My dear sister forwarded me this very interesting article on ‘How not to say the wrong thing’ – a simple ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching. The article talks about medical etiquette and can easily be applied to infertility etiquette.
I am seriously considering sharing this with our core family (parents, in-laws, siblings and their spouses). Since my first ectopic pregnancy in 2010, I have had issues establishing boundaries with core family. It is a concept that our families (particularly DH’s family) doesn’t quite comprehend and while I do understand that they have their best interests at heart, I don’t find their unsolicited advice comforting, neither do the ‘sorry’ faces make me feel any better about our situation.
After multiple failed pregnancies, DH and I have learnt what to share and not to share with core family. The “advice” we receive now has come down drastically since we first conceived three years back, but we will still get the occasional one-off comment every now and then.
A very recent example of this was couple of months back, a little after our first cancelled IVF cycle. Our core family knows we are going through IVF and we’ve been sharing only as much information as we want with them. DH and I live with my in-laws (a commonality in Indian families), so they know how often we go to Dr. N though they don’t know what happens at the doctors and we don’t divulge in any details besides headline information like, “treatment started”, “treatment is not going as expected”, “treatment cancelled”. They don’t ask us more questions and we don’t share more information.
I thought all was going fine, until one day my father-in-law was livid about not ‘keeping them updated’. He didn’t like the fact that he didn’t know what’s going on with the treatment or us. He said, “You go everyday and you come back and we don’t know what the doctor is saying”. DH calmly retorted with “But you never asked us any questions.” The reason he might have been upset was something else altogether where our medical issues weren’t discussed together as a family and he was being kept out of the loop. For us, this was (and still is) a personal matter between DH and I. This wasn’t about him, it was about me and about us as a couple.
Going into IVF, DH and I both explained to our respective families that the IVF journey is not an easy one. It will be a long, drawn-out treatment, which will test our patience as individuals and a couple, drain us emotionally and me physically. Since I was getting the much-needed support from DH, I needed our families to support him. Everyone was in agreement when we spoke then, but I honestly don’t think they understand how difficult it is to deal with failed pregnancies or infertility and IVF treatment. Honestly, I don’t expect them to but at times, when I try to look at things from their perspective, I realise that all they want to do is help. My in-laws are very sweet and caring but coming from traditional backgrounds, understanding the ‘whys’ of infertility are probably beyond them (or even my Dad for that matter) and I try to not blame them for that. At the same time, it is my sincere hope that they understand that the best way they can be of help to us is by offering us comfort and DH the support he needs in order to deal with me.
So, coming back to the article. These were my favourite bits:
- Listening is often more helpful than talking;
- Offer comfort and support but don’t give advice;
- Being supportive to the principal caregiver (in our case DH) may be the best thing one can do for the patient (in our case me thought I don’t like being called the patient!);
- Don’t just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own;
- Comfort in, dump out!