In 2011, following a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, I joined a Mind/Body course that turned into a support group. The women in this class where at various stages in their journeys ranging from newly diagnosed (that was me) to having undergone and survived a failed round of IVF. After the course finished, the group decided to continue meeting as many were gearing up for their first rounds of IVF and having support from women who understood seemed essential. There were reasons I decided to leave this group. There was the Angie saga, where meetings started to revolve around her continual life drama mingled with her insensitivity when discussing her pregnancy. There was frustration with organizing meetings and keeping things on track. But ultimately what sealed the deal for my exit was a surprise pregnancy announcement. At the time, the group was aware of one member who was completing an IVF cycle and waiting for results. On the heels of her good news that the cycle had been a success, another member dropped the bomb that she and her husband had undergone a FET and had just learned it was successful. Her rational for not telling the group was that she wanted this knowledge cycle to be between herself and her husband.
I struggled a lot with this surprise announcement. Logically I understood where she was coming from and knew that this decision was one that was best for her family. But I also felt betrayed. This was someone I had supported without question during her first round of IVF, cheering for her when she got good news, mourning with her when it became clear that she would miscarry and knitting her socks to help support her as she talked about another round. I should have been happy. Instead I was hurt from the secrecy and from being blind-sided
Recently the IF community received an unexpected announcement. Jay, a veteran IFer who blogs at the 2 week wait turned Infertility Advocate, announced that she unexpectedly pregnant. The response has been rocky.
Full disclosure: Jay is a very good friend. She’s been a source of support, starting online and then moving to real life, throughout my journey through infertility and loss. She’s given me hope when no one else could; given me a reason try when it seemed impossible. Hence the news of this pregnancy was a joyous one for both Grey and me. Granted, I’m in a very different spot compared to many in this community as I am done expanding my family. All I could feel was joy.
So when I originally saw her post, I was horrified to hear all that was happening and angry that she was being attacked. When we talked, though, Jay made a point to present the viewpoints from the other side, sending me three separate posts written by this announcement and how it was affecting this community. Reading those posts, many themes began to emerge. Themes of how this community deals with surprises and unexpected news, ideas about advocates who are fighting for change and finally questions about the community itself, both who belongs and how we should be reacting to hurt feelings.
What's underlying, though, that no one has addressed, is how we deal with surprising news that can bring about negative feelings.
Truth be told, I don't believe there is any way that Jay could have announced this pregnancy without hurting someone. It was the perfect set up for the beginning. Given that she was told she had a 1% chance of ever becoming pregnant again, I believe that many in this community considered her "safe" from anything like this. Yes, some will argue that the timing of her announcement or how it was done was is poor taste, but what I think the root of the issue is that it was a surprise. Unlike with treatment, where those following are given ample time to prepare for such news, this was totally unexpected. In other words, regardless of how sensitive she made her announcement or when, this news was going to hurt people. It hurts because there wasn't time to steel one's self from the pain of this news; it hurts because there are those who may never get to make such an announcement.
In addition to this initial shockwave, there's also the commentary on community response. Some firmly believe that Jay should be supported without question. After all, this news does not impact her work as an advocate and if nothing else it is a major win for the community. Others, though, feel that hurt feelings need to be addressed. Already, I've seen calls both for Jay to apologize, not to apologize and even condemnation for "good intentions not being good enough." All the while, emotions are mixed and people seem to be spinning out of control.
What needs to happen is people need to take a step back. Yes, those who have been hurt should voice it and be allowed to explore why this announcement caused them pain. But wishing harm onto anyone, especially someone who is fighting for this community, is not acceptable. Nor is encouraging hateful speech that perpetuates the idea of the "bitter infertile." In addition, we also need to allow for apologies and accept responsibility for our own roles. To expect everyone who finds themselves unexpected pregnant to have to apologize again and again is beyond ridiculous and, frankly, is a recipe for losing one's self to this disease.
Tonight, on the eve of a new year, this community once again finds itself at a point of transition. For some, this past year has been a hard one while for others it's been one that has brought healing. My hope is that going into 2015 we can once again find common ground, agreeing that even though there is hurt, there should also be support.