Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Not To Say

A while back, I decided that massage needed to be part of my self-care during this time of infertility. I needed it for stress relief, I needed it to release the pain and tension I carry in my shoulders and neck. And I needed the right balance--a masseuse that provided work on those evil knots that can cause me migraines, but also provided relaxation so I didn't feel like I was paying for an hour of torture. 

Over the years I have found a few of these wonderful people -- and then something inevitably happens to make that fleeting. I found a wonderful masseuse at the place I did Fertility Yoga--and then they jacked up their prices and I could no longer afford her. I switched to a franchise massage spa, something I felt a little off about but once you were in the room with your eyes closed it didn't really feel all that different from anywhere else. No candles or fancy furniture, but really, all you need is a massage table, some gifted hands, and soothing spa music. It took some trial and error to find the masseuse that was a good fit (this one was too light, like being massaged with a feather duster; this one was too painful, like an hour of knuckles in knots; this one talked wayyyy too much and never turned the lights down...), but then I found her. 

J was amazing -- chatty at the very beginning, then just let me bliss out while she applied the perfect balance of pressure and light touch. She somehow got into my knots without making me tense with pain, and she worked miracles on my neck and skull. Who knew you could have tight muscles in your skull? 

But alas, J lived in Buffalo and was commuting to Rochester, and after this past long and frozen and snowy winter, she'd had enough. Circumstances converged so that she left and went back to where she lived, which was good for her...and so sad for me. 

J recommended someone that had a similar style -- and I gave her a try. It took some talking through pressure and hot towels vs no hot towels (hot towels please!), but then the last two times I went were fantastic. I left feeling good. She talked, but just at the beginning. Which is what I like. I do not want a therapy session when I'm being worked on, and I do not want to concentrate on anything but being semi-conscious, feeling the stress melt from my muscles. 

Well, I guess she felt more comfortable with me this last session, and she wanted to know more about the "procedure" that I was undergoing. It is so hard to be vague about infertility, because people immediately jump to something like cancer--"I am going through some medical difficulties," "I am in medical treatment at the moment" etc etc. She pushed a bit because she felt it would help her give a better massage and be sure she wasn't doing anything that could be bad for whatever situation I was in. Understandable, and it's not a bad idea for your therapeutic people to know why the stress is so high or your glutes have knots in them (from years of PIO). It IS a bad idea if they handle it poorly. 

I was determined to be relaxed, so I didn't really address this so much, but next time I am going to have to say, "I do not want to talk about trying to have a baby, pregnancy, or babies at all in here." 

Here is a LIST of what you should not say to a woman who just told you she's been trying to have a baby for five years and is prepping for her 10th IVF transfer: 

- Do NOT say, "Well, when you're done with all this IVF and if you don't end up pregnant, I just know you and your husband will have a drunk wine night and BOOM! Miracle baby. You hear that all the time." Yeah, I hear that all the time too. And it is NOT going to happen for me. If it did, I would gladly eat my 10 gallon hat that I will buy for the occasion. (I did tell her that with one tube and me not ovulating on my own and issues with our sperm, the miracle whoopsie baby was not likely.)

- It is okay to tell the infertile woman your own experience with miscarriage, however, DO NOT then say, now that you have a healthy baby, that those miscarriages were "meant to be," inferring that there is a reason for everything and saying that obviously the timing wasn't right for those babylings since they were at a young age first and with an ex-husband second. Maybe you feel that way, but my miscarriage and freak ectopic loss were decidedly NOT meant to be. I desperately wanted those babies and will forever mourn them. I'm not sure you would say the same if you didn't have a healthy child at home. I appreciate your experience, but the editorializing could go bye-bye. 

- It is okay to tell the infertile woman that it took you a year to get pregnant with your child and that was hard, not as hard as "all this you're dealing with," but hard. It is NOT okay to then go into detail on how you found out you were "finally" pregnant. How you went to a family party and felt a little off, so only ordered a sprite, and then got a pregnancy test but ripped up all the packaging and hid it so no one would know in case it was negative, and then stuffed said pee stick down your pants, went inside your house, said hi to your boyfriend and immediately went to pee on it, then came out with a funny look and your boyfriend thought you were mad at first until you showed him the stick, and OH MY GOD you were so ecstatic that this moment had finally arrived. Thanks. I appreciate the brief commiseration on how hard it can be to get pregnant, albeit while having sexytimes in the privacy of your own bedroom and not in an OR with a host of 5 people looking up your hoo-ha, but to tell me your pregnancy test and announcement to your partner story? REALLY? I will never have the opportunity to come out of a bathroom and share that news. That news comes from a telephone held in a sweaty hand and with a pit of fear in my stomach that it will be bad news again. I cannot relate to this one bit, and shouldn't have to listen to it.

- Do NOT continue in this line, then telling me all about your pregnancy. ALL ABOUT IT. This one requires no explanation. I don't want to hear about a pregnancy that ended in a baby 18 months ago from a person I don't really know. I just want you to rub my back so I can try not to think about how pregnancy keeps eluding me and focus on how maybe this will be the time it finally doesn't.

- Do NOT tell me a story about how you didn't want to know the sex but your boyfriend did, and so he found out when you went to the bathroom and kept it a secret the whole rest of the pregnancy, but bought some gender-specific clothes and things and hid them, and then you had to have him move them out of the nursery so you could clean and nest and not run into them, but you just KNEW that they were in the house. This goes along with the last one. Don't tell me details of your pregnancy. Especially not ones that remind me that I have onesies of both genders hidden throughout my house, that have been hidden for years, that I bought in hopes that a baby might fill them and then my husband hid after they were left empty time and time again so I wouldn't come across them and have a bit of a breakdown. Your story makes me sad. 

- This one's for the future: do NOT keep asking me "how it's going." If I want to share that, I will. I am not completely nervous for my next appointment because she has just become one more service provider that I will have to tell if something goes wrong. OF COURSE, this time nothing's going wrong, so I don't have to worry about it, but the list just keeps going and going. 

Probably I could have just condensed this to "DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY, ANY PART OF YOUR PREGNANCY. EVER." Especially since the more she talked, the more I felt like she felt she was the same as me in some way, that the suffering of 11 months of pee sticks before that magical positive that brought her baby home is somehow in line with years of infertility treatments and the constant questioning of "Is this ever going to happen?" The very real planning for other pathways to parenthood because even after all this, IVF is not a magic wand. Maybe she just felt really comfortable and like she could unload all of the very complex feelings around this pregnancy, but that's not really my job when I'm in nothing but my underwear under a soft sheet on a massage table. And it's definitely not my job when the WHOLE REASON I'M ON THAT TABLE is to help me forget my reproductive woes, to rub away the stress not being able to pee on a stick like a "normal" person has given me.

Not relaxing. I can only hope that next time is better, after I say "I don't want to talk about this." Even if I am gloriously, terrifyingly pregnant. I just want to float away from the world of pee sticks and gender reveals and morning sickness (and needles and ultrasound wands and the dizzying schedule of medication on the fridge) when I'm on that table. So, next time... DON'T. Just, shhhhhh.


  1. OH... MY... GOODNESS. I cannot believe she said all that to you. How did you respond? I think I would've tensed up so bad that the massage would've been useless. So very very sorry you had to go through that. Please tell me you're not going back for another appointment!

    1. Hmmm... how did I respond? Lots of silence. And (ironic to me), "that must be hard." I tried really hard not to encourage it, but it just kept pouring out of her! Then she gave me a big hug after and wished me tons of luck. The sad thing is I don't want to try to find another masseuse right now... I think I'll give her one more try and if she can't shut it, then I'll request someone different. Or find a new place. Argh, so frustrating! The sad thing is I think she honestly thought she was being helpful and didn't mean to be hideously insensitive. :(

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks... I am a magnet for this nonsense!

  3. I think you need to get these tips printed up on a business card (okay, a legal size sheet of paper) and hand it to those you have to contact.

    I've also got my foot ready for a kickin' if you need it. I mean, not you. But for me to use on others. :)

    1. You made me laugh! Yeah, a fact sheet would be awesome for everyone--chiropractors, waxers, hair dressers, masseuses, acupuncturists... although most of these people have been wonderful most of the time.

      You should have seen how pissed Bryce was at this whole situation! He was ready to go show up at the spa place and give her what's what. I'm such a wuss sometimes... I just wanted to enjoy the massage and not deal with conflict, so I just kept mum. For the most part. But I will take you up on your kickin' foot if it happens a second time! :)

    2. Bryce and I will have your back.

  4. Oh MAN. WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK? Okay, some people are completely, totally, sucked up, wrapped up, in their own world. Not okay. Just so not okay. I want to throttle her.

    I'm so sorry. You just needed to relax. Poor darlin!

    I remember when I got a mani and pedi for my courthouse wedding, and the very rough and rude manicurist asked suspiciously: "How old are you?" after finding out I was getting married. "39," I said. She shook her head gravely. "Oh, oh. You'll only have one baby, then," she said.

    Maybe people in the body-work and cosmotology professions should take a few social work classes. Sigh.

    1. Thanks, friend. I DID just need to relax! And holy crap, that is the WORST wedding-day manicurist story I've ever heard. WHO ASKED YOU, lady? I'd be tempted to chuck a bottle at her head.

      Definitely some sensitivity training would be in order! :)

  5. This just made me so uncomfortable, and I wasn't even there! Uggh! What's the worst is you paid for this experience AND she likely thinks that she was being helpful. So frustrating!

    1. Seriously, Lindsey. And because she thought she was being helpful, I didn't feel like I could really say anything, and I didn't want to have an awkward(er) situation on my hands while I was half naked and supposedly blissing out. Arghhhhh. I didn't even think of it that way, that I'd paid for something that was not ok.

  6. Ugh, what a way to ruin a massage. I'm so sorry.

    I can't abide by this whole "I had trouble conceiving, too," when their definition of trouble just seems like a long stroll in a park. I used to be more sympathetic to other's pain, I'm sure she was scared it would never happen during those 11 months. But WTF, it's not the same. And not at all helpful.

    What's getting me lately is all the references to genes. They're everywhere, and it's kind of tearing me up inside. At least she didn't go on and on about how much her little one looks like her boyfriend/grandmother/sister.

    1. Thanks for the condolences! I try so hard to be charitable with others' experiences, but yeah. Trying for a year with actual sex is hard I'm sure, not that I know this, but felt like complaining about your horrible cold (which could be quite horrible to you) to a person with double pneumonia who has like 20% lung capacity. It's just not the same. Argh.

      Gene-talk is hard, so hard. I hate the baby pictures with the baby picture of the parents on FB, where it's like, "Who does she look like more?" and talk of this person's nose or this person's eyes in the baby. It's human nature to put such importance on genes and where you got what feature from who, but that is a difficult thing with donor. I love my husband's eyes, and I talk to him all the time about how I love them, and he keeps saying, "well, they end here." Which I can't fault him for, because I did the same when we were doing DE, but I think about it this way too--my eyes are unique. THey aren't exactly the same as my mom or my dad, they're mine. You don't always get a carbon copy... and it's amazing how babies conceived from donor gametes end up looking like their parents anyway, if only because they have the same mannerisms. It doesn't make that loss less painful, but it's something to hang on to maybe. Hugs to you, friend!

  7. Thanks--and hugs to you, too. I think that I'm more sad about the loss of genes right now than B is. These days I'm really sad for what my children might feel. But I go back and forth on what makes me the most sad about this process.

    Written down it feels much more stark than it probably is, but I just want to give Bryce a hug. It's probably losing his genes + the amount of trauma you all have gone through over these last years + maybe some guilt? I don't want to psychoanalyze Bryce, but none of this is easier, and maybe the lack of genes is just the easiest for us to articulate.

    Yes, it is surprising how much donor babies look like their parents. And I'm 100% sure that as soon as we're definitely pregnant, it won't matter to you, to me, to Bryce or to B. It's just this purgatory that we're in that is so hard. BUT! you're fully loaded and on your way out of town. Another comment pending...:)