7 Infertility Helpers from Hell

Have you read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle?  It is the often difficult story of a woman who has been through a heck of a lot of misguided troubles.  I give her a lot of credit for having had the courage to heal through the fog and pain of her own life.

I was particularly interested in her descriptions of the so-called helpers in her life, people who meant well but who hindered her healing.  Their intentions may have been good, but their efforts often turned out to be self-absorbed and, ultimately, unhelpful. Because I hear so many stories about how helpers don’t help during the infertility journey, I offer my homage to Doyle’s Love Warrior.   I respectfully offer what I call “7 Infertility Helpers From Hell.”

  1. The Fixer—The Fixer is certain that your terrible situation is a question and they know the answer. In fact, this person has A-L-L the answers to how to heal from your predicament. Note that I called this a predicament, notyour fear and pain. This is just a project to be figured out.  There’s a blueprint. Just do what they recommend, be grateful, and you will be A-OK. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy from your head to your toes? And you better feel better real quick. I remember when The Fixer told my husband and me to make love on the beach under a full moon and we’d get pregnant.  I could make this up.  The answer has been offered. What are you waiting for?  Get to it. And Don’t Worry About It!   Unfortunately, your spouse may be a Fixer.  The Fixer needs you to take the advice and feel good because he or she is already thinking about their own life and it is too difficult to even imagine what you are going through. They can’t even. Better to work on you as a goodwill project than consider the possibility of fear and pain in their own lives.
  2. The Comparer—The Comparer knows a person with PCOS who GOT PREGNANT on their FIRST IVF cycle and then they GOT PREGNANT again ON THEIR OWN and they KNOW that you will too!  They don’t know how they know this, but they sure do.  Because The Comparer refuses to accept that your predicament is personal—andyes, (ahem) many vaginal ultrasounds and semen samples are personal—this person needs to deflect your personal pain.  It would be really painful for this person who feel your pain.  This person will not win a gold medal in validation or empathy.  They file you into a category for which they have a reference.  They may also talk about how they are the same as you because something really bad happened to them in their life, like whiplash or they didn’t get that job they really wanted.  And they were very, very sad.  FYI, your pain is about them, too.  The Comparer can’t deal with the intense feelings and situation that you are living in and it is easier to talk about themselves or someone else who also has a really, really, really hard story. Even harder than your own, of course.
  3. The Reporter—The Reporter wants all the juicy details. “Oooooh, tell me more”, they say. They have many questions, ranging from the curious to the spicy, and they await your detailed answers. This is a Pulitzer prize winning New York Times reporter with a spiral notebook and a digital recorder. And once The Reporter has the data they just CANNOT keep a secret.  They have to share your big, horrible story with others without your consent.  “Did you hear?  Isn’t that JUST AWFUL?” The Reporter shares with boundaryless abandon in the spirit of transparency because she or he is just so darn worried about you.  Really, it’s easier to tell a story than to feel your pain.
  4. The Cricket—*sound of crickets*. (I am whispering.  This person is quiet because they just don’t know what to do, or say, or ask.  They don’t want to do anything that might make you feel worse.  So they do nothing.   But they may say they heard you were doing okay, from The Reporter maybe? And they are hoping against hope that that is true because they don’t know what to do, or say, or ask.)
  5. God Reps—Everybody take a breath and please don’t curse me out.  I’m just a messenger here.  The God Rep is here on a gossamer trail of thoughts and prayers, straight from The Big One Upstairs.  This person knows how you should feel.  Isn’t that a relief?  God knows why you are in this predicament, according to the God Rep.  They feel called by the Lord to tell you that God has a plan for you.  The suffering of trying to conceive for years and spending a bucket of money on having children is part of the plan.  Isn’t that simple?  I have seen many good people, devout people, get violently furious about the God Rep’s very important message.  Did you know that you can have a conversation with God directly, without the God Rep’s “help”, and that you can feel however you feel, good or bad?  The Big One can handle all of your feelings.
  6. The Cheerleader—Yay! You are going to be okay!  They just know it!  Turn that frown upside down! Rah! You have time! You are young! You are going to beat the odds!  This is gonna work!  You just gotta think positive!  You just need to put on your lipstick and relaxandeatyourvegetablesanddoacupuncture!  The Cheerleader is too uncomfortable to step out of their rosy formation to consider your reality.  They don’t understand that they are dismissing your every feeling and leaving you feeling quite alone.
  7. The Victim—The Victim has heard about your terrible news and feels just terrible—wait for it—that you did not share your news directly with them.  They had tohear secondhand.  They are verklempt. They are so emotional about being left out of your big story that they need to breathe a moment.  They thought you were close.  They need to tell you how they feel.  Please note that they have not expressed empathy for YOUR frustration and grief.  Theirs is bigger. Much bigger.

Who is a Real Helper when you feel vulnerable and afraid?

It’s the person who just listens.  Who gives you a hug without offering advice.  The Real Helper goes to the clinic with you, just because.  They cry with you, because infertility is unfair and they know you hurt.  It’s the person who offers understanding, not judgment.  They ask and understand when you can’t talk about it today.  They hold hope for you and your future when you feel hopeless.  They don’t offer to give you one of their children.  They give what they can give in the hope that it is helpful to you somehow, maybe now, maybe later.  And this person keeps checking in, offering a smile or an open ear.

Sometimes you have to be very clear with people about what you need. Like me, East Coast Debbie.  In the words of the immortal Spice Girls, “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.” What most people are desperate for is E-M-P-A-T-H-Y.  The Real Helpers do exist.  Please take the risk to open your heart to them.  And invest in www.Resolve.org and www.FruitfulFertility.org.

You know I love your stories.  Please feel free to share with me and others.  It really does help to talk with others about fertility struggles.

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