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Struggling with Infertility and Grandparents Keep Pushing Us to Start a Family

August 19, 2018 | by Emuna Braverman

How do I learn to accept their insensitive comments and not let them bother me so much?

Dear Emuna,

I'm a young, Orthodox married woman struggling with infertility. My husband is amazing, as are both of our immediate families. Our grandparents – not so much.

I know that no one is trying to cause pain, but whenever I talk to them they tell me that I should start thinking about having kids, that I would be a great mother – hint hint, that they really want more great grandchildren, or just a pointed "Is there any good news?" I usually just brush it off with saying, "Whenever God wants" or "Yup, children are adorable" and change the topic. They've even started asking my siblings and in-laws to convince me to start a family.

They have no clue that I've done multiple rounds of fertility treatments and had a few miscarriages. They just assume that I'm choosing to wait (I'm in my low 20s and been married a few years – which is normal in their more non-religious circles). I could tell them but I don't want the entire extended family to know, or for them to bring it up to me every time we speak.

As it stands now, I don't see any way to stop the comments. How can I get it not to bother me so much? When I'm on the treatments and am really hormonal, I often cry after talking to them and I would rather not make things harder for my husband than they already are.

Tired of comments

Dear Tired of Comments

My heart goes out to you. I know how painful and awkward those conversations can be. How can you get it not to bother you so much? I don't have the perfect answer. Of course they bother you because the issue is always front and center in your life and because their assumptions about your choices are so far off the mark and seem insulting.

But know it comes from love – and some insensitivity. As common as it is, I have noticed in many of my own discussions and situations that people always assume that orthodox women can and will have as many children as they want and don't bother to take into account infertility, post-partum depression, secondary infertility, and other medical or psychological issues. You need to give yourself a little talk and you need to tell yourself that:

  1. They mean well.
  2. They'd be mortified and horrified by their behavior if they knew what was really going on.
  3. They love you.
  4. They deserve the benefit of the doubt.
  5. Since you are keeping it quiet, they have no way of knowing the reality of your situation.
  6. It's a constant (and not necessarily welcome) opportunity to work on your own trust in the Almighty and acceptance that everything will happen in the right time.

I realize these points may be platitudes but they have the benefit of being true. And you can fall back on them when times are tough. (For me, they are like a mantra that I repeat almost constantly!)

You mentioned that you don't want to cause your husband additional pain. Keep that goal at the forefront of your thoughts (maybe it will displace what's currently in that position). After these family events (can you stay home for some of them and avoid the trauma?), remind yourself that creating a peaceful and joyful home is your priority. Try to find fun activities to do together (maybe things that parents of small children can't do) and take advantage of the time you have together. Focus on the good you have (there are many singles who would trade their lonely nights for your struggles) and on making your marriage the best it can be.

And last but not least, stock up on witty come-backs! They're not my forte but perhaps a project that you and your husband could work on together – so that the next insensitive comment will be a source of laughter and not sorrow.

May your ability to hold your head high and maintain your good spirits and happy home be a merit in the Almighty's eyes and may He bless you with a home filled with children.

Disgruntled Vacationer with Husband

Dear Emuna

I am on vacation with my husband. We are so lucky to get away and I'm really grateful. I enjoy our time together and I relish the opportunity to visit new locations and have interesting adventures. But it's these "adventures" that are the sticking point. I like to go on a pre-planned tour. I like to hear from the tour guide, I appreciate not having to worry about directions and I like being certain that we are going to visit the places I desire to see.

My husband is the opposite. He doesn't enjoy traveling with a group. He wants to come and go at his own pace and prefers to have only my company. I know I should be flattered but the end result is that we don't see a lot of sites that I'd like to and then I get frustrated. How do you suggest we resolve this?

Disgruntled Vacationer

Dear Lucky Vacationer,

I hear both sides. It's certainly frustrating to pack and schlep and then not get the most out of the experience. But I guess we need to define "the most". We need to explore the goal of your vacation. If it's to see those particular spots, then I understand your frustration – but if it's to spend time with your husband and deepen your relationship, then you seem to be sabotaging that goal.

Is it possible that you could do the first kind of trip alone or with a girlfriend so that your time with your husband is stress-free? If that's not a realistic possibility, then perhaps it's not really a matter of deciding which goal but rather of recognizing that a sense of togetherness with your husband, the pleasure of and joy in his company far outweighs the chance to see yet one more tourist site.

The latter may be mildly interesting (even very interesting) but the former is life-enriching, life-nourishing and possibly life changing. In the end there's not really anything to resolve is there?

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