If we are to be very honest, we TTC women can be extremely difficult to deal with. A walk in the park, we most surely are not. Our roller coaster of emotions make us almost a ticking bomb to people around us, making it hard for them to know exactly how to help us. A lot of the TTC women I know complain about their friends and family being unsupportive and unhelpful or, on the flip side, over supportive and intrusive. In some cases, this is true. But in a lot of others, it isn’t.
Letâs start with our friends. The common complaints I get revolve around friends who act uninterested in the TTC journey, or act secretive around them, or are seemingly arrogant about their own hyper fertility. Recently, I wrote an article about how lucky I have been with my best friend of 21 years, especially in my TTC days (My Sister’s Keeper). Even before my TTC journey, she had always been my rock…my ride-or-die chick! When infertility popped its head, even though she didn’t understand a lot of what I was experiencing, she tried her best, and offered me so much support. I don’t know what I would have done without her. HOWEVER, sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the conditions had been different. You see, even though I married earlier, she was one of those lucky ones who literally got pregnant on her wedding night, so we ended up having our children a month apart. How would things have been if she already had kids, whilst I was still there TTC? Would I have been as receptive of her love and support? Or would I have been resentful? Would I have gotten annoyed if she couldn’t dedicate 24 hours of her day to me? Would I have been annoyed if she couldn’t listen to me whine and complain all the time? Would I have flinched every time she talked about her children? Or would she have been forced to withhold the stories of her daughter’s latest antics, because she was afraid of touching the wrong nerve with me? Would our friendship have survived? Yes, I was able to successfully manage my relationship with my other friends who had children, but would I have had a different set of expectations for this my besto, my soul sister, my sister-from-another-mother? If I’m to be candid with you, I really can’t give an honest answer to any of these questions. Who knows how our dynamic would have worked out?! Maybe she too would have been at a loss about how to relate with me.
And then there’s family. The people who love us so much that their actions can seem downright suffocating. And by family, I mean both direct and in-laws. Of course, there are the many instances when their motives are anything but friendly. I have heard many stories about awful in-laws, whose actions border on bullying and downright antagonism. No, I am not referring to those ones. The family members I speak about are those genuinely worried about the condition of their TTC daughter (or daughter-in-law), son (or son-in-law), niece, nephew, etc., that they are driven to do everything, and anything, in their power to help fast track the road to baby for the couple. Except that in some cases, the manner, and frequency, of approach turn their actions into very sore points for the couple in question. Almost all my TTC friends with complaints about intrusive family, complain about the innumerable suggestions, prayers, and drugs (conventional and traditional) that these family members try to force them into, all of which inadvertently add to the stress the TTC couple is facing. In all fairness, when I hear some of these stories, they do sound extreme, and one can almost not blame these women for putting these family members at arm’s length. But the truth is that, for some of these family members, this is the only way they know how to show their love and support. I have been opportune to see this dynamic from the other side of the fence, and realize that there always two sides to this tale.
When a close friend’s older brother got married some years ago, their Mother was overjoyed that he had married a lovely Catholic girl, and she quickly fell deeply in love with the new bride. As the months turned to years, and they were unable to conceive, my friend’s mother made it a point of duty to do everything in her power to help. Their case was the very first prayer point of any family prayer. Masses were booked, Novenas were said, and she fasted on regular basis…all for the couple. She kept her ears peeled for any healthy foods that would improve her beloved daughter-in-law’s conception chances, and likewise kept a list of foods she should avoid. At first, the daughter-in-law went along with everything her Mother-in-law suggested. She did all the Novenas, read all the Psalms, attended all the Masses, did all the fasting, chewed all the moringa, threw away all the white bread…she cooperated with everything, and she seemed happy to do it all…until, well, she didn’t. All of a sudden, my friend’s Mom could no longer reach her. Calls and text messages went unanswered, and her schedule suddenly became too tight for her to drop by, or be available for a visit. It wasn’t until my friend’s Mom unexpectedly ran into her at their popular estate supermarket did it dawn on her that there was a problem. After a very cool greeting, her daughter-in-law had immediately hurried off. When the older woman decided to call her Son to find out what was going on, she was shocked and heartbroken to hear “Mama, abeg she is tired! Your stress is too much!”. Her stress??!! She couldn’t believe it. Apparently, the wife had reached breaking point one day, and decided enough was enough with all the herbs, moringa, and mustard seed! She had ditched all the Novenas and started attending a Pentecostal church instead. The older woman was devastated, as she had considered her son’s wife more of a blood daughter than an in-law, and would have readily supported any decision she made, if she had gotten tired of any of the remedies, or even their beloved Church. She was still nursing this heartbreak, when the floodgates were suddenly open, and she was awash with her daughter-in-law’s complaints, from numerous sources. From some, she heard how she had supposedly taken over their kitchen, dictating things they should or shouldn’t eat. From some, she heard how she had been dragging her daughter-in-law to a church that wasn’t “spirit-filled”, and making her waste her time with meaningless prayers. And from the rest, she heard that she was the force of evil behind her daughter-in-law’s infertility. The woman was shattered and betrayed, and it took her months to recover. My friend and the rest of their family, who saw their Mother’s good intentions, were furious about the turn of events, and they all decided to keep their distance. Fast forward two years to the present day, and the complaint her brother now has is that the family is uncaring and indifferent towards his wife. Apparently, she is unhappy that his Mother is no longer as enthusiastic towards her as she used to be. It’s almost a case of being damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
The morale of this story is that it is usually best to look at things from another angle. For the TTC women, if you feel the people around you are acting indifferent and aloof, rather than cut them off, it might be a good idea to sit them down for a heart-to-heart chat. It could surprise you that they might have retreated as a result of an incident (or series of incidents) you might have no recollection of. And for those who are seemingly bombarded by efforts to help, rather than feel resentful and annoyed, it would surprise you how understanding they could be if you let them know it is all a bit much for you, and that you just need a break. True, there are those who might not be understanding, and might feel offended by your refusal of their efforts. The important thing is to know that they are coming from a good place, and just want to help. You don’t have to swallow the truckload of herbs, or visit every Mama or Papa they want you to, but it’s best for you to be as diplomatic as you can in these situations. Because it is difficult to heal these relationships once they are fractured.
Food for thought!