Everyone who's dealt with any sort of infertility is aware of one undeniable accoutrement to the infertility experience: namely, other people will say retarded and/or offensive things to you, and they will solemnly believe that they (a) have the right to do so and (b) are being helpful. This is known as "assvice," and it runs the gamut from the weak "just relax" to the more flagrantly insulting "maybe you weren't meant to have children." There are many varieties and permutations of assvice, but they share the common trait of becoming more annoying over time, until, perhaps, you reach a zen-like state in which these helpful suggestions cannot penetrate your magic shield of equanimity.
I have not reached this state. I spend approximately 50% of my time either worrying that someone is going to say something upsetting to me, or stewing over something upsetting that someone said to me at some point in the near or distant past. I analyze and categorize assvice and think of snappy comebacks several months too late. Different versions of assvice rise and fall in their ability to anger or hurt me. (Currently, I am dangerously likely to splash my cocktail into the face of anyone who informs me that their husband just looks at them and they get pregnant.)
All of this having been said, however, certain memories have begun to afflict me, and, in the interest of intellectual honesty, I present to you things that I definitely said, possibly said, or would probably have said if given the opportunity back in the day when I was an unconfirmed infertile. Now they're all coming back to haunt me.
Things I Definitely Said:
1. To a friend who'd just had a blighted ovum: "At least you know you can get pregnant."
2. To another friend who'd had a blighted ovum: "At least it happened early on."
3. To my fertile friend A, who expressed concern that maybe she shouldn't have mentioned in front of infertile friend B that she, A, had accidentally gotten pregnant: "No, I'm sure it's fine - B must be inured to it by now."
4. To friend C, about infertile friend D, who was on her fifth IUI: "Maybe she just needs to gain some weight - she's so skinny!"
5. To friend E, about infertile friend F, who had had repeated early miscarriages: "She should adopt, don't you think?"
6. "I would never want twins - it's such a difficult pregnancy!"
Things I Probably Said at One Point or Another:
1. "I would never do IVF because you get hugely bloated and can't move!" [or some other uninformed vision of IVF]
2. "I would never spend so much money on fertility treatments."
3. "I would just adopt if I had any fertility issues. There are so many perfectly good children out there, etc., etc., [insert your preferred cliche here]."
4. Something about how since my cycles were regular and my charts were beautiful, I would probably get pregnant quickly.
5. "She's overthinking it."
Things I Most Likely Would Have Said, If Given the Opportunity:
1. "Have you tried [insert ill-informed and/or irrelevant treatment here]?"
2. "You still have plenty of time."
3. "Maybe this pregnancy just wasn't meant to be."
4. [Describe someone else's worse situation in a lame attempt to make the listener feel "better."]
I am pleased to note that I would never have told anyone they weren't meant to have children. But I am ashamed about the rest and feel that my past misdeeds have stalked me into the present.
In all seriousness, I do feel as though infertility has been a very useful (if painful) exercise in compassion for me. I find myself being much more open-minded and sympathetic about a range of situations that my friends have experienced and I have not (though I certainly still have a ways to go). These skills would seem to be good for parenting. I hope I get to find out.
Stay tuned for part 3 in our series.