Monday, April 28, 2008

Entitlement

I have been thinking about this post since Saturday morning. There was an event that triggered it and I've just been mulling it over. I can almost guarantee that it isn't going to be popular with either the infertiles or the non-infertiles. If it bothers you, don't read.
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At my job, I proctor exams. I check people in, they read the policies/procedures and sign it, ask any questions they have and then I seat them. They test, they tell me when they're done, I score them and send them on their way. Easy. I usually get the same questions: What do I do if I need to use the restroom? Are we allowed gum? The answers are on the P&P if they'd just READ the damn thing, but that's an aside.

Saturday morning, as I was checking in a woman, I got the same questions. I told her if she needed to get up and go, go. She said "Okay, because I didn't sleep well last night and I don't feel very good. I'm also pregnant, so that doesn't help." Whatever lady - I don't really care if you're pregnant, had 12 cups of coffee this morning, have medication that makes you pee...whatever. Just go if you gotta go. Before I take people into the room, I make sure they use the restroom if they need to. I did the same for this one, and she came back chewing gum. I told her she needed to spit it out (people smack it when they're not paying attention, or nervous). She said "But I just put it in! I get dry mouth really bad now that I'm pregnant and this helps with that. It also helps with the nausea! If I don't chew it, can I keep it in?" I apologized but told her no.

As I got back to my desk I started thinking about that. It was essentially "I'm pregnant so the rules don't apply to me. I'm entitled to different things, because I'm pregnant. You should let me do what I want, because it helps me and I'm pregnant." Congratulations, lady, your uterus works. Your ovaries work. Your hormones work. Your husband has super-sperm. Woo for you.

No. Being a healthy individual with working parts does not entitle you to jack shit. To go a step further, it really doesn't matter HOW you got pregnant. It doesn't matter if you were on BCP, the shot, the condom broke, it was planned. It doesn't matter if you had to do IUI, IVF, DE, surrogacy. It doesn't matter if it took 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years. Just because you managed to somehow, someway get pregnant it does not mean you are entitled to anything more than anyone else. You get the same treatment, and if you don't, you should.

In thinking about all this, I walked to the kitchen Sunday morning to get a drink and noticed the picture on the fridge that has bothered me for a while now. It's one of those magnetic picture frames and says "Grandchildren Make Memories". It's been up on the fridge forever, but didn't have any pictures in it. This past summer, her stepdaughter and her children came to visit us, at the same time that Giggles and Chuckles were moving in. Family photos were done, and the MIL put them up in the photo frame. There were pictures taken of MIL, FIL and all the kids. Pictures of Chuckles and Giggles and the MIL and FIL. You get the idea. The only one missing from any of those photos...is me. Aaron is in them, because he is one of the kids. Giggles is in there because she's carrying the first great-grandchild. I am the only one not there, because I am not one of the children or grandchildren, and I am not carrying any either. For several months I cringed and felt a stabbing pain every time I went to the fridge. the pics are at eye level for me, so there is no avoiding them. Over time it has stopped hurting. When I went to the fridge, I realized it no longer hurt and I got thinking about entitlement again.

As infertiles, we have our own sense of entitlement. We expect the world to be gentler with us, to try and understand us, simply because we can't (for whatever reason) conceive and carry a child to full term. This is not to say that people shouldn't be tactful - they should, as IF is a disease like any other and carries it's own set of problems. Along that vein, however, it would be akin to asking cancer survivors not to talk to cancer patients because it's too painful. The survivors speak to give hope, not to say "HA! I made it and you aren't." We expect so much more though; we expect people to understand when we don't want to be around pregnant people, when we don't attend church because we can't handle seeing babies. We lose friends because we can't reconcile ourselves to the fact that they have what we want. We break one of the commandments - "thou shalt not covet" - and expect everyone to pat us on the back and say "it's ok. We understand" and then get angry when they don't.

Yes, people are assholes. Yes, people are idiots who don't "get it". Yes, people are people. How many times before you found out you were pregnant did you say to someone "you just need to relax" or "you're so lucky you don't have kids; you can go anywhere you want" or any of the other things we get so furious about? We are no less guilty than anyone else, and to pretend otherwise is hypocritical. We are not entitled to jack shit, just like the non-infertiles.

As I was thinking about all this and talking to Aaron, i realized something else, and I know this is going to go over like a ton of bricks. We CHOOSE to be upset because we are infertile. That's right, I said we CHOOSE it. Instead of focusing on the good things in our lives, celebrating the joy around us, indulging in the babies we can be around, we choose to be angry, bitter, self-centered. We push people away, refuse to have anything to do with babies. We choose to be angry when our friends are pregnant, when people make stupid remarks, when our MIL's put photos up in our face that are missing us because we can't have children. Instead of being angry, smile. Know that the people who are making stupid comments are either lucky enough not to have to go through what we've been through, or that they just don't know what to say in response but feel the need to say something because society teaches us to do that. Know that your MIL is lucky to have people in her life who CAN have children, that she is blessed to have grandchildren from someone - she's a proud grandmother, just like every other grandmother out there. She's just unlucky enough to be related to you. :) Have joy that our friends have children that they will let us play with, take care of, spoil any time we want...and that if we ever get out of the trenches, they'll gladly reciprocate. Work in the nursery at church - indulge in the babies every week, knowing that these little lives are just beginning.

I won't say that I'm not still bitter, because in some ways I am. But I think I can see the light. I'm trying to learn to be happy with what I have, instead of throwing a hissy fit for what I can't have like a toddler would. So I can't have children - I have a husband who loves me, cats who love and annoy me, family who supports me. I would love to pass on everything my mother taught me to my child...but if I can't, maybe I can pass it on to my friends' children instead. But now, instead of telling people that we've been trying for 4 years to have a child, I simply tell them that we can't have them and leave it at that. It no longer matters how long we've been trying - we know the answer now. Someone said in response to that the other day "You shouldn't say that - you don't know for certain." She's right - I don't. But for now, I do. If I get proven wrong, it won't be the first time in my life and I'm sure it won't be the last. I said nothing in response, just smiled and thought "she's lucky she doesn't know."

4 comments:

Jess said...

You know, about the entitlement...you're right. BUT I generally think people should be nice and caring and compassionate to EVERYONE because you KNOW that EVERYONE has SOMETHING. Nobody's life is perfect.

I think that a lot of IFers are just upset when people are not understanding and compassionate. I think that if it weren't about IF...if it were about any other disease, and people were not being compassionate, they would still be upset. I'm not sure if it's IF specific. (Though I feel that IF is definitely not a disease that's taken seriously and comments like "just get over it" or "who needs kids anyway" are as inappropriate as "you have to die sometime" for someone with an incurable cancer. BOTH things are inapproprate.)

I think that it's lame when pg people use pg as an excuse or crutch. Maybe you get sick. Sure. But you can take a test and adhere to the rules. If you get sick, go get sick. 1/2 hr or an hour without gum won't kill you!!

I think to a certain extent you are right about chosing happiness. Because there is something crappy in everyone's life. You have to choose CONSIOUSLY to make your life a life worth living. However, that doesn't mean that you'll NEVER be sad for what you don't have or what you're striving for and not getting. That's like saying if your friend dies you just have to get over it and choose not to be sad. You can be sad sometimes, but you still do need to keep living, because you are still alive. Same with IF (or anything).

I'm glad you're doing well. :)

Dr. Grumbles said...

Yes, we choose it...

and some situations CALL for a little misery. I think anything else would be denial. Others call it optimism, but to me it is denial of reality.

Oh my, I am negative today. I am subfertile, you know? It gives me the right to be as morose as I need to be ;)

BethH6703 said...

I agree with you. It was hard to read, and hard to admit, but your post really made me think. On my good days, I try to live in that mindset. Sometimes I succeed. On the bad days... well... they're called the bad days for a reason.

sharah said...

I've been thinking about this post for a few days, and, yep, I still agree with you.