I am sharing an article that was posted on Upworthy recently that caught my attention. The article is titled, Magic words to say when everything’s going wrong. (Not ‘everything happens for a reason.’) There are parts I agree with and others where I disagree. However, I completely agree with the last part of the writing. The article stated that one should say, “I acknowledge your pain. I am here.” To just acknowledge that someone’s pain is more meaningful than any other words that can be given.
One of my best friends recently told me how much she commends me for this journey. She said she’s never seen anything quite like it and that it has to be difficult. That simple acknowledgement has meant so much to me. I never told her that, so she can know it now. I spend many days thinking I am crazy, overreacting, too stressed to comprehend anything, or even wondering what in the world I am doing. To have someone just acknowledge that I am going through a lot brought me down to a level where I could function for even a few minutes. I did not feel like the weirdo who obsesses every minute of everyday about what is happening. I felt like Lauren who is just handling a lot, but somehow handling it.
One of the most difficult things during this infertility journey is I feel like I have lost myself in a sense. I do not react to things the same way I used to (the joy of hormones). My body does not feel the same; while I haven’t gained pounds, I still feel like an exploded can of biscuits. For some reason, when someone just acknowledges your world is upside down, you can then realize it too. You recognize that this is not a life sentence. You are still the same person who went into this journey.
During this process I have been given a ton of advice and supportive words. I appreciate them all! I tend to believe that most people come from a good place when they are trying to give advice or support. I know most people don’t mean to actually hurt me with their words. But sometimes words can cause some very unintentional pain. I do not in a million years believe that the people who say them mean anything bad. I think people are just at a loss for words, so they say whatever they think sounds positive and sweet. I have relatively thick skin, but sometimes I did/do struggle with a couple of things that people tend to say in regards to infertility. I’ll list them below and explain why they may hurt someone in this journey. I am only sharing so that if you find yourself in this situation you may reconsider what you say. I, for one, would always recommend just acknowledging their struggle and leave the door open for the person to share how they are feeling.
- DO NOT bring up adoption. We know this is an option, trust me, anyone going through infertility has looked into, considered, or just decided it was not for them. This is a very personal discussion. The loss of ability to experience pregnancy is something that so many women cannot even imagine losing. It is something that would most certainly be grieved. Adoption is not a cure for infertility.
- DO NOT ask how long we plan to receive treatment. That is a personal decision. Unfortunately, our ability to have a family is completely correlated to how much money we have, not even including what the average person should plan to have to raise a child. When we are asked how long we plan to get treatment, it makes us feel unsupported in a sense, especially when the cost is brought up. We know it costs a lot, our wallets see it. However, the end result is invaluable. We’ve made plans for ourselves to make sure we can afford it. Many of those in these situations do.
- Saying, “everything happens for a reason”, just makes us obsess about the reason. What did I do to make this happen? Is it karma for something I did many years ago? Why do other people, in less than favorable situations have no issue, but I do? I have watched many things line up perfectly in my life, however it was not without extreme heart break. Do I believe I am stronger now? Absolutely! However, it has changed me in good and bad ways. I have chosen to focus and highlight the good changes.
- “It’s in God’s hands”, was by far the most difficult things for me to hear. I believe in God and I know he is there for us. However, this statement just makes me think, why is God not letting me be a Mom? What did I do? Is he mad at me? Why am I not worth but so many others are, others who have abandoned their children? I know I should trust in God through this process and I do; I believe he is by my side. However, that particular statement makes me think God is just saying “no” and I have no idea why. Therefore, the obsession continues. It also does not make the process any easier. Your body goes through some very extensive changes physically, chemically, and emotionally, you cannot be in control of it all of the time. A lot of how we feel during this process is between us and God. Our spiritual stance is not something that would be useful to bring up that this time.
All of the statements listed above have always been meant as kind supportive statements. They’ve been said by family, friends and acquaintances and even as comments on this blog. I disagree with the article because in no way do I think you should “kick” these people out of your life for saying ‘everything happens for a reason”. I feel like when you go through a difficult situation, you have to be prepared that people will not always have the right words for you and that is okay. No one is really trying to hurt you (if they are purposely trying to hurt you, then by all means kick them out). Most are only trying to offer support in the best way they think they can. I feel like it is up to those in difficult situations to just be honest about their struggles so that others can be helpful. It’s easier said than done; I know! Unless you’ve stood in the exact same shoes as someone, it is difficult to come up with the words to show support in any situation. You cannot blame people for not having the right words for your situation. You can love them for trying and help them understand how you feel, if that is what you want to do. I am extremely fortunate to have the most supportive tribe of people in my life. I’ve faced nothing but support and love during this journey from those who know me. Since our story has been in the news, I have faced scrutiny from those who do not know us. This has made my skin thicker in a way, but has also broken my heart several times. Most of the hurtful things have came from people who have read our news stories. I am thankful for all the love we have received; it far surpasses the not so loving remarks.
“I am here for you” has always been one of the most meaningful things to hear. I know sometimes saying it sounds and feels empty. However, if you say it and show the person you mean it, they’ll never forget. Living through infertility is a particular form of torture. We make people uncomfortable when we talk about our struggles because it is not something that is considered “normal”. This is not like talking about your pregnancy where everyone (maybe not your boss), wants to hear your story such as your birth experience. It is easier to talk about pregnancy because it is all around us and it is such an exciting time. When I am asked about my lack of children, I simply respond that now is not the time for us. What I want to say is, we are doing IVF to have children. One cycle has failed and it was heart breaking, but we are continuing to try and I have become quite the expert in giving shots. I want to talk about IVF. It is amazing and for a lack of better terms, just blows my mind! I think one of the kindest things someone could do for someone in this situation is to let the person talk about it. Don’t let your eyes glaze over in boredom or feel uncomfortable; if the person appears comfortable, ask questions. Chances are the person you are talking to has researched IVF more than the FBI would when doing a background check. A lot of us are dying to share this amazing journey. This journey is not all sadness and heartbreak. We get to watch life from the very beginning of time; that in itself is amazing.
This article really made me think about what it has been like to go through a difficult journey and what has been helpful along the way. I think the phrase “I acknowledge your pain, I am here”, can be used in any difficult situation and continue to be helpful. To simply know we are not alone, whether you can relate or not, means the absolute world. It lets us know we are the same person who started on this journey and that it will not last forever. I related this article to infertility because it is my life. However, I know the terms shared could be used in almost any struggle in life. I am thankful for something that sounds to be more meaningful when talking to those I love who are facing difficult times. I always want to show my support and love but sometimes I have no words. Maybe the less said, the better. I’m here for you.