13 May, 2014

How to Show Compassion

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We are a generation of fixers. So propelling, shifting, quick is our culture that we don't remember the ancient art of compassion through empathy, instead we act on our feelings of compassion by offering solutions.

Mother's Day is a bittersweet holiday for so many people. Steven and I suffered secondary infertility for a couple years after Gage was born, and while I love Mother's Day for the chance to celebrate the women in my life I love, it can bring back some sad memories.

Because the truth is, if you or someone you love is experiencing infertility, then no amount of consolation quotes, pats on the back, promises that soon you'll be expecting will help. Time, of course, helps. Life experience helps. It dulls the pain and reminds you to hope.

But you know what really doesn't help?

Solutions.

Advice given even with the very best of intentions, (usually) just. doesn't. help.

Maybe you should try adopting, people always get pregnant when they start thinking about adoption.

Maybe you should take this pill/hormone/natural remedy that worked for my sister/friend/brother.

Read this book. You'll have a better perspective afterwards.

Maybe you should put yourself on bed rest.

Maybe you should stop wallowing and move on with life.

Maybe you were never meant to have any (more) kids.

Maybe you should just relax; you haven't really been trying that long anyway. Not like my sister/daughter/friend who tried for x amount of years.

And on. And on. And on.
I remember thinking, when offered fertility advice, "do you really think I haven't tried that?" One of my exceptional talents is self-diagnosing and treating via internet. Oh, I'm so good at it. We tried everything. Teas, pills, great doctors, moon cycles, ovulation tests, yoga-for-fertility, fertility mantras (don't ask). And you know what? Eventually I got pregnant. Eventually I stayed pregnant. And I don't think it had anything to do with any of the advice I was given, except by my personal doctor.
So listen. I know that people want to be helpful. I know that we feel (falsely) that it's our duty to fix broken things. But someone else's fertility or infertility is none of your business. If someone wants advice, they will ask.

If you want to be helpful, be truthful. The best words I received while in the depths of despair, right after miscarriage #2, from one of my best friends:

"Oh Brooke, I am so sorry! I cried for you but I know that you will get through this. I profess to know nothing about life but I know how unexpectedly cruel it can seem. But God will take care of you and so will all of your family and friends - of which you have so many!"

Still makes me cry when I read it! If you want to know how to talk to someone going through infertility/miscarriage/really any traumatic experience, then do what my friend did. Express compassion, love, and hope.

Happy Mother's Day to the women with children, the women without children, the women wishing for children or more children, the women who have lost children.

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