I have had so many experiences dealing with the insensitive questions on infertility for the past two years. So this is a pretty long post. If you are looking for just the questions, please skip reading the prologue and get right to the point.
Growing up, I was surrounded by people who often discussed & asked questions about politics, religion, personal affairs, salary, marriage, kids etc. People hardly bothered about others’ personal space. When I say people, they were not even my best friends or my immediate relatives. There was no escaping it. So right after my wedding I knew the next question would be about me getting pregnant. Almost all my cousins got pregnant in a few months after their wedding. So I knew this was coming. And there they were. One after the other asking the questions I dreaded.
A year later, when I had to face the fact that I’d to deal with infertility things went worse. They might have just asked it as a conversation starter. But it opened up my wounds, made me angry, hurt me, made me feel more guilty. I was angry that I had to go through infertility, I was angry that I had to face such insensitive questions!
I write this article so that one day I would send the content of this article in an email to all those people who have stuck a dagger in my heart every time they have asked me any of the below questions. I want to get this out of my chest today so that I live in peace!!! This is also meant to educate the ones who might be asking questions because they never really were aware how hurtful their questions could be to people who are battling infertility. Maybe I’ve not shared my secret with them, but then why do people always take it that they could assume what ever they may wish about other people’s lives. Who gave them the right to judge?
When I think back, I may as well have been insensitive a few times. But then I learned a lot as years passed by and I’ve always been on the guard ever since. I truly ask for forgiveness, if I’ve hurt any of you myself. Maybe not in the context of infertility, but what ever context it might have been.
“The Questions” – This is what I feel when you ask me such an insensitive question.
Q1. So what’s your plan?
Well, to be honest that question is invading my privacy, unless you are my mom, dad, brother or a handful of my very close friends(I’m sure you know who you are). Others, you may be curious, but I am not obligated to satisfy your curiosity. I don’t owe any of you an answer! My sex life is not up for discussion in public, period.
Q2. Aren’t you pregnant yet? When are you going to give me the good news?
That is an inappropriate question to ask anyone, as far as I am concerned. Seriously! Isn’t it the choice of the husband and the wife to decide what we want and when we want? Why on earth do we owe an answer to you or anyone else, for that matter?
Q3. Did you see a doctor?
What made you assume we needed to see a doctor in the first place? Also, why did you think it’s okay to ask such a question that’s downright intrusive of my personal space and insulting as well?
Q4: Whose problem is it?
Seriously? What good does it do to you knowing that? Who in the world asks such rude questions?
Q5. Did you offer prayers at this temple?
This one is a common question among people back at my place. I respect your belief. I agree you might have had a child after visiting a certain temple, but please don’t try to coerce me into doing things that you believe. I talk to God in my own ways. It’s my right to do things my way and not yours. Also, talking about my infertility to the medical folks itself is too much for me, I can’t imagine doing that with the priests at the temples who belong to a society that views infertility as a stigma.
Q6. You know that you aren’t getting any younger, right?
Aha! Here I was, who didn’t even notice years pass by. Seriously??? Don’t you think it would have crossed my mind??
Q7. Don’t wait to see a doctor, a friend of mine waited for so and so years and now they are doing IVF, blah blah blah. Did you try this food, this treatment, this doctor, this workout etc? OR There is a spin off on the previous question, and this one is specific to elders in my family. I’m sure this happens in Kerala a lot. If my mom happens to go to weddings or other gatherings, the so-called ‘relatives’ and friends of their generation keep asking her this, “It’s high time, did you have ‘the talk’ with her? She isn’t getting any younger“
Ok, let me make this point very clear. My husband and I, we are well-educated by God’s grace. We are both in our 30s. We are knowledgeable enough to realize the issues at hand, do the necessary research and make an informed decision ourselves. Don’t you think we would do everything under our control and resources to make this happen?? When you face a roadblock, you would leave no stones unturned. Be it a diet or treatment or workout or doctors, anything under the sun, we’d either have tried it or considered it by now. And questions like these are annoying as far as I am concerned.
As to the second question, seriously??? Did you all ask your sons and daughters to have sex as soon as they got married? Do your relatives and friends give advice to your sons and daughters about their sex life? Then what made you think its okay to ask my mom that??? It’s disgusting!!!! Oh, by the way, I’m proud of my mom that she’s already given you an answer you deserve. I love you mom, you are the best!!!
Q8. A friend of mine, a cousin, a relative, a colleague, a neighbor is going through this, so I understand what you are going through.
Ok this one, is by far, the most annoying statement. You might hear about other people’s experience. But you can never feel the pain the way the person who experiences it does. if you haven’t faced infertility first hand, (trust me I do pray to God that no one else has to go through what I am going through) then you don’t “understand” how it “feels”. Knowing is different from having to go through it. You don’t “understand” how it “feels” to
- wake up every day, with this pain and guilt in your heart and still having to move on with life
- go through the physically painful tests like HSG, SHG and emotionally difficult semen analysis
- have intercourse according to a schedule every month.
- have some one tell you when to have sex.
- have this monotonous routine and yet to have to kindle the love in the relationship
- be on medications like you have never been in life
- chart and track every thing that goes on with your body every day of every month
- have hope at the start of every month for two weeks, to have timed intercourse for another week, to wait for another two weeks pr more in anticipation only to have your hopes crushed at the end of that two weeks wait.
- see kids around almost everywhere you go and be reminded of the pain
- have to face pregnancy and delivery announcement of loved ones and friends, to be happy for them despite the fact that you get hurt at the same time. And then to feel guilty. This cycle goes on.
- have to live with the fact that something as natural as getting pregnant, is not happening to you!!!
- see the thing that you wanted the most in life, being a mom, slipping away.
- have an endocrine disorder and your body failing you and yet to be stigmatized.
- gain weight and to be fat because of this disorder and to have to answer a lot of questions from all corners.
- have excess hair growth on you face, your chin, your back, your belly and what not, yet having to cling on to that last bit of self-confidence left in you.
- have skin tags, and hair loss on your scalp and all these hitting your self-esteem.
Well you don’t know how all these feels. This is just a tip of the iceberg of all what I go through. So you will not understand every aspect of my PCOS infertility journey and hence, please don’t try to patronize me.
Q10. Don’t get stressed much.
Well, you tell me! If you were to have your intercourse timed, to wait for two weeks anxiously for the result. Only to know your got broken again. Yet having to have to try the next month from the start, to have hopes for another two weeks. To chart, to temp and to have this cycle of grief go on and on and on for God knows how long. Yet, you want me to be stress free.
Q11.it’d happen when its time, It’d happen when God so wishes…. and all the quotes in the world.
Well… I can Google for words of wisdom on hope myself to find all these. Keep all these to yourself unless you are asked.
This is my response to all those who genuinely care for me or may be wasn’t aware they were being insensitive.
Well, I am glad to know you genuinely care for me. If you were being unaware I forgive you. But at least now, please know that these are insensitive questions as far as I am concerned. I’d be really grateful to you if you keep this in mind in future. I am not ready to discuss the details with you yet. When I am ready, I would. The thought that you are there to turn to, if ever I need a shoulder, is enough for me. Please remember me in your prayers.
This is meant for all others who asked me any of these questions just to hurt me or were being deliberately nosy.
Seriously I have no intention to satisfy any of your curiosities.
I’ve considered two options when someone asks me an insensitive question. First being “Do I really have to answer this question?” and the second one being “Do I have to be defensive?“. There could be situations where in I ought to be respectful. There could also be scenarios where I could just snap, if that’s what the person deserves. Anyways, if my response is any of the below, please know that your question was downright insensitive.
- Being silent and say nothing
- Taking a deep breath and say nothing
- A blank stare
- Switching the topic to something else
- Pretending I heard something else
- Opening up with a closing statement like “I’ve roadblocks, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss.”
- Reply with a question which makes you realize how insensitive you’ve been to me
- Tell you directly it is none of your business
- Tell you it was an insensitive or insulting question to ask
- Just walk away
- Respond with humor
I’d rather you re-framed your question to a subtle statement like this.
If you were to tell me you’d be there for me if I ever needed you, that would be the sweetest thing to say! You could also tell me I am remembered in your prayers. When you have overwhelming news to share, give me a heads up first. So that I’d be prepared to get composed while you deliver the news. If I have not yet opened up to you, please give it some time. When I am ready, I would. If I am not, please know that I’d have my own reasons for it.
One of my very close friends, she handled the situation with compassion.
- She didn’t deliver the news face to face of over the phone. She didn’t share the news over Facebook first, so that I’d have had to learn from there. Instead, she sent me a text.
- She gave me an introduction which went something like this, “hey, I’ve always been open with you, I’ve told you everything that happened in my life, so I’d tell you this as well.” Well, this was a heads-up.
- Then she said she was pregnant. She is one of the sweetest person I’ve ever met, so for sure I felt really happy for her. Yet, to be honest, it stung coz it opened up my wounds. It had nothing to do with her or her big news. It was just me.
Though these questions are commonly faced by people battling infertility, the responses are just my take on the matter. Everyone are different and may respond differently. I assume, as time passes by, I would be strong at heart and would be able to face & respond to these questions gracefully!
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