Saturday, December 29, 2007

Silence is Not an Option: How to respond to uncomfortable questions

Very rarely do I get asked dumb questions. It seems most of the world knows about us and our problems and whatever. I do get asked the occasional 'Are you pregnant' only because I work with some simple people. They believe the water at work will get you pregnant like everyone else.

Over the holiday my dad had a long time friend stop by my house. We all chatted. Nothing major just random talk. My dad went down memory lane with him a few times. Then he turned to me, my dad's friend. Just without thinking he asked a very simple question. He asked, "Sunny, when are you going to have a little girl running around your house?" I wasn't shocked. I really wasn't even offended. He didn't know. I can't blame him for his stupid question. But I could get irritated at everyone else in the room.

The room fell silent. I think everyone was afraid I would fall apart or freak out. They don't know me very well then. I calming replied, "We are waiting for God to give us a miracle. We have been waiting for awhile. It definitely isn't because we haven't tried." My answer is my rehearsed answer. I have practiced. I have used it before. But what I wanted in return was, "wow" or "I'm sorry." OR nothing from the man who had no idea what a simple question would bring in return BUT something from my family. Like, "Yep they have been trying for a long time. We are praying for a miracle with them." SOMETHING! But silence remained from the crowd. I don't remember how the subject was changed because I was so shocked by the nothingness. But it is my family. Support isn't something they give when it is a problem God is supposed to fix.

Onto the infertility bracelet. Grumps and I started wearing our bracelets a couple of months ago. Nothing really has been said or asked about it. Grumps did have a buddy wonder what it was. Of course Grumps explained. His buddy was like, "cool". I was very proud of my man for not shrugging it off. I wish I had an experience like that. Instead I get ones like these.

On our family cruise many of us were sitting around doing nothing. One of our family friends asks me, "Sunny what is that bracelet for?" Silence hit the group. All eyes go to me. I take a deep breath and begin to explain the meaning of it. When I finished I expected a "cool" or "wow" but got silence. Nothing. Just silence. I felt sick for sharing.

My dad finally asked this week why did we wear the bracelet. He hadn't been with the silent crowd on the cruise. My dad thought it was to remember something. Grumps stumbles through his response so I step in. I explain, blah blah blah. Guess what the reaction was from my dad? YEP SILENCE! Awkward silence.

I know IF makes many feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel MANY not so great feelings. But I wish people would stop and think before being idiots. Yes, I understand they are at a loss for words. I understand it makes them feel uncomfortable. IF isn't about them.

Here are some very simple response to IF or whatever makes you feel uncomfortable.
I'm sorry
Let me know if you need anything
I never knew
Tell me more

Silence should never be an option. Be polite. Be considerate. Maybe we need an IF etiquette book for the world. We could title it, Silence is not an option.


Meghan said...

I completely agree! On Christmas day my mom was giving me a hard time about not being "forthcoming" enough and how she doesn't know what is going on (never mind that I started a separate blog for family) so I started to explain things to her...and she changed the subject. It was Christmas afterall, we should talk about happy things

I agree, silence and ignoring it just make it worse

Jen said...

I hate it when people ask me questions like that. It has always been my opinion that it is none of their business. And what a rude question, too!

Lori said...

While I am "in the know" about the IF situation, I wonder if I am similarly clueless about other situations. Like: someone is newly facing cancer. Do I know the right things to say? Someone loses a job. I might say, "how is the job market -- will it be difficult to find another one?" Maybe that's exactly wrong.

I'm sorry you were met with such stunning silence, Sunny. But maybe they just don't know any better (even though you could argue they should).

We should have an IF blogger cruise!

The Town Criers said...

I don't even think it's saying the right or wrong thing--the silence just sucks.

I was actually looking for bracelets this morning. I was sitting in the clinic so...duh...everyone is IF. But still, I wanted to see if anyone else was wearing one.

In and Out of Luck said...

Silence does suck. My family is more the compulsive problem solver sort (my mother suggested eating more salmon and drinking reverse-osmosis water), but silence I think is worse. Good for you for having an honest and dignified answer in the midst of it.

tracey said...

I'm sorry
Let me know if you need anything
I never knew
Tell me more
I'm praying for you &
I'll meet you for drinks.
Sorry if i've ever bee part of one of those awkward moments.

Trish said...

I can't help but chuckle a little. I think I've reached evil bitch stages because I'm honestly to the point that the awkward silence PLEASES me.

Well, I suppose that isn't always true. With my family, it bothers me. My MIL, it bothers me. They're SUPPOSED to be supportive, damn it. Not pretend it's not happening.

But everyone else, it pleases me. When they ask a stupid, nosy question, I am pleased when they are uncomfortable. In the silence, I usually chuckle and say "Aren't you glad you asked.."
Usually they mutter "well, uh.. I didn't know.."

That's why you shouldn't open your mouth, people.

I'm sorry they aren't supportive or even comforting..

PCOSMama said...

I agree, the silence sucks. But, I always welcome an opportunity to educate someone. Even if they sit there in awkward silence after, perhaps they will think twice in the future about asking such personal questions. Or just be better prepared for the possible answer next time.

I also never got asked about my bracelet by anyone but friends who already knew about our struggle. I so hoped to make a connection with it while out shopping or something. Hopefully it'll happen for you someday!

Pamela Jeanne said...

Excellent post! Your suggested responses are perfect. I'm adding this post to my permanent links.

I'm sorry that silence seems to be the awkward response that comes from those you would hope could offer more in the way of support.

Kudos to you for continuing to speak out and educate.

Karen said...

I think there should be a happy medium between your family's silence and my mother-in-law who thinks it's okay to be all in our IF business or my mother who asked me last month when we're starting treatment again. Couldn't she at least wait until the triplets sleep through the night??????

Carrie said...

I think saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing. But I didn't know this until I had a miscarriage when people had known I was pregnant. The ones that said nothing hurt me the most.
I have to bear in mind that I only learned that then, some people just don't get it, they aren't nasty. They just don't get it.

Debby said...

If you're not ready to respond to the answer to the question your asking, you shouldn't ask it in the first place. Duh...common sense there. It's always amazing how many people are lacking in these basics of human conversation and relating.
Sorry for the multitude of annoying moments for you.

Dreamer4agift said...

I, too, hate silence. Granted, I hate hearing ignorant comments too, but one can not ask for both to be changed. I'm sorry you're not getting the response from your family that you need. I know the way ppl act when it's "God's supposed to fix it." God might be the one who creates life, but that doesn't mean he created everyone with minds that are considerate of others. Ppl at my church have said stupid things, things that hurt. But the silence...I recently had an email sent to me via myspace from someone I don't really care for, but I put up with. She asked how we were doing on having a baby and she'd heard from her fiance (who's friend's with the hubby) that we'd been having trouble and she just couldn't imagine. So, I took the opportunity to "educate" on the hardships (naive me again) of IF-the short version-and how things ppl say hurt. Guess what I got? Silence. Haven't heard anything. Love it.

P.S. I love the idea of the book title...Silence is not an option.

chicklet said...

I've had a tough time explaining it - with some people I say it's a personal thing cuz I think they will piss me off with their response, with some I explain it and then wait, hoping for a good response. It's a hard thing when you're put on the spot for it, so respond how you need, based on the person:-)

Re your other post re the cards - I may have to burn mine. Brilliant idea.

GLouise said...

Oh sweetie, no one could even mention a "wow?" How awful!!! I hate that stunned silence, too.

Big hugs.

In Search of Morning Sickness said...

I could not agree more with the sentiment that silence is NEVER a good option!!!!!! I have determined to talk about my IVF and IF and Miscarriage as often as I want to, whether people look uncomfortable or not, because darn it it's MY life and it matters to me and they need to get used to hearing about it!!!!

Sorry, this subject always infuriates me!

That said, I'm so sorry that even your own family can't seem to get a grip about a gentle, caring way to suppport you....

I recently got asked about my bracelet for the 1st time. My sister asked me to give her "my hairpiece" and I explained it was a bracelet, not a hairpiece. She was so enthusiastic about it & said "that's so cool" also.... But I wish it stood out a little more so other people would notice it too.

Yoka said...

I so understand what you mean. My mother-in-law handed me my nephew and said: "Take him. I can't wait until you have a little one of your own." I know she didn't mean to hurt me. But she did. Because I don't know when this will actually happen. I look forward to meeting you on Sunday.