Tuesday, February 17, 2009

to tell or not to tell

One of the biggest questions we're working through at the moment is 'who to tell' when it comes to IVF.

I find myself of two completely different minds about this. Yesterday, my husband and I were running errands and stopped at the local craft store. He, in a fit of testosterone, decided to stay in the car. We parked across from the handicapped spot and watched a perfectly able (to the naked eye) couple get into the car in that spot and drive away. "I always wonder about that," he said, "because they looked just fine, so why are they parking in a handicapped spot?"

One the one hand, I suspect there are people who abuse that system, who get permit for their cars under fraudulent circumstances. And that's irritating, no doubt.

But then again, I remember a few days when infertility punched me so hard in the heart I felt like I could hardly walk, and I could have used the handicapped spot myself. I think about a woman I know who will remember the first anniversary of her son's death this Saturday. He was 24 years old. He survived two tours of duty in Iraq, came home, contracted an infection from who-knows-where, and died. Shouldn't she get a handicapped spot? What about the woman whose keister is killing her from PIO shots, whose heart aches from a miscarriage, the husband who had to endure the first semen analysis appointment? Not to mention the guy who just lost his job, the kid who was picked on relentlessly...before you know it, the whole damn parking lot is handicapped.

That's the part of me that frankly wants to walk around with a t-shirt announcing, "I AM INFERTILE. I AM GOING THROUGH IVF. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU TALK TO ME. MY HEART HURTS. AND DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, MENTION THE OCTUPLETS. THANK YOU." Part of me wants everyone to know this stuff. I want people to pray for us, and be kind to us and, for the love of God, stop asking when we're going to have kids.

But there is another part of me that doesn't want anyone to know about any of this. About the infertility, the failed treatment cycles, the upcoming IVF. Because I'm afraid that, the more people we tell, the more people will have to be told if it fails.

I just finished reading An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, which is the story of one woman's life after losing her first son at his birth. It is an amazing book. Every time I picked it up I thought, "why am I reading this? Why am I reading about a dead baby? What kind of masochist am I?" And I read about how a few people in her life, who had known of her pregnancy but not the baby's death, would ask via email or a card how she was enjoying motherhood, which must have been like a javelin through the heart, and I think, "well, that's it. I'm not telling anyone about this."

And then I read about some of the wonderful people who surrounded her with love and I think, "well, that's it. I'm telling everyone about this."

Perhaps this kind of total two-mindedness should qualify one for a handicapped parking spot.

We'll have to work our way through this one. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer - just what seems best for us. If you have thoughts on this one, feel free to share in the comments - I'd love some more wisdom on it.


  1. In college I made great money photocopying my lecture notes for the Disabled Students Department, and in every class I would look around and wonder who needed them. I could NEVER tell, and had to remind myself that it was probably something not visible to the public. It's true, IF is similar.

    I had a VERY hard time dealing with the question of who/how/when to tell people, and it took me about two years to even tell my parents and sister and best friends. Since then I've become a little more comfortable, but only family and close friends know. I've reduced the circle back a little bit about the IVF, because I just can't handle the pressure of keeping inquiring minds updated. I've been pretty vague with most people, and since they understand so little, that seems to work. I just say "oh yeah, we're getting ready to start some treatments, hopefully we'll know more in a couple of months". I have this daydream that once we have a baby I'll be the IF Superwoman and inform everyone all about it, but we'll see.

    My situation is extra tricky because we might be using donor sperm, and you can't really un-tell that one.

    Good luck to you as you navigate the decision(s)! If you decide to tell no one, we will be here in blog land supporting you!!!

  2. I'm still sorting through this dilemma myself. There's no easy answer. There are times when I have this urge to tell people, particularly at church when I want them to pray for us. But what Betsy said above is right, you can't un-tell once it's out there (and my husband is very good at reminding me of this in my moments of "let's just tell everyone!") So it's kind of a trade-off. Do I want the prayers and the encouragement, plus the added benefit of getting fewer painful questions about when we're having kids? Or do I want the freedom and privacy that comes with people not knowing, so I don't have to deflect prying questions regarding treatments, or feel forced to share more than I want to about disappointments along the journey? I think it's a question to probably ponder on an individual friend/family member basis, perhaps. But keep us posted with what you decide to do.

  3. We told our parents, siblings and a few close friends. I felt it was necessary because I was so scared to do the IVF that I needed all the support and prayers I could get. But, after having all these people share the grief of a failure... we decided that the pressure isn't worth it. so, this year, whenever I cycle, I might tell a friend or two. But not family anymore.
    Especially because even though my in-laws knew all about it, and where devastated to learn it did not work, they were also completely insensitive towards me on something that came up soon after. That made me really upset. That they knew something so delicate and intimate and how depressed I was after the whole ordeal, and it didn't matter.
    I'd say, choose carefully.
    You can also go to a website called praying4ababy or something like that. it's a collective of people who pray for couples TTC.

  4. just read every post here, dear one.

    and i am praying.

    and i understand the dilemma of which you write here.

    thanks for inviting me in. (((((you))))