Personal pet peeve #361: Ever notice how most of the comments about how conceive come from couples who never had to really try? Oh sure, they had one or two disappointing cycles. Then one day they “just relaxed” and bingo! – they were planning the nursery.
Or perhaps people like to spread general wisdom about how accepting, patient or optimistic you should be while trying to conceive. Honestly, if Sue and I heard “think positive!” one more time while trying to conceive our first, I think one of us would have run away crying. Or maybe both of us. (Not to mention the irony that for many “suddenly pregnant” couples, thinking never seems to fall into the equation, but I digress.)
Unfortunately, you’re going to come across one or more of these comments, whether you asked for opinions or not. It’s bound to happen at one time or another. In our case, it happened countless times. It took us a long time to conceive. What do you do when all you want is a baby…but all you get are platitudes or advice you know is never going to work?
Count to Ten
First of all, remember where this is coming from: generally, a place of good. So this is a place where patience comes in handy (of course, don’t bother being patient with the process of reversing your infertility — go full-throttle and cutthroat like we did! Engines ready, captain — we’ve got serious business to attend to here).
There were times when I had to count to a hundred and ten, and other times when I thought I’d have to get up to a thousand and ten before the urge to majorly blow a gasket right then and there passed. Remembering that these people did care about me, and did hope that we conceived, did help. Sometimes it didn’t help until later, when my frustration had ebbed a little. But it did help.
Go Ahead…Correct the Person
If the person who’s giving you platitudes or bad advice seems open and interested, take this opportunity to educate him or her. There is so much misinformation about infertility out there. (So. Much.)
If you’re in the mood — and only if you’re in the mood — try giving the person correct information. (Remember, you don’t automatically owe anybody anything. This is your life.) Do so in a calm and conversational tone, but be clear that you’re correcting him or her, and that you’ve already checked out or perhaps even tried what he or she is talking about.
For instance, we were told to “just have a drink or two and loosen up” on more than one occasion. I smilingly told the person that drinking is inadvisable in general both before and during pregnancy, but that Sue and I would be thrilled to knock back a beer with him one day on a “TTC cycle off.” Then we made a date for all of us to get together. (Hold your applause, that was me on a good day.)
That injected a little lightheartedness while letting this person know that we were unwilling to give his little method a try. It also redirected the conversation. Thank God.
Ask Them to Just Listen
If a close friend or family member whom you can’t easily blow off keeps up with the amazingly frustrating comments (“As soon as you stop trying, that’s when it will happen” comes to mind — my blood pressure is going up at just the thought), take the person aside.
Tell her, “I don’t really need advice. I don’t need methods. Believe me, I can probably write a book by now about methods. Medical, holistic, old wives’ tales, foods, drinks and scary potions. I’ve given my wife shots in her butt and gazed for way too long at her cervical mucous. I’ve been in the trenches. I don’t want you to tell me what to do. I just want you to listen.”
Tell her you rely on her to let you blow off steam every once in a blue moon; that you’re just frustrated and need to talk it out. You’re not seeking advice. You’re not asking her for anything other than to listen, nod, hug you hard and then tell you, “Let’s go see what’s on Netflix.”
Being an ear will make her feel useful, and trust me, she’s feeling pretty useless and helpless right now. Telling her you just need an ear relieves her of the responsibility of trying to come up with ideas on what you should do.
See it From Their Side
No. Seriously. Grit your teeth and just put on the other person’s shoes. If you had a friend who was struggling hard with something you’d achieved in your lifetime with ease, what would you want to do? Make the person feel better, probably. Give her hope. Maybe even offer a little advice that seemed to magically work for you, whether it was legitimate or not.
It may do nothing to solve the actual problem, but sympathy and help are our first instincts when someone we know is suffering.
Most people really can’t understand. And you — we — can’t expect them to. If the person is just an acquaintance or you’re not in the mood for explanations, just smile and nod without commenting. Then carry on with your own research, methods and knowledge in privacy — and with no apologies.
As you may have guessed, humor has always been one of my favorite resources, for this situation and others.
Regarding the example of my male friend above, I had a co-worker also tell me to have a few drinks and “relax.” I told him that if that worked every time, there would be even more issues with teen pregnancy than our nation was already dealing with and the condoms would be next to the Crown Royal at Ralph’s.
I also told him, “Drinking does work…to make us just not give a hoot (I may not have actually said ‘hoot’) about not conceiving. Unfortunately, that awesome side effect wears off and hangovers are NOT good for trying to conceive! Although it does give a good excuse for leaving the lights off.'”
When my cousin told me, “Patience worked for us!”, I replied, “You’ve also told me that a potato worked for your wart and diarrhea worked to get your dealer to sign and get you out of the car dealership fast…tell me something new.” Yep, she did laugh. (Know your audience before expelling such gems of wisdom. My cousin and I have ribbed each other for years.)
In the End, it’s Your Call
As I said above, this is your life and nobody else’s. It’s up to you if you want to try one or more of the methods above, or if you want to blow them off entirely and just full-throttle yell at the person (pick your place, obviously — the library or a funeral aren’t great choices for this).
And try to keep in mind what you and your mate were like pre-TTC. You probably didn’t know about luteal phases, ovulation predictor kits and what really awesome eggwhite CM were either until you came up against fertility issues.
But above all, take care of yourself. You will lose your patience at the comments at times. You may mess up. You may even, as I said, lose your cool once in a while. You may cry. Forgive yourself — and concentrate on you. You’re on a roller coaster right now and can’t expect to be the perfect host or even the perfect friend.
Luckily, a real friend will understand that, too.