Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sensitivity & Compassion for the Infertile

I originally wrote this post for HelloBee, a little nervously actually. BUT, I got a really great response, so I'm glad I had the courage to write it!

Two weeks ago my younger sister had a baby! A 6 lb 7oz ball of pure sweetness and cuteness. I got to meet her this week and it was such a gift to meet my new niece!

Loving on my sweet niece!
As someone who has been unable to get pregnant for three years, you would think that it would be hard for me to see my little sister have a baby. And of course I have had some jealous feelings of wanting to know what it must have been like to be pregnant and give birth to a child that I carried. But thankfully, I have simply found myself happy for my sister and her husband. I think part of the reason I have been able to celebrate with them without upset feelings is because of her attitude throughout both her pregnancy and our journey through infertility and adoption. She demonstrated the two most important characteristics (in my opinion) of a friend to an infertile person: sensitivity and compassion.

Me with both my sisters over a year ago
I don't mean to offend anyone by writing this, but I honestly think that it can be very difficult for pregnant/fertile women to be sensitive to those dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss. I know it's not on purpose, but pregnancy announcements can unwittingly be very insensitive to those that are infertile. I completely understand why these announcements are exciting and I'm happy for everyone that is able to make one.  And, truly, there is nothing inherently wrong with sharing news of a wonderful blessing with those you care about.  However, whether it's through a Christmas card, Facebook update, or at a dinner party, unexpected pregnancy announcements are inevitably hard on some of those who hear them. If my sister and brother-in-law had chosen to make a big public pregnancy announcement, we would have been happy for them! But, the fact that they wanted to be sensitive to us and told us privately instead of unexpectedly in a public setting really meant a lot to us. Of course their pregnancy was about THEM and we would have celebrated either way, but their thoughtfulness to us (and others that they know dealing with infertility) was definitely not missed.

 I also think that for those that do choose to make announcements, there are ways to make them more sensitive, like letting any couples you know dealing with infertility or pregnancy loss know ahead of time that you'll be sharing your big news publicly. I have had a few friends do this for us and it released the pressure to act a "certain way" when we received the news, and allowed us to process our mixed emotions ahead of time so we could really celebrate the news when announced publicly.

 To me it was not only sensitive to us, but to others in her circle of friends and family that she didn't constantly update her Facebook profile about her pregnancy. It's so common for pregnant women to post regular belly and ultrasound photos and even details and complaints about their pregnancies. And even though it may not seem like a big deal to post here and there, it's the overwhelming number of posts from so many people that can get discouraging to those dealing with infertility. Recently, in just one day, I saw three different pregnancy announcements on my Facebook news feed, all including an ultrasound photo. And even though I was excited for these friends and family members, it was another reminder of the fact that we so often feel broken and unable to do what our bodies were designed to do. I'm certainly not upset with those that make the announcements or think that there is anything wrong with making a public pregnancy announcement, it can just be hard for those dealing with infertility to see so many on a regular basis.

 Even though my sister and I are very close, she never made an effort to complain or brag to me about elements of her pregnancy.  Of course, I was interested in how it was all going, so when we saw each other and talked on the phone I would ask her about it and she would give me all the details I wanted to hear. But, it was so sensitive and kind that she waited for me to ask. Even though I'm sure there are lots of things are both frustrating and exciting about pregnancy, she knew she had lots of other friends to talk to about those details when she needed to talk. This way Mr. P and I were able to share in their excitement without feeling like she was constantly rubbing her pregnancy (and therefore our infertility) in our faces. Although others don't mean to do it, that's what it can feel like for an infertile couple when their friends or family members only talk about their pregnancies and babies.

 Sensitivity and compassion go hand-in-hand and I have appreciated my sister's kindness to us as we have journeyed through our infertility. Even as we have been trying for #2 (after adopting Little P) without success, she asks how we're doing and lets us know she's praying for us. She understood when I may not have been up for talking about her pregnancy or when I had a bad day (or week) and I always appreciated her thoughtfulness in this area. Truthfully, even if she hadn't been sensitive or compassionate, I love my sister so much and this love would have been enough to have been excited about our sweet niece! But, it just makes it so much easier to celebrate with someone who has been so compassionate through both of our journeys. And now that we are both moms (through different routes), I think we will continue to grow closer as we share stories and experiences with our sweet children and each other.

Little Piñata was also very excited to meet his new cousin.
As infertiles, Mr. Piñata and I know we have to get used to a lifetime of pregnancy announcements and ultrasound photos that don't belong to us. We celebrate with and love our friends that have an easier time building their families. And of course, we are completely grateful for the gift of adoption that brought us Little Piñata and allowed us to become parents of the best baby ever! (I guess we're a bit biased.) But, that doesn't mean there still isn't pain and jealousy along the way. And having friends and family members that make an effort to show sensitivity and compassion help us bear the burden of infertility and allow us to more freely celebrate the fertility and pregnancies of others.

Little Piñata was SO sweet to his new cousin


  1. Beautiful! Your honesty, her sensitivity, her baby girl and your sweet boy loving her baby girl... all just beautiful!

  2. I love this post. It was exactly what I was talking to my husband about today- while you are still happy for friends, good golly it makes it so much easier when they are sensitive towards you :)

  3. Thank you for sharing. Very well said.

  4. Hi Elizabeth... I am new here and I just love love love this post. You said it so eloquently. This whole thing is just beautiful. Sensitivity, compassion, and love.... It's hard not to go wrong-- but I do think gentle reminders like this are crucial.

    I am so glad I found you! I'll be reading more- I love uplifting blogs! I'm your newest follower..... :)



Comments are the online version of a hug! Thanks for showing the love by commenting! :-)