DEAR MISS MANNERS: After several years and several thousand dollars invested in treatments, my husband and I have accepted that we are highly unlikely to conceive children naturally. We always planned to adopt and/or foster children later in life; however, this development led us to move up our timeline.
We have been practicing answering inquires regarding whether we have children with a simple, “Not yet.” However, some relatives, friends and even a few acquaintances (such as co-workers in my small office) know we are experiencing infertility.
Now, when people learn we are in the process of becoming foster/adoptive parents, we are often met with unsolicited stories of miraculous pregnancies that occurred once a couple “stopped trying so hard” and decided to adopt. Typically, the subjects of the story are a cousin’s dentist’s nephew, or some such distant acquaintance. Sometimes the stories are told without any awareness of my infertility -- perhaps folks assume, due to my age, that our pursuing adoption must mean I am infertile.
We believe these people mean well and generally don’t know what else to say when faced with the issue of infertility, which is still a bit of a taboo topic. We believe they want to impart a sense of hope and perhaps also ease their own discomfort.
However, these stories tend to have the opposite effect on me. I have worked hard to cope with the grief of infertility. Some days and situations are very difficult for me, but I do my best to put on a brave face and remember the world does not revolve around my inability to reproduce.
My typical response to these miraculous pregnancy-after-adoption tales has been to smile, nod, and say something along the lines of “How wonderful for your relative/friend/dentist’s nephew.” I find this to be a better response than to roll my eyes and groan, although doing so would more accurately convey my internal feelings.
I’m afraid if I wish to discuss our plans for adoption, or my infertility (which I believe to be important, in order to lessen the taboo and the sense of isolation so many infertile individuals feel), I must also endure these stories. However, I wonder whether Miss Manners approves of my kind-but-not-inviting-further-discussion response.
GENTLE READER: It is not your duty to promote awareness at the cost of your privacy. Politely refusing to discuss your plans except amongst trusted intimates is undoubtedly your best defense. Acknowledgment, with no further encouragement for those who offer advice or share stories, is perfectly acceptable.
Meanwhile, Miss Manners is left to wonder what response these helpful bystanders hope to elicit -- and to ponder the icky and contradictory implications of “not trying so hard.”