Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Saying something

I wasn't sure whether to write about this, especially as I know other people have it so much worse, but if this is going to be a warts-and-all account, I think I have to. And I have to say first of all that I know how lucky I am to have incredibly supportive parents (my dad just phoned to say he was on his way to Mass to pray for everything to go smoothly today for us) and a wonderful sister-in-law in Jeannie (who has also phoned this morning, and who I appreciate hugely).

But... I have a brother I've always been very close to. Despite being very close to me in age, he was always a very protective older brother, and I was delighted when he married someone who also became one of my best friends. They now live in the US and have several children.

I haven't spoken to them as much in the last year or so as I used to. This is partly because of Skype - funnily enough, we find it harder to have a good chat on Skype than on the ordinary phone, partly due to the quality of the connection and partly because my sister-in-law doesn't have time to sit and chat for hours in front of the computer. When we're on the normal phone, she wanders around the house getting jobs done while we chat. And yet, because Skype is free and is available, we tend not to call each other as much on the normal phone either.

When we see each other, it's like we've never been apart, and we can talk about anything and everything, and even when we're not chatting on the phone we e-mail regularly and my brother often sends text messages from his mobile when he's out and about.

So let's count this up. The ways that we have to keep in touch are telephone, Skype, e-mail (I have a work and a home address and my brother and sister-in-law each have an address) and mobile phone (my brother and sister-in-law have one each, and my brother regularly texts from his, though I don't think my sister-in-law does).

And yet I was deeply hurt on my 40th birthday not to hear from either of them or any of their children all day by any of these methods. In fact, it was so extraordinary not to hear from them that I got worried that something major must have happened to prevent them getting in touch, and I e-mailed them at the end of the day to ask if they were all right. My brother responded the next day to say they'd been very busy. It takes ten seconds to send a text message to say 'happy birthday'. A few days later, I did receive (and appreciate - please don't think I'm ungrateful) something in the post that my sister-in-law had sent, but not a word on the day to say they were thinking of me.

(And by the way, I flew out to the US for his 40th birthday, because I knew it was a big deal and I wanted to share his special day with him. I have never missed any of their children's birthdays, and always phone AND e-mail as well as sending parcels to all of them.)

When we had our first appointment at the clinic, I sent a brief e-mail round my family to say that we had issues and that we were going to have to have some sort of fertility treatment. Neither of them ever responded, by e-mail, phone or any other method.

Last month I did have a chat with my sister-in-law and told her about the IVF. It was a really good chat, and she was totally supportive, but the call was cut short because she had to go and fetch the children from school. I haven't heard anything from her since then, other than the normal e-mails which get sent round the family group and have never alluded to this issue.

My brother never acknowledged any of this in any way. I sent him an e-mail a month or so ago which alluded to the fact that we were having a hard time dealing with all of this, and he never even acknowledged the e-mail (though I know he got it, because he alluded to something else I'd said in it in a general e-mail to the family).

Last Friday I sent another e-mail around the family, telling them that I'd started my injections and was hopefully going to have egg collection at the end of this week or beginning of next. Again, not a single acknowledgement from either of them - until Monday evening, when my brother e-mailed me about something else and then said, "Oh, by the way, Clomid - which I presume you're taking..." and giving me some obscure medical fact about it (he's a doctor).

I was quite surprised that he assumed I was on Clomid, as surely a doctor would have got from what I wrote last week that we were doing IVF, and I haven't heard of it being an IVF drug. But I wrote back saying that I wasn't on Clomid. I told him exactly what drugs I'm taking, and said that egg collection would be today. And since then I've heard.... nothing.

So yes, it's a funny thing, this infertility. You learn that some people (Jeannie - who offers amazing support from South Africa, my parents, some of my friends) can be incredibly supportive, and others, however close you think you are to them, take no interest whatsoever. Could it be that they just don't know what to say?

Well, if you've stumbled across this post and are looking for the right words to say to someone who's in the same position as me, let me give you a couple of pointers. Saying nothing is NOT an option - it will make the infertile person feel disregarded, ignored and devalued as a person. It will make them feel that you're belittling their pain and that you don't care about them and the struggles that they're going through.

If you don't know what to say, try something like "I'm sorry you're having to go through this, but I'm thinking of you". On days when you know they're going through procedures, just drop them a quick line to say you're thinking of them and hope it all goes well. It takes seconds, but you can't underestimate just how much it means to that person.

Otherwise, you may find that they end up sitting at their computer on egg collection day feeling sad and bloated, writing about how uncared for you make them feel as they angrily brush away the silly hormonal tears.

Update: Thanks for all your comments, and your support - which does mean a great deal to me. Now that I'm feeling slightly less anxious, bloated and hormonal, I'm feeling a bit guilty about this post. I won't take it down, because it expresses how I felt at the time I wrote it. But I just had an e-mail from my sister-in-law in which she said they were particularly praying for me today, so obviously they are thinking of me - as I always really knew they were, but just wished they would express it a bit more.


  1. I know how hurtful this can feel. Although my family don't know all the details with me, they know enough and yet they never ask about it even when I give them a way in. I can only assume that they are all wrapped up in their own lives and perhaps don't know what to say. My sisters have three children between them and have never suffered infertility. My Mum is the Queen of 'It Will Happen' which is sometimes not what you want to hear when you feel like maybe you need to start accepting that it might not, or you want to acknowledge that it's definitely not happening in the way you thought it would. I guess you just thank God for the support you do have. My husband is wonderful and I have two great friends who are amazingly supportive so I feel lucky to have three people I can turn to. It hurts though when it's family and you have always been close and you think you would be much more supportive the other way around. But you can't change how people behave, you can just change the way they make you feel.
    We are all thinking of you and I am sure you are in your brother's prayers even though he hasn't managed to articulate that to you. xx

  2. I had this with various family members and friends and I do think its a lot to do with not knowing what to say (unfortunatly) and also possible guilt because they are able to concieve so easily.

    I know even though I had ivf and clomid plus iui and a mc I still found it so so hard to tell my cousan (who also had issues) that i was in fact pg to the point i told no one but my husband before i sat her down and told her. The pain in her face was obvious :(

    Its is no excuse though and I do understand what you mean , by them tying to do what they think is best they are actually doing the worst thing they possibly can by ignoring the issue.

    Clomidiphine btw can come in injectable form and used to be widely used in IVF procedures and still is in the states I believe , although only in cases where the issue is with the female and there is no male factor involved xxxx

  3. Oh honey!!! I'm wiping away tears in sympathy now :( Possibly the Clomid thing was an attempt to talk about it on his behalf; it may be that his bedside manner is so bad that it's the only way he knows how to bring it up?? I'm not making excuses, mind, but I do know how very important you are to him.

    And after all, the number of children they have and the ease of conception they experienced - perhaps there is a touch of irrational guilt there. Who knows.

    THINKING OF YOU and keeping the prayers going. ALL our love XXXXXXXXXX

  4. Aww I am so sorry! =( Don't cry. Believe me, after what I have been dealing with with my father I totally understand what you're going through. It really stinks when people either totally ignore the situation or fight you tooth and nail about it. It's heartbreaking really. But please know that I am rooting for you and was thinking about you all morning! I am so hopeful for you this cycle and am really looking forward to hearing how your retrieval went. Be strong and good luck. Praying for you. *huge hugs*

  5. I am so sorry about this. People outside of IF, even those who love us, often fail to understand the enormity of this struggle, particularly if they've had no struggles themselves. Or, as you said, perphaps they just don't know what to say. A weak excuse for sure. I wish that they could be there for you like you deserve.It isn't the same, and I doubt it eases much of the disappointment and pain they have caused, but you do have us, and the rest of your family.

    Take care of yourself, and hoping you have (perhaps had by now!) a wonderful retrieval. Make sure and rest up the next few days. :)

  6. Thanks so much for all your responses - I really appreciate all of them, and your support means more than I can say.

    I know I am being a little unfair to my brother - he did actually say at the end of his e-mail that he was praying for us, and I'm sure it's just a combination of thoughtlessness (especially the missing my birthday thing) and not knowing what to say. If he was closer geographically, we'd talk more on the phone and everything would be fine between us.

    Anyway, thanks again to all of you - I feel well and truly cyber(((hugged))) today, and it really does make a difference. xx