writer and a great encouragement!

Connie said...

I so wish I could protect you from all of the stupid things that people say and do or at the very least beat up the people that hurt you with their ignorance....I guess that isn't very merciful! I sure do love you! You are so special! XOXO

Jo said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you have said here. I also hate the misconception that because you have had one child, there will be another on the way someday. Its not true for Joel and I and so everytime someone asks "when are you having another one?" and i have to either lie or skate around the answer or be blunt and say "actually i cant have anymore" it hurts a lot. I used to just skate around things and give a cryptic answer like "oh we'll see what happens". But now I think people should be educated on what an inappropriate question that is and how it can hurt someone's feelings. I am never mean about it but i do answer honestly now and explain that just because i have one child it doesnt mean i am able bodied, and that we actually went through a lot to have him. Im sure some people are uncomfortable but as my husband says "they are the ones who asked!" It might teach them to think before they ask someone else that question. And other people are fascinated and interested in the information.

twondra said...

I agree completely. I've found so many times that while people mean well, they can hurt. And I agree with you so much about it being "worth it". I know our situations are different but you hit it on the nail sooooooo much for me. I often think how losing babies can be "worth it". Thanks so much for posting this. (((HUGS)))

Rebecca said...

I just wanted to send you a big (((HUG))). I could feel your pain in the words you wrote.

On an unrelated (or maybe it is related) note, Friday in our Confirmation class we were talking about baptism, and our pastor mentioned something about miscarriages and stillbirths and those lives being entrusted to God. It made me think of you, and I said a prayer for you, your precious lost babies, and Lily at that moment.
I wish things could change for us, and that the general public could get a vaccination against "stupid things to say to an infertile". Until they do, I pray for peace for all of our hearts.

DeniFay said...

Beautiful post as always! Those comments hurt me, I wish that they didn't and maybe it's part of where I am right now, but they are painful. So many times I just ignore them, but usually later, I wish that I had spoken up. Amazing how those of us who are such advocates for lifting this taboo on the subject get caught off guard and don't defend this topic that we care so deeply about.

No, I don't think it's "worth it" to lose your other six babies, and I know you will always remember and love them and you will cherish Lily that much more for you know just what a miracle her life is. God is good all the time, all the time God is good!

Sending prayers for you here in the home stretch and claiming God's promise that He will grant the desires of my heart as well (as long as my desires align with His!).

Love you!

Indy said...

Infertility is such a rough road to walk on because it feels like one has to suffer in silence (I think I´ve mentioned this before). You never know if and when you will become pregnant. People think they have to have all the answers to our problems but in reality there are some answers that we will not get until we see Him in heaven. Stacey I am certain that at that point He will embrace you in His arms and make all of the pain dissipate. You are such a blessing to us and am so very grateful that you have chosen to allow Him to use this part of your life to first of all point others to Christ and secondly, offer some hope to those of us standing where you were not too long ago.

Remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, the powers of darkness, etc. I believe the enemy sometimes uses people to hurt us where he knows it hurts most. This is something I am trying to learn as well...just being aware that others may not have bad intentions but the enemy is a roaring lion seeking to devour and destroy. Stand firm my friend...you are being refined into gold.

God bless you!

Amber said...

Hi Stacey,
I stumbled across mention of your blog in Relevant Magazine a while ago and I've been following it ever since, but never posted a comment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts through this blog. You are raising awareness of an extremely sensitive and painful topic and bringing together so many with similar paths. I always find that your posts are a simple reminder that I'm not alone.
My husband is a pastor and I often hear my own thoughts reflected in your postings on life, faith, and the church. We've been on our journey through infertility for about 2 years, have survived one miscarriage, and are in the middle of our first cycle of IVF. Like you, we married young, started trying young, and were blindsided by this.
Sorry for such a long comment.. I guess I just want to say "thank you" :)

Rebekah said...

A lot of people will tell us their stories of loss and end by saying if they hadn't had a pregnancy loss, they wouldn't have the wonderful child they have now. I think they always expect me to agree with them when in reality I don't see it that way AT ALL. Chances are, we'd have been trying for a second child right around the time we got pregnant with our second child- she in no way replaces Levi. Sigh- people just don't get it.

iamstacey said...

You said it perfectly. Putting a pat ending on it seems to negate all the hard steps it took to get to that wonderful ending. It's the steps that matter, that make us who we are. They're a part of us. While I know most non-IFer's mean well, it's hard sometimes to just smile or say thank you - it seems like I'm not honoring all the heartache that brought me to this point.

BTW, I LOVE the nursery! It's beautiful!