I love my friends, but…

June 28, 2007

Maybe because of that whole myth of black hyper-fertility that I mentioned a few posts ago, TTC without success has led to some interesting reactions from friends over the past eight months. Some of you are probably wondering why my friends even have the opportunity to comment–why did I tell anyone we were trying in the first place? Believe me, I ask myself the same question fairly often.

But I tend to be pretty open with my close friends about what’s going on with me. TTC is one of the bigger things that’s been going on with me this year, so it’s tough not to talk about it at all (although I’ve managed to avoid telling my mom directly, because I don’t want her to worry–I think she has an idea of what’s going on, though). And ultimately I’ve only told six friends: two from my circle of academic friends, two from my circle of old college friends, one who is both an old college friend and an academic, and my best gay (male) friend. Does that seem like a lot? At the time, for a talker like me, it seemed like the bare minimum.

There are a number of downsides to telling people we’re trying, though. First, there is the problem of Womb Watch. This starts out fairly innocently, when you’re only a few months in. Once I told her, one of my girlfriends began every phone call with “Are you calling to tell me you’re pregnant?” Naturally, this started to become less charming when the answer kept turning up no, month after month. This is also the reason G and I have decided our parents can’t know yet–they are hardly clamoring for grandchildren, but we hate to get our folks’ hopes up every cycle, only to have them dashed again. This is pretty bad for our own hopes too, but that’s for another post.

I also seem to have overestimated my six friends’ discretion, as a recent birthday dinner with another college friend began, “So, I hear you guys are trying to have a baby!” Turns out, she did not hear this from any of the friends I’d told directly, but rather from a guy at the periphery of our circle that I haven’t talked to in at least a year. I’m still trying to trace this leak back to the right source, although as G says, our presence in the rumor mill might be the natural consequence of spilling the beans at all. If I don’t want people to “hear,” I probably should have kept things completely to myself. Wait, so you’re telling me I can’t have it both ways?

Another downside to telling friends is the “helpful” comments they sometimes make. I’m not the first infertility blogger to make a list of these, and I surely won’t be the last. But let me share some of the stuff I’ve heard from well-meaning people: “Have you tried ___?” In the blank, insert anything from the obvious: ovulation predictor kits? (the answer is yes) to the obscure: evening primrose oil to “regulate your cycles”? (also yes) I’ve also been told, after I made the mistake of expressing a bit of ambivalence about the adoption option (to a friend whose child is most certainly NOT adopted), “Well, you’ll feel differently if you’re not pregnant in a year.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, girlfriend.

Then there’s the ubiquitous, “As soon as you stop thinking about it, you’ll get pregnant.” Otherwise known as, “Just relax!” Now, the “just relax” advice does not (yet?) make my blood boil the way that it does some infertile women, but I do still find it annoying. Not only does telling me to relax, to stop thinking about it, to just enjoy myself, rarely result in immediate results (“Oh, you think I should relax? Thank you for telling me that! It’s like a weight has suddenly been lifted–I’m now so relaxed I could probably conceive without even having sex!”), but it also ignores the possibility that something could be medically amiss with G or me. More annoying still is the way that “just relax” implies that I and my overanxious nature are the only thing keeping us from getting pregnant. In other words, it’s all my fault.

Then again, maybe it is. I have had a stressful year. Some studies have shown that the stress hormone cortisol can adversely affect ovulation, others that women who engage in mind-body stress relief techniques have a higher pregnancy rate. Still, being told to relax seems a lot less helpful than being handed a gift certificate to a spa, or some chocolate. Or better yet, a good bottle of wine. Now that’s a friendly tip I can use.

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