Flipping The Script: Solidarity, not Pressure

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When I was actively going through infertility and treatment, I heard a lot of stories.  I think everyone who goes through any sort of medical or social crisis hears stuff like this, you know, the “the doctors told them they’d never get pregnant/recover/etc., but they did!”  Sometimes this was helpful, particularly when related firsthand by the person the story had happened to, and often, those storytellers (whether in person or on blogs) would point out that while it had worked for them, they knew it wasn’t necessarily going to work that way for others.  It was solidarity, not inspiration.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case.  Sometimes the stories were told more prescriptively (often by people that they hadn’t happened to), in the “if you just hang on, it will happen!” or “if you do _______, you’ll have a baby!”  Often, it occurred when I was already beating myself up and wondering what I could have done differently or when we were making painful decisions whether or not to continue treatment.  Those stories made me feel guilty, my decisions unaccepted, and left me second-guessing whether or not I’d done “enough”.

I’ve lurked this year for National Infertility Awareness Week, mostly because reading everyone else’s blog posts proved interesting and the topic – “Flip the Script” – is one I’ve had to mull over a bit.  Finally, though, I’ve realized the script I want to flip: be careful with stories.

A couple of years ago, I realized I’d become that cliché, walking urban legend of infertility stories: IVF works on the third embryo transfer after losses, rare, tragic complications, and out of that, a beautiful, healthy child.  Getting spontaneously pregnant with my second with no interventions or treatments only added to it.

I’m grateful for how things worked out.  But it is by the most bizarre circumstances and strange, against-the-odds events that I am where I am in life right now.  There is absolutely nothing that is able to be generalized to someone else struggling with infertility.

It’s not because of my hard work.  It’s not because of my persistence.  It’s not because I’m somehow “special”.  It’s not because of my good attitude or positive thinking (please, ask anyone in my life – I did not accept infertility/PCOS with any grace whatsoever, still dislike many pregnancy announcements/going to other people’s baby showers except under special circumstances, and hated pretty much every moment of treatment).  It’s not because of “baby dust”.  It’s not because I deserved it more than anyone else.

Truthfully, I have no idea why things worked out the way they did.  I’m grateful, but I really don’t have an answer to the “why/how”.  And I resent the idea that if things had not worked, I would have been any less worthy.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: I hope no one (including me) ever uses my story as a cudgel or as a prescription or as a “this could be you too if you just keep trying!”  Because anyone who is struggling with infertility, needs to take a break, or needs to consider their options (including resolving without children), does not need that pressure or guilt.  It’s great to tell our stories and truths.  But there’s a way to do it without generalizing out-of-the-ordinary happenings to others or giving false hope.

Let’s flip that script, straight up.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

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5 thoughts on “Flipping The Script: Solidarity, not Pressure

  1. I’m sitting here, cheering as I read this. Because I have the exact same views about all of this (baby showers included).

    I recently learned that someone was using my story as an example of “don’t give up.” I literally lost it as 1) this person has zero clue what we went through and 2) using my journey this way is just plain wrong. As I corrected this person, it was clear they thought I was over reacting, until I pointed out that they had done far more harm than good. Even then, I don’t think it’s entirely sunk in.

    Which is why we need to flip the script. Infertility and loss are shitty traumas that can happen to anyone. And those that come out the other side should not be deemed worthy it they resolve by parenting but because they resolved and survived. That needs to be the focus. Thank you for promoting that

  2. Oh holy jeezum, this is an amazing post. YES! YES! YES! The “miracle” stories used to “encourage” people on their infertility journeys are so damaging. It can be nice to hear of someone who met with success, but I can tell you that I never heard one of those stories without it having an unspoken (and sometimes SPOKEN) message of “I did it, and SO CAN YOU if you hang in there!” I think I did as many IVF cycles as I did in part because there was always someone who got pregnant on that last cycle of many, and I was afraid to “quit” too soon. Even though in the end I had uterine damage as a direct result of how long we kept cycling and surgically “prepping” my uterus. Even though maybe if I had left IVF sooner, I’d have had more wherewithal for adoption and been a bit younger and possibly more appealing to prospective birth parents. Can’t really go down that road too far as it’s not useful, but still…all the advice and stories definitely made me feel as you say so eloquently: “Those stories made me feel guilty, my decisions unaccepted, and left me second-guessing whether or not I’d done “enough”.” I want to hear stories of people who resolve in different ways, I want to be a story that someone else can relay and maybe it helps someone feel like resolving childfree is NOT “giving up” but moving forward from something that’s proven harmful to continue.

    Sorry for the long comment, but you struck a chord! Love this post. So much. Love your perspective as someone who could be (mis)used as a “miracle” story — even if what happened was a miracle of sorts, I love that you don’t claim to have the magic mojo to make it happen and don’t quite understand how it worked out that way, but are grateful it did. Me, too. ❤

  3. This is such a great way of looking at it — there’s a HUGE difference between telling a story for solidarity and telling one for a “just try hard enough and it’ll happen” tale!

  4. Brava! I have said this over and again, but fear that people would think it was sour grapes. I’m sad that it may only be recognised as truth when someone with children says it, but I’m glad and grateful that you said it nonetheless!

    I especially liked this – “Truthfully, I have no idea why things worked out the way they did.” So often, people decide that they got pregnant simply by doing X or Y differently from previous cycles. When there is no proof that X or Y changed anything. The doctors, too, know how random it is, although they don’t always admit it. (My favourite Dr told me, “we know more about the surface of the moon than how the female reproductive system works.” !!!)

  5. Hear hear!! This is one script that definitely needs flipping. I agree with Mali that (sadly) people will be more likely to listen to someone like you, whose story ended in the traditionally happy way, than someone like me or her. So thank you for this post!

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