Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A well meaning friend just sent me a kindly intentioned email, that is too close to the kind of advice I've been getting for 2 yrs. I had a moment of wanting to write back a snappy retort, or to just ignore it. But, I decided that the former would belittle my own experience or the latter would distance me from her. So, I wrote this:

"As for my trying acupressure, etc. I appreciate the sentiment, but I have to tell you that nothing I do/change will get us pregnant. I didn't want to believe that, for a long time, no matter how many doctors told me the same thing.

I've done acupuncture, herbs, diet changes, meds, etc, over the past 2 1/2 yrs.

We are dealing with severe male factor infertility. The MFI is why we have to do ivf.
I wish that weren't the case. But, it makes me tired to hear, over and over(everyone has a story) what someone else(who probably had female factor) did. I hope you don't mind me telling you that, I just can't handle any more suggestions. When I get them I tend to want to curl up and ignore that well-meaning person. I know I am extra sensitive, but that is just the case, at this point."

I just sent it, and haven't heard back yet. In a way, I feel I shouldn't be posting this here. But I know that so many people struggle with this issue, and how to respond.

I really wish I weren't so sensitive to these kind of things. I wish I could see the kindness behind every "just keep trying" and "I know it will happen for you, just be patient" remark I receive. I want to get (unasked for) advice, comments and feel the love behind them. It is crazy to me how much some comments make me feel, instead, that the person does not understand at all, or that they dismiss my worries as insignificant and temporary.

I remind myself that this infertility we are dealing with effects our community, as well. That our friends and family(esp. them) want us to be done with this, want the children Mr. S and I hope to have to be part of their community. Maybe they are saying what they wish were true.

I would love to be one of those infertility stories. "they were told they had close to zero (we were told 0.25%)chance of getting naturally pregnant, but they did!"

Why do I care if people understand? It would be so easy for me to just stop talking about this, pretend all is well. Make small talk. But, I feel like this is the curse of infertility, grief and illness in this culture. The desire to gloss over and pretend everything is OK. It feels dishonest to me. But, I know it would save me a lot of hurt feelings, and probably keep me from alienating friends.


  1. Hi Birch,
    Thanks for sharing. I think that your response was perfectly appropriate and acknowledges both the senders good intetntions and your feelings and experience. Sending lots of love your way.


  2. You sound like you have given this much thought and that you are working to be true and authentic to yourself and those who love and care about you. I hope you receive nothing but unconditional love and support.

  3. I've been reflecting on how/why life so often asks us to be both the person experiencing something painful AND the person teaching their community how to provide the right kind of support. Here in Disneyland (America), we seem to always first have to get over the first shock that something hard is happening and then the second that it won't go away just because we wish it to. It's not easy to be in your position, but as much as you can keep showing your real self because it helps your community and anyone else we come into contact with who is struggling in a similar way.

  4. thanks everyone- I really appreciate your thoughts. Ironically, she wrote back and said she'd meant to say Mr. S should try it. :)

    Maya- it is true, it is hard to be the educator with the processing going on, it may be why so many people pretend.

  5. I do feel like others have good intentions; they just don't know what to say. And they can't fix the problem, so they say something that hurts us without even knowing how painful their comments are. I'm glad you gave a middle-road response. Maybe she'll learn from this. And I'm glad you posted this because so many people wonder how others respond to these kinds of comments.

  6. You don't need to make any excuses for how your feel--sensitive or not. You have every right to feel offended, annoyed, overly sensitive...IF sucks--plain and simple. I am so sorry for your loss and the pain you are going through.

  7. We too have severe MFI. My husband and I agreed prior to infertility testing that know matter what the case we wouldn't tell people (that we know) what our issue was/is, but I have to admit it was very hard for me not to reply "oh, really? Will that make sperm magically appear or will it make the few that are there learn to swim?" I never did, but I always wanted to just blurt out that we are missing an essential piece to this puzzle and no matter they're not going to just show up one day all ready to go.

  8. I think your response was great -- honest and straight forward, but said kindly. And even though she clarified it was for Mr. S, it is still hard to get those suggestions. People seem to think we haven't tried EVERYTHING.

  9. Thanks soo much for writing about this. I know that we are not alone in this but sometimes it feels like it. I have such trouble with people saying "If you try this or that....." or "If you just relaxed...". We have chosen to tell no one about the male infertility but most people know that we are TTC with an RE. Always lots of suggestions from people and it wears me down soo much. Thanks soo much for writing here. This was my first time reading your blog. I am soo sorry for your loss as well, I too have dealt with this type of loss and I still struggle with it.

  10. It is interesting about not saying why you're going to an RE, I can respect it. I think that if I hadn't dealt with everyone (that didn't know) assuming it was a female issue, I'd be more quiet. But, between doctors, nurses and others doing so, I feel determined to make people understand it is a 50-50 thing. I always ask Mr. S before saying anything, though.

    carolyn-welcome to blog land.

  11. your post just helped me realize that I have been alienating people. So either I trust them, and am able to open up and share my struggles, or I prefer to be in a larger group of people when the focus is never on how my life is going.
    It was very nice that your friend wrote you back and said she meant the advice for your husband. Indeed for MI, chinese medicine with acupuncture and herbs can help on numbers, but if the problem is something else, then, it can't offer much hope I guess.
    Thanks for sharing your response. I just might use it as an inspiration if needed. ;)

  12. It's exhausting to be on the hamster's wheel and for people to think that it's fair game to give you advice at every turn. The whole infertility journey is unfair, but I truly believe that male factor infertility is the most unfair. Keep venting and sharing.