Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stay mum or not.

I wrote this post six months ago- overlooked it it'til now.  Sorry about the delay.  

There was someone I have felt close to. She too dealt with infertility- the bottom line is that she said she had made peace with her infertility, not being able to be a mother; now she's in her early 60's. I have known her for more than fifteen years. I had looked up to her for many things, seeing her as a mentor for the religious path I have been on for over 20 years. Now on my childless path, I had looked up to her through the months going in and out of the hospitals, and when it struck me that I wouldn't be able to be a biological mother. I I still vividly remember when I was crying on phone, she said, "Go ahead and cry, cry it all out of your heart. Listen to me, don't obsess about it too long. Don't waste all your time on this. I got over it soon enough, and so will you." 

When I found myself still down 3 months after the hysterectomy, I started to think something was wrong. After 8 months, I was thinking "am I obsessing over it? Am I not letting it go?", drowning in self-guilt and self-doubt. It took reading blogs like Life Without Baby, The Road Less Travelled, Real Life & Thereafter, Serenity in Chaos, and books like "Silent Sorority" by Pamela Tsigdinos, "I'm Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to say No to Motherhood" by Lisa Manterfield, and "Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility" by Janet Jaff, Martha Diamond and David Diamond. There are more blogs and books that I could read, but to me, those blogs/books I listed are more significant- helping me realize that:

"Grief is not a straight path, it's a continual cycle, very much like a labyrinth with its countless turns and stripes short and long. Uphill, downhill, it's all that."

"Not everyone experiences infertility alike. No one walk the same path. Each person goes it her way, with individual coping, access to support, and courage on their own time."

That was the catharsis for me; I had to let go of my expectations and society's expectations on how I:

"should complete my grief,"
"should move on,"'
"should shut up, be quiet."

I have been an advocate for women power, Deaf community, HIV/AIDS education, awareness of child abuse, domestic violence, more, for long as I could remember. So, returning to advocacy, as a tool to help myself heal, while noticing how infertility, childlessness and childfree life are still overlooked and/or judged in society's eyes, I was thinking, Why not? This is something I can do. Empowering people and empowering me. I walk the walk, and I can say "have been there, done that- and I got this stinkin' T-shirt."

So in time, I would share a post or meme about infertility here and there on Facebook, occasionally...testing the waters.
Mostly, I'd get a few likes, two or three comments affirming or at least, asking how this happened to me and/or how they could help someone infertile in their family or among friends.  

I felt emboldened, to share some more posts, although I drew a line at 'oversharing' because even I don't want to focus on infertility alllll the time in my life. I keep a balance as possible, mostly advocating and supporting causes, (including fighting against domestic violence and oppressing women). I like to share positive memes, introvert memes and geek memes- What can I say? 

Anyway, there would be some dry weeks without a post about infertility, then 2-3 posts a week. I did notice when I would experience depression (trigger of pregnancy announcement, or a glimpse of a baby), I'd start looking at infertility and/or grief posts/articles to validate and comfort me, normalizing what I'm going through. From there I'd find a good article to share in goal of making the word infertility public; to share that infertility exists for someone in your life- if it's your sister, your cousin, your best friend, or your teacher. Or at least you know that you're not alone in this.

A day before Infertility awareness week, I was already 'down' due to a friend who had recently have her baby. I congratulated her about her son's birth and sent her a baby gift earlier that week. That's the best I could do, while hiding her (which I tend to do with friends/relatives- when they announce being pregnant, or going through pregnancy, I hide them. I say nothing. It's for my self preservation.) Anyway, looking forward to advocating awareness about infertility, I had already shared a article about how to be supportive to infertile friends earlier that week. That day, I noticed I had a private message from the dear friend. I was quite aghast of the horrid tone in the message, chewing me out for being open about my grief,, posting "8-10 posts about infertility DAILY", "taking up all her new feed with all negative posts", "it being a friggin' year of this." And right after that, she de-friended me.  

I was quite flabbergasted. I even had a friend check my page to see if I truly post infertile stuff "8-10 daily" as I said in one recent post; turned out that accusation wasn't true. I had to talk with a good friend who is also an IFer. More we talked about my response to the email, it drew upon me.

It wasn't about me. It was about the friend's own pain of her infertility.  

I tried to put myself in her shoes- back then there'd be not much support in 1980's. No support groups on Internet, or at least forums to talk it out. It would have been lonesome for her and other women back then. It might be presuming of me to say this, but it might be easier to sweep it under the rug, to pretend that it didn't hurt anymore. I could be wrong, although.

Me, I chose not to pretend that it was 'all fine'. After struggling thinking I should put a deadline on my grief, and learning I didn't have to. The journey is mine, not anyone else's.

I chose to face my grief, and I chose to be public about my childlessness/infertility- in goal of removing the sting of taboo, normalizing and shrinking sense of stigma from the word 'Infertility. More I speak up in advocating, more women (and men) have contacted me privately, thanking me for putting the spotlight on this issue. They are not ready to open their hurt to the world, yet they appreciate that they are not alone anymore.

So that led me to realize that the friend possibly experienced re-opening wounds of her infertility; maybe that she hadn't proceeded through her own grief. Hence, it's pretty easier for her to lash out at me outward, instead of looking inward of her own pain.

That furthermore led me to realize three things-

I had hid certain people who go through pregnancy, for self preservation.. Why couldn't she have hid me for her own preservation?

I moved some people to close friends or favorites, where I could see their posts while NOT seeing others' posts. Why couldn't she selected close friends in new feeds where she'd see their posts, not mine?

She could have de-friended me; well she did. After sending me that horrible email, that was. However, she could have done this all along before now then- why waiting a year and some to do so, doing it as a dramatic exit?

I don't know the reasoning behind this. I just wish she could have talked with me about her reactions, her perceptive about me sharing posts about the topic she is not comfortable with. The email's message was absolutely unnecessary. I feel sympathy for her, and what she had gone through; I also understand how she chose to face this devastating trauma. However, I am not definitely happy how she projected herself upon me, putting a deadline of grief/healing on me, and when I didn't, she chose to think that something was wrong with me. She forgot, I'm NOT who she is.

How I address my grief, how I choose to draw strength from advocacy and helping people, refusing to 'sweep under the rug', that is certainly not wrong for me.

That's the difference between her and me.


  1. I think you're right -that it is more about her than about you. She maybe came from a time when it wasn't acceptable to grieve, and perhaps now, seeing the support you get, the different ways you have to express yourself and find support and spread the word, she feels resentful. Maybe it's even bringing up feelings she didn't deal with -after all, trying to "get over it" too soon doesn,t allow growth or healing. I'm sorry she reacted this way - for her, for you, and for your friendship.

  2. I'm also sorry that after 15 years of friendship, she chose to have that kind of exit. I've also felt what you felt - in the beginning of my IF journey, I was like screaming for help, for compassion so I shared so many things related to infertility and I know I overshared with my close friends via emails, but the fact that they were at a loss on what to say/do made me feel even "drowned" - until I found this IF community in the blogosphere and I've also bought Pamela's book that has helped me a lot, so same as yourself, I'm forever grateful for this IF community and those who've shared a lot about their journey, especially those who end up without kids.

    I remember one time when I replied to an FB comment in my own page (below my photo) to stuff related to infertility and one close friend said, "MY GOODNESS!!! I can't believe that it seems ANYTHING can trigger the talk of infertility and you've done it so many times already."

    I was really shocked when I read that, so I wrote an email to her directly, asking her, "Are you REALLY sure that I've been talking about infertility topics so much? I feel that I have tried to lessen the frequency of sharing infertility stuff via emails to you girls and instead I've poured my thoughts about infertility in my blog, but if you really feel that I've shared too much again, I'd really like to know so that I can stop oversharing."

    I even went back to my sent folder and tried to find out how many times I had talked about or mentioned infertility in my group emails within the past 3-6 months, but nothing much came up. Only a few times at the most.

    Thankfully she replied, saying that after thinking about it, she agreed that I hadn't really talked often about infertility lately. But to me, her view of my infertility journey made me feel like the times when (she felt) I had overshared were probably too intense/too detailed for her that nowadays it seems that if I talk about infertility out of the blue, it reminds her of all the oversharing that I've done. So my conclusion: infertility does take a toll on friendship.

    1. Oh Amel, I know what you mean about oversharing- in beginning of journey (after surgery), I did overshare for two or three months, especially grief and sorrow. It was later when I talked about infertility after summer- sometimes I wonder are we talking so much about infertility, an emotional trauma/grief that make folks uncomfortable, or that we are talking about something of a taboo that make folks uneasy to discuss about?

      You're right, infertility does take a toll on some friendship, yet strengthens- and unfortunately for someone I knew, and presumed we'd be in the same boat, didn't work out.

    2. Oh yes, you're right about IF strengthening friendship as well. I've also found some kindred spirits along the way that I wouldn't have connected otherwise - so even though I don't want to meet people through infertility, but I'm glad there are those who've gone a similar path so that I don't feel alone. :-)

  3. Oh, forgot to say, I'm GLAD my blog has helped you in your grief process. :-)

  4. Dear Wolfers,
    I'm way behind on my blog reading, but I've been seeing you and your wonderfully supportive comments all around the blogosphere, and I wanted to drop by to share a heartfelt thank you for your kindness, insights and strength. Will be back. Much love to you. Pamela