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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Why Attack Instead of Seek to Understand: The Drama of Infertility

Can someone please explain this to me? Are we developing into a society of heartless morons? Is it the majority or the minority that refuses to learn how to agree to disagree without going for the jugular? Does it feel better to purposefully hurt someone than it does to try to understand?

Recently The New York Times ran the article, Facing Life Without children When It Isn’t by Choice, in which Pamela Tsigdinos shares her and her husband’s 11 year battle with infertility. A battle that’s been unsuccessful in putting a baby in their arms. The article is part of a bigger Health section feature, Voices of Infertility.

I’m thrilled to see people being so open about their experiences and to see coverage of infertility in a national publication. Typically when someone decides to share this type of experience, something so intensely personal and filled with emotional demons, they do it for two reasons: to help themselves heal, and to educate and help others.

There’s no shame in infertility, yet it’s a stigma shrouded by humiliation, pain and feelings of inadequacy. Reaching out and sharing stories about how you cope, the different choices you make, and the toll it takes on a couple’s life is therapeutic for the story teller and for the multitudes of people suffering without their own voice.

Our shared experiences create wisdom and comfort and expand our levels of acceptance and even provide choices. Whatever the topic … addiction, incest, domestic violence—go ahead, pick one. If nobody, ever, was brave enough to address ideas and issues, to share their stories, so many others would still suffer silently.

Here’s what I don’t understand, and what has me all hot under the collar. When someone cares enough and is brave enough to share something as painful as their story of infertility, why would anyone else feel compelled to go on the attack? Even if you disagree with infertility treatment, even if you don’t understand, why attack?

The level of hostility from many who commented on the NYT site quite simply blew me away. I am stunned. I’m saddened and deeply disappointed. People wrote things like:

“…Any infertile woman who cares to can take my twins for just 1 day and find out how easy her life is and go back to a lovely clean, neat, organized and spontaneous existence.”

“…I have little sympathy for people who can’t have their own children. No one ever promised you a rose garden, and no one ever promised you a perfect family, either.”

“…I’ll save my sympathy for someone who really needs it. When a society is so fortunate with everything it has, such as the US, it’s significant that the inability to have a baby is supposed to be deserving of sympathy.”

“…There are thousands of children just begging to be put in a caring home and you women could have done that. Or as the other response suggested put your efforts to good altruistic use…”

“Cry us a river. As harsh as this sounds, why should I sympathize with someone who can’t reproduce themselves when the world is littered with (a) far too many people already and, more importantly, (b)too many unwanted children in foster care worldwide. Adoption is difficult as other posts have noted? Surely it’s worth the difficulty for those whose sole goal in life is to be a parent. It is to be a parent, correct? Or is it to have a walking, talking example of ME? Lastly, if both conception and adoption are impossible, how about volunteering time for sick children, or kids whose parents are incarcerated, or any of a host of other opportunities to give back rather than dwelling on the supposed pain of what’s unavailable. This is life: if one door is shut many others are open. This is also life: everyone has a proverbial cross to bear. The infertile are nothing special in this regard.”

I realize that when you share publicly, you invite public scrutiny and debate. What I don’t understand is people’s ability and willingness to outright attack. To be so heartless. To spew venom at people they don’t know—to claim a stake in someone’s life and try to drive it through their heart. Are we so callous?

If you want to know how Pam handled the horrific comments, well she’s done it with class and a positive spin. She’s also focusing on the power of connecting with others. As she wrote yesterday, “The ability to connect with others, to know that we can be there for each other, that we’re not alone in facing the confusing and unpredictable emotions that come as a result of not being able to conceive and deliver a child is a powerful tonic.”

Visit her blog, but only if you’re going to be nice, or you’re at least willing to agree to disagree.

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17 comments to Why Attack Instead of Seek to Understand: The Drama of Infertility

  • Amy

    I will not claim to know how anyone who cannot have children of their own can feel but I can speak from the point of view of someone who always wanted children and would have doe anything to have them. I will say that I was blessed with much fertility!

    I think that most people do not understand the emotions that go along with the inability of our bodies to perform properly … we are brought up learning that as women we are able to have children (most of us have a choice) … so when that choice is taken away from us it can be devastating and then add to the fact that (for most) it is not just about ‘failing’ for ourselves but also for our partner and/or family! Please note I use the word ‘failing’ for lack of another word and to prove a point, in no way do I feel that infertility is a failure! In addition we are haunted with a monthly reminder, other peoples comments and hormones!!!

    As for parents who just do not respect the fact that they have been blessed with children, it is just sad, children are beautiful gifts! That everyone should be able to enjoy!

    On a side note: I am going to add my two cents for our future generations … please see what we are doing as a society … we are allowing food and drug companies to help with the infertility issues … chemicals used on foods and many drugs contribute to fertility issues with both men and women.

    Amys last blog post..Manners Teaching Master … not!

  • Jen

    How heartless people can be. The anonymity of the internet makes it so easy to be cruel, people would would normally just think these awful things now can share them with little to no repercussions. I commend her for handling it with grace.

    Jens last blog post..Over 800……

  • all to often the people who speak the loudest, and are most easily heard, do not speak for the majority.

  • WEll — you know how I feel about this subject. I don’t know what gets into people – who raised them?! Great post!!! ANd, thanks for your supportive comment this evening – I really appreciate it!! Take care – Kellan

    Kellans last blog post..Sounds To Me Like Someone Needs A Bowl Of Captain Crunch Cereal And To … Lighten UP!

  • I’m so touched and appreciative of this post. You’ve done a very kind and generous thing in raising these questions. I’m going to include you in my latest post…thanks, my friend!

  • I personally can’t have children and I took the route of taking care of other people’s children. It never changes the fact that I sometimes feel inadequate. I wonder if those people that commented would feel the same way if they had to spend a day walking in my shoes.

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..I finally understand, Dad…

  • Thank you so much for this post. I was really touched by your response on behalf of my friend. I wish I could have written it but I was too pissed.

  • Tricia

    I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I’ve had an insight, at least an insight into myself. At 36-years-old, I’m still terribly naive! It never crossed my mind that people would have negative opinions about other people’s infertility treatment. It never occurred to me, never. I don’t want to be cynical. I do want to believe in the goodness of people and although I’m sarcastic and caustic, I tend to be a supporter of the underdog and to look for the good in other people. In addition to how insulted I was on a personal level by the comments, I was absolutely shocked, and I still am. My husband and I spent five years in infertility hell and it’s a terribly personal endeavor–one that sucks you in and spits you out again and again until you scream for mercy. It changed me forever and for others to be so cruel over something so painful will forever shock me, or at least I hope it continues to shock me. Otherwise, they’ll win and I’ll have become a cynic.

    On the upside (I’m taking lessons in positive thinking from Kellan over at http:www.ontheupside.info) there were a lot of positive comments as well and perhaps the article touched someone’s life and made a difference for someone struggling through IF. Perhaps someone is less alone as a result of Pamela and the others who shared their stories with such a broad audience. I’m hopeful.

  • I’ve read PJ’s blog for some time. She’s a great writer and articulate about just how hard IF can be, especially when it comes minus the much longed for baby.

    Most of the commenters on the NYT article, however, horrified me. Talk about ugly, nasty shooting from the hip. Very very sad that few acknowledged the pain of IF in espousing their views.

    J

    Geohdes last blog post..Vanity, thy name is belly.

  • Makes you wonder what happened to these people to make them so bitter.

    Darrins last blog post..Dad’s fitness update

  • I have been on the receiving end of these comments as well. We dealt with infertility for several years. I was dumbfounded when I received my first hurtful comment. I was already dealing with so much pain and hurt and someone had to go pile on. I even had people tell me that God just didn’t want me to have children. Where do people come up with this stuff?

    Thanks for sharing the article and her site. She gets nothing but love and my full support from me.

    bridgets last blog post..My 15 minutes are up

  • I love this post! People have been saying so many negative comments about us being infertile. I mean, initially, I thought nothing of it cuz i was ignorant and still wanted to belong in the ‘normal’ world. This is such a great great post! I’d love to link up to my blog.

    And thanks for leaving the comment on my blog! You said it so well!

    Brandygirls last blog post..When the chanting stops….

  • Thanks for articles, I have searched blog same this since long time

  • Thank you really. This is the information that I’ve been looking for.

  • Snow

    Those are terrible things to say… my (9 years older) fiance and I want to have many children, and if either of us found out we were infertile, it would ruin the entire life plan we’ve set out so far.

    First off, the native population in many first-world countries is far too low for the culture’s survival; just look at Europe. Anyone who, under the blanket of anonymity, thinks that citizens of such countries don’t have a right to feel sad are grossly uneducated.

    Secondly, not everyone has a wish to be some great hero and adopt children. Wanting to see your own blood out there, wanting to have children that are genetically and phenotypically related to you, is a natural right.

  • [...] Why Attack Instead of Seek to Understand by Tricia at Shout Daily. [...]

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