Friday, August 31, 2012

Breastfeeding, infertility treatments, and judgement

I'm in a huff. My physical therapist said some things to me today that I didn't like (and had nothing to do with my wrist). It started as a tame conversation and we moved into the topic of breastfeeding. He made the comment that it wasn't a big deal, "Just cover up with a blanket. The baby doesn't mind." I used to think that too, then I had a baby the didn't liked to be covered up. So I let him know that. Which led into a conversation where he called me sexist cause I told him he didn't know what it was like to be pregnant or breastfeed because he hadn't ever done either. Go ahead and call me sexist. I'll own that one. Seriously, I'm in a giant huff. I'll probably be pissed all weekend. I'm contemplating quitting physical therapy or at least finding another physical therapist now.*

I do have a lot of strong feelings about pregnancy and women's rights. And yes, I'm passionate about them. But the only point I really want to impose on someone else is that you don't know what it's like to be me. And that extends to whoever you are. Please try to stop assuming things.

One of the particularly bad side effects of making assumptions that everyone should be able to live up to your world view is that it creates guilt and feelings of failure when we can't. I might even want to live up to your world view, but that doesn't make it realistic. Take depression for instance... depression is real. You can have your opinion about what causes it, but that really is beside the point for me. What matters to me, is that it's real and you can't just snap out of it. I could pretend it wasn't real and that I should be able to snap out of it with the right diet and exercise, but if that didn't work, where would that leave me? People that deny depression as potentially serious medical condition stigmatize it for everyone.

Which brings me to infertility and my severe distaste for those out there that say things like, "If it were me, I would just adopt," or "Oh, I would never do IVF," or "If you want kids so badly, just take mine," and, of course, that relaxing bs. There is usually a lot implied behind these statements. Note: This statement is different than saying "We found out that we couldn't conceive and decided to adopt."  The difference is between relating a personal experience and saying what you would assume you would do if you were in that situation. That's a very important difference.

Many women/couples that are diagnosed with infertility feel a sense of failure... loss... that their bodies are broken. As a young girl diagnosed with PCOS, I grew up with the self image that my body was defective, which, I can tell you, was a very negative way to see myself during those formative years.

For me, treatments were critical to proving my womanliness to myself. There is so much emphasis put on young girls about becoming a woman and getting their periods. Missing this step has always left me feeling like less of a women. The first ultrasound where I got to see my pearly ovaries was such a moment for me. And that u/s of my corpus luteum is as precious to me as my first ultrasound of Michael (really, I had that little faith in my body, just ovulating was the proudest I had ever been of my body at that time). Getting pregnant was wonderful, but giving birth and breastfeeding were just as important in repairing my confidence in my own body.

Healing from infertility for many women is about more than just having a baby. It's about mitigating those feelings of inadequacy, defectiveness, being broken. If I had decided just to adopt I don't know how I would have ever overcome those feelings. And I'm not saying that you can't overcome them other ways, but the road is long and hard any path you take. So for me, pursuing fertility treatments were about more than making a baby... it was about making me a woman.

And this post is about more than breastfeeding and infertility... it's about building bridges. We can't all be perfect all the time and we will all say things that hurt others from time to time, but I think it's important to try to be inclusive. I know what it's like to hear harsh words grate across my ears and today was a reminder of what kind of person I want to be. I want people to be comfortable with me and I want to be empathetic of their problems and speak in non-judgmental ways. This is very hard for me. I hope the people you encounter in your life are better at this than me.

And my reaction to my PT's words today were probably out of proportion. As he holds my arm and contorts it in ways that physically hurt me, he doesn't know that injury took a breastfeeding relationship from me and Michael too soon. And then he passes judgment on nursing mothers and rubs more salt in the wound. He doesn't understand the extent of his offense and I can't hold that against him, but it can inspire me to be better than him.

*Ok, I probably won't quit, but I need to be pissed off for awhile.


Michelle said...

I would be furious too. I hate how people say stupid crap like just snap out of it, or find a hobby to distract yourself (about depression.) and the whole infertility bs still to this day sends me into a total uproar.
And now with the foster/adoption thing. I have been asked so many times during the waiting on the girls thing "if this works and you adopt, are you getting your tubes tied???" With that attitude of obvioulsy they feel I should. It's crazy. I try hard not to judge and say what comes to mind in certain people's cases.
It's full moon, maybe that has something to do with the idiot speaking his mind. I know people around here have been beyond nuts the past few days. I'll blame the moon.

Jess @ said...

Yea, I'd be pissed. How is it sexist to point out the obvious, that he's a man and doesn't have first hand experience having/breast feeding a child?!

I love the judgement. My FIL is VERY vocal about how we should be done now...although he hasn't said it directly us, but when we're standing there.


Blythe said...

Ugh, I hate it when ppl. talk out of their butts!

I'd be mad too!