I want to talk about two things in this post. I'm telling you this upfront because I'm worried my points will eat each other and you'll end up walking away thinking, "Right - sorry, was Bea trying to say something?" So I want to talk about two separate things. One is the stigma surrounding male infertility, and the other is That Friend.

You know That Friend. For me, she's the first person I told about our infertility, way back when we started seeing FS. I've known her a long while and her history of trustworthiness, sensitivity and compassion drew me to her amongst all others in my life, and she does try. Goshdarnit, sometimes I just want to hug her for trying, but I'm afraid to go near in case I lose control and cause her grievous bodily harm for irritating the actual fuck out of me. Yes. That Friend.

Now, I'm willing to admit it's not all her fault. Not by a long shot. How could she have known, for example, that it would make me want to scream when she called me up those times during her pregnancy, timidly asking if I wanted to have coffee with her and she can have someone sit #1 if I'd like because she doesn't in any way want to make me uncomfortable only she can't really hide the fact she's showing now and we don't have to talk about any of this anyway, we could just discuss the weather if I like unless I want to talk about it of course in which case she's more than happy to lend and ear and all I could think was coffee? Seriously? You're planning to drink coffee at me? Why don't we just go for a nice, big, dirty syringe full of junk down a back alley somewhere? I mean do you see me drinking coffee?

Which is, of course, way over the top. Way.

No, I don't blame her for that. Nor do I blame her, really, for the story I am about to tell*. It could have been anyone, that's the sad thing.

You see, she was telling me, this time, about a social event she'd been to recently (oh really so you go to social events now well you don't see me going to social events etc) where a woman had casually mentioned in conversation that her daughter and son-in-law were doing IVF with donor sperm. Friend's husband, knight in shining armour that he is, rode to the rescue. He told the woman firmly that she should stop talking about her son-in-law's problems to everyone, as the poor man would be horribly embarrassed. "Some people are just so insensitive," was the conclusion, at which point she paused to reap my approval.

But let's think about what happened. A woman talks freely and openly about male infertility, and the crowd shouts her down. "Don't speak about that!" they cry. It's shameful, you see, it's taboo. Something to be embarrassed about. That's what their reaction says. So who's insensitive?

On a more practical note, what should they have said? How about, "Are your daughter and son-in-law ok with you telling people this?" If the answer is yes, what's to hush?

I love That Friend. I wish she, and the world, knew the right things to say.


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*Don't worry, there's plenty more I can still blame her for, if I'm in the mood. I've learned you can never tell for sure which people will help you through. Despite their best intentions, there are those you should never call for comfort when you have bad news. Unless you find the experience of boiling rage comforting in some way. Bless her little cotton socks.


13 Comments

DI_Dad said...

I thought you wrote that post quite well. The stigma associated with MFI and then with DI is not something people seem yet to be able to address easily as if to speak openly about it will cause the man to wither away.

I must remember to ask my parents or my sister if she has ever brought up our use of DI etc in conversation. Then again from what I know the USA Today article I was pictured in with my kids sort of makes it clear I had no issue with anyone discussing my story.

Yet at my office only about a dozen or so associates know my full story. Plenty of folks knew about the MFI part as they saw me with a cane and walking funny for a while after each ICSI IVF cyucle before we switched fully to DI IUIs.

Thanks for writing this post.

Regards, Eric

Vee said...

I think the "Are your daughter and son-in-law ok with you telling people this?" approach would be better. I wouldn't be pee'd off not so much about the taboo factor more just the fact that it is personal and not everyone needs to know about it.

I think it us up to the infertile couple to speak freely with others but not others to discuss their predicament, even if they think the couple are ok with it. Whether it be male infertility or female infertility. She may be discussing it amongst a bunch of gossipers and I HATE gossip ! What if we didn't want that particular person to know for whatever reason. I just don't think it is right. We haven't told many people not for any of those reasons, but until it works for us we don't see the point. Once I do fall pregnant then we will reassess who to tell and who not too. We will be telling our child the truth.

I have told my mother we are having problems but they are "my" problems. I suppose it is a way of protecting Max, even though he is fine with her knowing. He has told his mum and dad with no support from his father and but some from his mother. We have told some friends the "truth" and sometimes wish we hadn't bothered because they just don't get it. You are lucky your friend is trying and understands to a certain extent. Once you tell you can't untell.

Sorry this has become a ramble.

Bea said...

Yes, I agree people sometimes think it's ok to discuss these things with all and sundry and, in fact, it's not. Not everyone has a USA Today article to make that one clear! Always a tricky thing.

I guess my current stance is to trust the person who's most likely to know. A mother/mother-in-law is more likely to know if it's ok to discuss her children's infertility than someone who's never met the couple at all. If she says it's ok, then who am I to say it's not? I don't like the idea of someone hushing up the discussion because s/he thinks the couple *ought* to be keeping it secret. And I hate the way it was hushed up - the use of words like "embarrassing" rather than Vee's choice - "personal".

For my part, I prefer to give clear instructions on who to discuss things with, and to what extent. I admit, in our case, we have chosen to keep information very limited, and I certainly wouldn't like my mother to go about discussing it so casually with strangers. But she knows this - she's been told explicitly.

If I hadn't told her explicitly, I think I would expect her to keep it to herself unless I'd explicitly given her permission to discuss it freely. Which for all I know, the couple involved here had done.

I think we're all pretty much in agreement so far.

Bea

Bea said...

Oh, and yes - I could have much worse friends. It's not that I regret telling her, I'm just disappointed I can't cry on her shoulder like I thought I'd be able to. Wasn't to be.

Bea

Vee said...

I thought I would we add, we have have asked the friends we have told to keep it to themselves. I suppose it is a matter of trust.

I totally understand your disappointment, I was expecting more from my close friends also.

Bea said...

Just thought I'd add - I found one hell of a "That Friend" story here.

Bea

serenity said...

I can understand the disappointment in Friend - I have a number of them. And yes, god bless their little cotton socks for trying... but sometimes it's just nice to have someone who UNDERSTANDS there for you. *sigh*

As for the MF story, I probably would have not been as upset as I should be - because I tend to bend over backwards trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. I would have assumed the "embarrassment" came from the fact that a MIL is sharing personal information with a group of people she doesn't know.

However, I definitely agree with the "are your son and daughter-in-law ok with sharing this" approach - much better. I probably would have used it if *I* were in that situation, but I probably wouldn't expect any well-meant fertile person to react that way.

Guess I just give them a LOT of leeway. :)

TeamWinks said...

***Big sigh***

Aurelia said...

There is a stigma associated with MF, and not just with sperm quality. My DH has performance issues related to a neurological condition, and until V!agra came along, well, timing was interesting.
He was never embarassed about it, because everyone knew about his disease. Once the meds came out, he just kept boasting that he felt like a sixteen year old again! we even joked to people that out second was a "v baby".
Weird thing was, lots of other people were embarassed to hear it. The same ones who could talk about menopause or women's hot flashes lost their minds if ED was mentioned.
Which meant that other guys in the crowd who maybe wanted to talk to my DH felt silenced by the "shushers".

Lut said...

My mother is a little more open about our IF than I had anticipated.
This didn't bother me too much, except that my in-laws live in the same town, and we hadn't told them anything. I was worried that they would hear through the grapevine.

Sure, they don't really have friends in common, but my mother doesn't realize just how small that town is, everyone is related to everyone (except the newcomer that she is).

We finally told the in-laws, so that danger is now gone.

aah0424 said...

I agree with your suggestion of "Are your daughter and son in law ok..." We are very open about our MF (I even heard my husband telling a co-worker about his SA/Urinalysis yesterday), but I'm sure our parents know this isn't something they should jsut be bringing up at parties. Now some of our friends are a different story.

Sanorah said...

My husband doesn't like me talking to anyone about his sperm... or my eggs.. or anything at all really. He'd prefer I didn't ever tell anyone anything remotly personal about me/us/him. ...umm...what was my point?
anyway.. nice thoughts.

~S

Amy said...

My mother is more open about our MFI than I want her to be, especially since I asked her not to say anything because that's the way my husband wants it.

It is a tough balance - I'm very open about my PCOS and don't feel like my husband's azoospermia is anything to be ashamed of. But he's just not comfortable talking about it, which can make it tough to explain how severe our infertility is when I have to leave out a vital piece of information.

On a side note, I just found your blog and am very happy I did.

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