Infertility: What NOT to Say

19 May

Cindy with her husband Jack 2011

Jack and I had been dating for about six months. It was Christmas time and we were taking his son to see Zoo Lights at the Point Defiance Zoo. We had stopped for dinner at Shari’s (don’t judge, it was convenient) and were discussing our plans for the evening when Jack leaned over and casually asked “So, um, has “it” come yet?” Of course, we all know the “it” he was referring to. “No” I replied. “But you know me, I’m never on time.” I had said these words believing them. I wasn’t regular and knew I had fertility issues. I’d been married before and I had never been pregnant. Ever. I didn’t think it was possible. That night after our Zoo Lights adventure, Jack went back to his place and I went back to mine. On the way home I stopped at Target. “Oh hell” I’d thought, I’ll pick up a pregnancy test – better to just put this issue to rest and ease his mind.

I arrived home, turned on the lights to my Christmas tree and headed for the bathroom. I did not want to do this. Ease his mind, sure, but that meant being reminded that I couldn’t reproduce. This thought had bummed me out countless times over the years and the last thing I wanted to do after such a lovely evening was dive head first into the black pit of emotions that came with seeing one pink line. I sat. I peed. I waited. Holy Crap!!!! TWO PINK LINES!

I sat there, stunned. It was too late to call Jack and never mind, this was NOT the kind of information you give your boyfriend of six months over the phone. I went into the living room and sat for hours staring at the Christmas tree. I was thrilled! Scared and anxious as well- but mostly I was thrilled! I had DONE IT and with a man I knew was my “meant to be”! The next day I went over to Jack’s place and told him the news. Ever the gentleman (and cool cucumber), he took it in stride and with a few sweet words of reassurance, a hug and a kiss we moved on.

That December was like a dream. Best. Christmas. Ever. It was New Year’s Eve day and I had my first ultrasound appointment. Jack came and picked me up, and we headed off to see our babies beating heart. I could hardly wait!

We sat there, waiting for the ultrasound tech to show us the image. Instead she said she was having a hard time finding it. She tried listening for the babies’ heart…nothing. Finally she got up and went to get the doctor. I looked at Jack terrified “Something’s wrong! What’s wrong?” I asked, tears streaming down my face. My sweet Jack hung his head. “She can’t find the heartbeat babe.”

The tech came back into the room after what felt like hours. This time she had the doctor with her who informed us that the baby had not developed past six weeks and three days. I wanted to throw up. How was this possible? Why would God finally give me a baby and then take it away? I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to understand. I wanted my baby!

After the loss of my little one, I wanted answers. What exactly was my problem? I saw my OBGYN who said he thought I had PCOS and I started clomid and progesterone. Months went by – nothing. Jack and I bought our house that June and continued talks about having a child. I knew it was tough on him. He already had a child. I knew he didn’t have the same burning desire, and I knew it was hard for him to see me in so much pain. Finally, after months of failed attempts, I made an appointment to see a specialist.

Several tests and a thousand dollars later we had our answer; I have blocked tubes. The right one is completely blocked and the left one is technically “open” but looks like a never ending series of cul de sacs – empty round-a-bouts where my little eggs wound up lost and looking for a way out, never mind the poor sperm trying to find them. I also have a “less than favorable” level of FSH or follicle stimulating hormone the hormone responsible for prepping and releasing eggs. My doctor told us that in vitro fertilization was really the best and most likely, only way we could conceive a child. The fact that we had done so on our own was nothing short of a miracle. She continued by saying that time was running out for me. If I needed time to think about my options, I had three months – not six. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

After many stressful (and often tearful) conversations, Jack and I decided to go for it. We scraped together the $25,000 we

Baby Wyatt-IVF Transfer Pic

would need to make a baby and I started the procedures. Daily shots, blood draws and doctors’ appointments every other day. To say the least, I was a basket case.

It was during this time that I needed the love and support of my friends the most. It was during this time that I found I had it the least.  Don’t get me wrong, they wanted to be supportive. They wanted me to succeed. They just didn’t know what to say, and in their attempt to be positive, they made me furious. I heard it all. “Why don’t you just adopt? There are so many kids who need a loving home.” “Why don’t YOU adopt then?” was what I wanted to say. “You want MY kids?” was another one of my favorites. How about “Just forget about it. As soon as you start thinking about something else it’ll happen.” Really?   Hmmm, who knew that if I’d just turn my attention towards this springs fashion trends my tubes would magically open up and I’d get pregnant? My number one least favorite thing people said was “God has a different plan for you.” Ooooh! Just typing it pisses me off. Not because I don’t believe in God, I do, but because it implied that my friends were having conversations with God behind my back and knew something I didn’t. If God were willing to let them in on his plan, why wasn’t he sharing the news with me? I was devastated by the loss of my first pregnancy. I had been furious with God about it.” Why would you do that to me?” I’d wondered. The last thing I wanted to hear was someone else’s opinion about God’s plan for MY fertility.

If you’re reading this, you may be thinking “Wow. Take it easy, your friends were just trying to help!” I agree with you. Nothing anyone said was intended to hurt me, which is why I am writing this column. I want to offer advice to those of you who have a friend in the same situation I was in. Think of it this way, what would say to a cancer patient? Would you tell her “I know you’re worried about losing your hair, but you can always just get a wig.” How about “You want MY life? I’m stressed out and could USE a break!” Or maybe “Just forget about it. Focus on something else and the cancer will just go away.” And for the love of Pete, would you EVER, EVER consider saying to someone with cancer “This must be God’s plan for you.” Hell no you wouldn’t! Most likely you would say “I love you. I am here for you. I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I will try and I will be here.” THAT is what I wanted to hear. I didn’t expect anyone to understand unless they had been through it themselves. I just wanted to be able to talk about it without having my feelings diminished (however unintentional). Please don’t misunderstand me. I am aware that cancer and infertility are different subject matters altogether. The point I am trying to make is that the heartache, loss, defeat and sometimes even jealousy are very, very real emotions and a person in this situation should be treated very carefully and very lovingly. The best thing a friend “said” to me came by way of a card tucked into a bouquet of flowers after my first round of IVF failed. It was a bible verse that simply spoke of patience. It makes me tear up just thinking about it. She didn’t preach. She didn’t speak about something she didn’t understand. She simply reminded me to be patient and at the end of the card she told me she loved me. I felt loved and I will love her forever for many reasons, but most of all, I love her for that reason.

I have a friend undergoing IVF treatment as I write this. I love her and I am in her corner one hundred percent. I talk to her often and try to be a voice of encouragement. I don’t KNOW if her treatment is going to work. I BELIEVE it will, but I am not the one in charge. My hope is that I can make her feel loved, understood and hopeful. It was absolutely excruciating to talk to people when I was going through my treatment who would say “Oh! My cousin did IVF for like, seven years!” “Did it work for her?” I would ask. “Noooo, but I’m sure it will for you.” WTF? Again, folks, before you open your mouth, ask yourself “Is this something I would say to a person struggling with cancer?” Undoubtedly, you would NEVER say “Oh! My cousin had cancer. She died, but I’m sure you’ll live!” Be the voice of hope. It’s all someone who is undergoing infertility treatment has. Faith, I assure you, wanes at times but hope is ever present in our hearts and in our minds.

Cindy holding baby Wyatt, while my daughter Zoe gives him "kisses".

This past New Year’s Eve I was in the hospital. I had just given birth to my beautiful son Wyatt. I was tired, I was in pain but I was also elated, and I was grateful. I had come a long way since that fateful New Year’s Eve two years prior. It was a long journey, but it was sooooo worth it! To all you hopeful mamas- to- be out there, I am here for you. I am in your corner and I am thinking of you and praying for your success. Keep your chin up, and hang onto hope. Miracles do happen, sometimes more than once…

Cindy, guest blogger

13 Responses to “Infertility: What NOT to Say”

  1. Andy 09,12 at 12:06 pm #

    Thanks for your kind words. Eventually we adopted — that turned out to be a great blessing. Many years later, when the kid was old enough to understand, I explained: “Mom and I longed for a baby and had to wait for a long time. But I am happy that we had to wait, because then we got you, the most wonderful child a father could have.”

  2. kell 05,11 at 6:45 am #

    wow. I wish I could blast this from the roof tops…you are so right…thank you for posting this!

    I am so happy you got YOUR baby! Congrats!

  3. Cindy Sido 05,11 at 11:27 am #

    Dear Andy,

    I am so sorry you have had to endure the pain associated with infertility. It is my hope that if people like myself start sharing more about their journey, others will come to understand it, accept it, and support those of us going through it. It is also my most sincere desire that people will start to work to change the rules associated with infertility as they relate to insurance. Nothing infuriates me more than hearing someone say “it’s a lifestyle choice.” Insurance pays for the guy who has cirrhosis of the liver because his of “lifestyle” choices. It also pays for the triple by-pass needed for the lady who ate herself into obesity and heart failure. Another “lifestyle” choice. Most of all, I want people to think before they speak. This is a very painful and sensitive subject.

    Thank you for your reply. I am thrilled to have a man’s perspective on this. So often we don’t get to hear your side of things.

    My heart goes out to you and your wife. Thank you for sharing.

    Sincerely,

    Cindy

  4. kateschmate 05,11 at 1:49 pm #

    Another one of my “favorites”? “It’ll happen eventually… just not now.” Oh? Do you know something I don’t know? Why are you holding out on me? Are you God?? Are you a genie in a bottle? Hate to break it to you, but there is a very real possibility that you’re wrong!

    This is an absolutely wonderful post… very accurate, very direct, and cancer is a spot-on metaphor. Thank you so much for what you have written… you put words in my mouth! Yes, folks try to be supportive, but they just don’t get it unless they’ve gone through it themselves.

  5. jessicaber 05,11 at 1:24 pm #

    I have never had problems with fertility, gave birth to two smart, healthy boys. I just have trouble getting married. I am 36 years old and have been single my whole life. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

  6. Andy 05,11 at 6:12 am #

    We went through that set of problems in the 1990s. It is very courageous of you to share your experiences so openly. Neither my wife nor I would be able to go public about our frustrations and sorrow.

  7. Cindy Sido 05,11 at 11:53 pm #

    I loved getting a response from a man! Thank you for reading this post. Truly, my goal is to help people understand how it feels to be a woman in this situation and to help them think of it in a way that maybe makes more sense and is a little more relatable. I’m glad I was able to provide some insight!

    Cindy

  8. tenraikenshin 05,11 at 5:41 pm #

    I’m a man, and a very logical one at that, so it’s probably a very odd thing for me to comment on such an emotional and *ahem* womanly post, but I wanted to say that I really appreciate the insight you’ve just provided me. I can be pretty bad at knowing how to treat an emotional situation like the one you described, but I sorely want to be better. Your friend’s example just helped make me better. Thank you so much.

  9. Ascentive 05,11 at 8:32 am #

    I used to work at Univ of Penn in their IVF and Donor Egg program..I know how hard it is to go through rounds of IVF. We kept a “miracle” wall of all the baby pictures sent in from our patients. Oddly enough it was called Miracle on 34th street until our offices were moved to 37th. Congrats on your little miracle and good luck to your friend.

  10. jessicaber 05,11 at 4:42 am #

    What it really seemed like to me was that they were saying that I was too young and did not know them well enough to talk to herr like that, but I was in my 20′s, had bee through college acrossed the country from home and I was her little sisters best friend for about 15 years. They had not seen me in the same religion that they were (LDS) been I had been attending an LDS church out west for two or three years.

  11. jessicaber 05,11 at 4:38 am #

    You are absolutely right about this. I have been “slapped in the face” twice as an adult for trying to say something kind of thoughtful to some one who claimed to be infertile or someone who was a family member of mine (my cousin) who my mother told me may be was infertile. I did not realize how serious these woman are about this. This first lady got up in front of our whole church congregation and cried and told us that she had had a miscarriage and that her whole life would never be the same now. When I sat next to her after the service later and discreetly told her that my mother had told me numerous times (which she had and so it seemed odd to me…like maybe its info I should share kind of thing…maybe there is a reason for this)that magnesium may help with infertility…later her husband who was our bishop called me in to his office and reprimanded me in front of another church goer for doing that.

  12. Kate 05,11 at 3:17 am #

    I hear you! Well written, especially as it’s such an emotional thing to write about. I’ve had some similar experiences and I’m glad you’ve published this. It can only help.

  13. Alyssa 05,11 at 4:21 pm #

    Thank you and amen Cindy! Thank you for being brave enough to say (and write) the words that many of us women in your shoes have been screaming silently. I am thrilled for your gift of Wyatt.
    Blessings,
    Alyssa