There’s something about pregnancy and parenting that seems to blur traditional boundaries. People want to know your birth plan and what you will name the baby. Strangers will ask questions about breastfeeding and sleeping habits. My best friend even had a stranger in the grocery store ask about her mucus plug. Her freaking mucus plug! People, no. Just no.
As parents, we get fairly used to less privacy and blurred boundaries. I mean, we can’t even pee alone, and an entire hospital room full of people have seen our lady bits. So yeah, privacy fades and boundaries blur when you are pregnant or become a parent.
But there is still something called common sense, decency, and basic manners — and, folks, we are damn near close to obliterating those things, especially when it comes to nosy as hell and downright hurtful comments about infertility.
I’m not talking about the well-intentioned questions or comments from family or friends who are genuinely interested in our lives — the ones who know our journey. In fact, when my husband and I were suffering through frequent miscarriages and infertility issues, I welcomed questions from close friends about our situation because it gave me a chance to vent, cry, and generally let out all the angst.
But these were close friends and family asking the questions. I felt comfortable with them, and they were genuinely concerned about me. What I’m talking about here are the nosy, boundary-crossing, presumptuous, inconsiderate, and downright mean questions and comments from acquaintances, strangers, and internet trolls.
Chrissy Teigen recently made headlines for clapping back at an insensitive and nosy Twitter troll, who didn’t just cross the line between appropriate and inappropriate but leaped over that thing like an Olympic hurdler. During an interview, Teigen made a flippant remark about having a boy next — because heaven forbid someone respond to a nosy question with some humor — and the internet took that as a cue to get all up in her business.
“Did you give it a minute to try naturally or are you avoiding ‘the act?’ At least no political rants!” asked one especially obnoxious boundary-crosser.
Thankfully, Teigen didn’t waste much time before putting her in her place, tweeting back: “Hi Linda, thanks for asking, you complete witch. I tried for about 9 years. Anything else, let me know!”
Even though Chrissy Teigen was able to respond in a way that only Chrissy can — with snark, humor, and a heaping dose of back-the-fuck-off — the wounds of these insensitive questions, comments, and assumptions cut deep. Very deep.
While in the midst of infertility struggles, it can be damn near impossible to talk about it without breaking down in tears, let alone answer a seemingly simple question with a simple answer.
There are complexities and unknowns. Your entire life is one big waiting game with a question mark over nearly every aspect of it. Should we take that vacation next spring, or will I be pregnant? Should we renovate our kitchen, or should we save our money for IVF? Can I go to my co-worker’s wedding next month, or will I be ovulating and need to make a weekend visit to the fertility clinic for implantation?
Even after you’ve made it out of the dark unknown that is infertility, questions and comments about how a baby was conceived or brought into a family can dredge up a pile of emotions. In our culture, there seems to be some kind of unwritten rule that glorifies fertility. Men brag about “getting one past the goalie,” and women talk about how quickly they got pregnant and how ‘overly fertile’ they are.
All of this can make the couple struggling with infertility feel less-than. Fertility signifies virility, strength, and sexuality. Infertility, on the other hand, is synonymous with struggle and heartbreak. And believe me, anyone who has struggled with infertility is well aware of this, even if it all turned out all right in the end. Do you really want to risk dredging up all these uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy and heartbreak for the sake of getting the inside scoop?
Look, I’m not saying we need to tiptoe around each other, fearful of what we can and can’t talk about it. If for instance, you’re talking to a close friend or family member and you’re genuinely interested in their well-being, a sincere “How are you doing?” might open the door to that conversation, if the person is ready to release those feelings. And if you’re looking to commiserate with someone, go first. Share your own infertility story; the other person will share theirs if they are ready.
On the other hand, if you don’t know where this person got married, the name of her dog, or how she drinks her coffee, you probably don’t know her well enough to go there. So, just don’t ask. Don’t make any assumptions. Just butt the hell out — because whether someone conceives via IUI or IVF or a good ol’ fashioned romp in the sheets is none of your goddamn business.
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