Sunday, May 20, 2007

Urban Myths and Old Wives' Tales

Any one who has gone through infertility has heard them. They range from pure legend to people's personal anecdotes. I'm not talking about the usual assvice we Infertiles could recite in our sleep--(say it with me ladies!): "Just Relax!/You just need a vacation!/Just get drunk and go for it!/As soon as you stop thinking about it it will happen!" No, I'm talking about the even more sinister stories that friends and families tell you, that early on in your infertility struggles might have given you hope, but now, just make you want to slice your ears off. They fall into a few different categories:

On Trying to Conceive you might have heard this one: "Oh, I had a friend who tried for yeeeaars to get pregnant. She and her husband went to doctors, they couldn't find anything wrong, but still, no baby. Finally, they tried IVF, still it didn't work. Finally, one day, they decided to quit trying. They said, 'I guess God does not want us to be parents.' They made plans to (fill in the blank: go back to school for a Masters, travel, move to Siberia, whatever) and then, BOOM! they found out they were pregnant that same month."

This is a hard one for us Infertiles, for many reasons. One, because we're so damned JEALOUS of whomever that friend of yours is, we want to scream. Two, because we fear it WON'T happen for us, and three, because we hope it WILL. I am particularly tetchy to this one because this type of urban legend has roots in my very own family. My mother, no less. With me. Go figure. After marrying my father at the tender age of 20, my mother discovered she was pregnant right away, with my sister, Katie. Katie was the light of their lives, and they wanted more children. Sadly, they struggled for many years, and my mother suffered two miscarriages. Finally, well into her thirties, with my sister a senior in high school, my mother started making alternate plans for the rest of her life: She had let go the very idea of having any more children, and was looking forward to the freedom she was about to have with my sister off to college. My mother decided she would go back to work as a teacher, and maybe even go back to school. She spent some time abroad teaching, and was really enjoying it. Though still married to my father, the marriage was shaky, and my mother was trying to sort out what to do next. During a hiatus from her teaching position, and home with my father and my sister, she and my dad must have found some common ground, because, well, I came along 9 months later. And my mother's plans for the next several years were put back on the back burner. At 38, my mother had no idea, thought, hope, or incling that she would become pregnant. But, she did. So, I'm glad, I suppose, cuz, hey--I'm here. But, it's kind of awful. I think my mother still believes, despite my explanation of my bad ovaries and sickly eggs, that I, too, will have a miracle 'surprise' pregnancy any day now. She believes, like it happened for her, it will happen for me. I have to keep reminding her that it very likely will not, and I have to keep convincing myself it won't, either. Because the hope is too painful.

On Miscarriage one might hear this one: (The following is an actual story told to me by a {pregnant at the time-ugh!} friend): "I'm so sorry you had a miscarriage, but, my sister-in-law had a miscarriage several months ago, and had to have a D&C. Several weeks later, she was feeling really tired and sickly, and she was convinced that somehow they had botched the surgery and she had some sort of infection that was making her sick. She called the doctor's office and read them the riot act--sure that they had not taken good care with her. They doctor told her to come in for an examination. Well, turns out, SHE WAS PREGNANT! The doctor scolded her for having sex too soon after her surgery (but hey, she and her husband 'just got drunk one night and went for it') but it didn't matter--she was already 3 weeks along. Now she's due any day, and, guess what? She's having twins!!!!"

I heard this one, along with many similar stories, right after my miscarriage. I heard so many of these tales that I truly believed I would become pregnant again immediately. Well, over a year later, I have not gotten pregnant. Not even close. So much for that one.

And, on Infertility and Adoption, you might hear something that sounds like: "I know this couple. They tried for yeeeeaars to have kids, with no luck. So, finally, they decided to adopt. Wouldn't you know it, less than one month after bringing their son home, they found out they were pregnant! Now they have a (adopted) nine-month-old and are expecting their second child any day now! Boy, are they going to have their hands full, ha, ha."

Okay, so this one hits especially close to home as well. This urban legend is at the core of my husband's family lore. Absolutely true story. My mother and father-in-law were trying to get pregnant for years with no luck. The doctors couldn't find anything wrong (and of course this was in the late 60's/early 70's so there weren't really any infertility treatments as we now know them). So, they decided to adopt. Well, they were lucky enough to adopt Mister, my husband (hey, I'm biased). And of course, (you know how the rest of the story goes) my mother-in-law discovered a few weeks later that she was pregnant. So, Mister and his brother are 10 months apart. A couple of years later my mother and father-in-law welcomed a third child, my sister-in-law. My mother-in-law jokingly says all the time, "Oh, our first child (meaning Mister) was so eeeeasy. If M~~~ (their bio son) had been our first, we probably would not have had any more children, ha ha ha."

This is so hard. First of all, because the decision to adopt should NOT be because you hope it will help you get pregnant. That is just twisted. It's totally unfair to the innocent child you will be adopting. I have actually had very (normally) sensitive friends say to me, "Why don't you just adopt--then you will get pregnant!?" COME ON!!

In a way, I feel like I am sinking under the weight of these home-grown family legends. Both my mother's and Mister's mother's. I wonder if everyone is just sitting around waiting for me to fulfill some sort of pregnancy prophecy. Or, maybe I'm just paranoid. But, either way: We've had baby boy for 2 months, and I'm not running off to the store to buy any pregnancy tests or anything. (Of course, we're not even TRYING at this point, but that's another post).

I know people mean well when they whip out these stories. Somehow they feel like the power of the stories will (I don't know?) 1. give us hope. 2. ease our pain. 3. come true. In a way, it's sweet: They want these myths to become our truths. I know our friends and family hurt to see us hurting. They mean well. They just don't understand how hard it is to have these stories and anecdotes circulating and creaking around in an Infertile brain. For me, every year closer I get to the age my mother was when she had me, the more I lose what little hope I'm still holding on to that it might happen for me, too. Each month that passed after my miscarriage without another pregnancy made me more and more furious. We are so desperate for anything to give us hope (or at least I was) that we cling to these stories (even while dismissing them outwardly). It's true. We can't help it. (Or at least I can't help it. I guess I should just speak for myself, here.)

I guess I'm myth-proof. If an urban legend regarding pregnancy exists, it is sure not to come true with me.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post, titled: The Stupid Things People Say to You When You Adopt.

1 comment:

Tiff said...

Ohhhh..I am so sick of the 'you will get pg now that you are adopting' one, too. Ok, I am sick of all of the 'myths', but that one in particular. UGH!