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My antipathy to sympathy

Posted by Good Fortune , 12 December 2010 · 1236 views

Oh man. I never thought the unluckiest guy in the world would feel sorry for me.

DH spent all day with his mates yesterday for a 40th birthday bash. Two of the guys have just recently become first time dads. I think they all knew we were trying to conceive. So when DH came home I decided only to ask if he had a good time, and leave it at that. In view of the fact I had a bit of a wobble this week over a colleagueís baby, I thought it best I donít ask, ďHowís so-and-so, how are they finding parenthood, blah blah.Ē No, best not go there, I thought.

But we went for a run this morning and there has to be SOME conversation, so the summary of his day came out in dribs and drabs. His best mateís wife still hasnít lost the weight and is in drawstring pants 9 months later (oh shame) and the other mate is ready to die for his child, but at the same time can understand how you can want to shake a baby for crying incessantly. The usual stuff.

Then he tells me how his mate started crying when he heard we couldnít have children. ďOh I feel so guilty, sniff, you canít have kids, sob, and I can, sob, itís so unfair!Ē

Bless. His heartís in the right place and I do like the couple. Heís a very emotional person Ė obviously Ė and hasnít been lucky in love over the years. Or lucky with money. Or teeth. Theyíve broken up several times, twice in one weekend once, when we went to a rock festival with them! Heís ALWAYS a bit woe-is-me, but now at least he knows thereís someone worse off than him.

I get REALLY touchy when someone pities me. I cannot bear it. Itís okay with you guys because youíve been there. I donít mind DH feeling sad for me occasionally, but it really needles me when other people pity me. Last IVF cycle, 3 of my work buddies knew I was doing it and when it didnít work I texted all 3 saying, It hasnít worked, I donít want to talk about it and please donít pity me. They were great and let me be.

Iím less raw than earlier, because it isnít worth getting my knickers in a twist over this, but does anyone else take sympathy as a bit of an insult? My thoughts were Ė If all you can see is someone to pity because they canít have children, then you clearly arenít seeing what I CAN achieve. This isnít all I am. Donít pity me! Do my other achievements count for nothing? (Iím inwardly trying to list my more impressive contributions to the world at this point). IÖI have a pair of hand-made Trippen boots! Do you? No. Well then. Iím not someone that needs your pity.

Itís such a schizophrenic existence! We want people to understand the pain of infertility, and yet we donít want their pity. At least I donít. Maybe some people like to wear their misfortunes like a badge of honour, but I donít think anyone with IF does.

And this pity that I speak of. It strikes me that I am still getting the whole producing a baby thing tangled up in my self-image. Iím still seeing it as an achievement, a rite of passage, something I should do if I ever want people to take me seriously. I thought Iíd dropped that notion. DH says Iím taking it personally and babies and achievements are two different things and nobody is writing me off as an individual for not procreating. And DH is always right. But anyway, about my those boots... :D

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Awesome boots, Lisa! But I think you're right about the schizophrenic need for pity. I don't publicize to the world what we went through, but at the same time I want people to know in order to validate my experiences, or so they realize some of the things they take for granted.
I feel the same way...about the boots and the pity!
What is it about the words "oh, I'm so sorry" that makes me want to burst into tears, even after I thought I'd dealt with things?
Good Fortune-you mirror my thoughts with this blog!
Me too! Hearing someone say Ohhhhh Im so sorry and then in the next breath tell me how little Johnny says Mama mama! Yes please poke me with a hot poker!
GF - your blog posts rock!

We may not have kids, but those boots are sure mothers!

It's a fine line with the sympathy thing. Do we want it or not?
I think it depends on the source and the intent behind it.

Do I want my in-laws to know about what I've been through - no. So they don't.
Do I wish at times they knew so that I could access some extra support/empathy - yes.

Do I want them to feel sorry for me? No. But you know what I think hurts the most?
They know we've been trying - but not about the ART - and no one has even bothered to ask.

Not even how's it going.....? Or even, I know it's none of my business, but.....

It's a very thought provoking subject. Brilliant post.

    • gibasgirl likes this
Ps. I think I need me some boots....
Great boots!!! I think us IF folks want a bit of empathy and not sympathy.
hi good fortune - great boots!! fantastic actually. wish i could get a pair in black!

anyways, on the sympathy front - yes, pity is my worst enemy. when i first struggled with IF, i told everyone as if i was going to be the feminist activist to break the silence about IVF. bad move. as months and years went on without success, other colleagues got preggers, making life even more hellish for me. their pitying looks said it all! I also had a teacher break down and cry for me.....uh, yeah, that wasn't fun either.
Love the blog! I totally know where you are coming from. I have always said, "I'm not looking for pity". Pity just makes me want to burst out crying. Pity suggest that I am not handling this IF thing, but I AM handling it... and really well, in my opinion. The concept of pity has entirely prevented me from telling numerous people about our IF. I don't want to be the poster-child for IF, at least not until I have 2 children... then I'll talk about it.... because then people won't be able to pity me anymore!

As an aside, unlike Kjbabies, I'm actually very grateful that my in-laws haven't asked about us TTC, though they must know we are TTC but likely haven't considered that we are up to our neck in ART!
Dec 12 2010 10:43 PM
yes i too get my 'self image' caught up in my fertility.. it's hard. as much as i know that it logically doesn't make sense- i've felt defective and embarrassed that my body doesn't work.. i would never think someone else was 'defective' if they had cancer or another health issue. i don't know why i do this to myself?
    • michelleo likes this
I like the boots too.

The paradox is that most of the time, people do not think they are pitying others. It seems like a spontaneous reaction to an event where people just respond in the words they are used to hearing since they were born.
I know what your saying, and I did find it insulting for people to "pity" me or feel "sorry" for me, almost like they were looking down on me, I hated that. What I wanted was for people to get my frustration, my desire, my stress, I wanted my feelings to be validated and respected, I wanted people to have the common sense not to tell me dumb things like "it'll happen when it's meant to happen" or the other cliche's people say, that only make them feel good and me want to slam their head into the wall. If I'm going to get pity from anyone it will be from myself when I have my own pity party and nobody is invited to those.
    • gibasgirl likes this
Good blog (and nice boots!)

I appreciate empathy and sympathy (because yes, IF does suck, and no, my life isn't how I imagined it), but not pity because that implies that I suck.
    • gibasgirl likes this

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