Sunday, March 1, 2009

Talking to teens about IF

Well, we did have some snow left on the ground AND had a wonderful time with our youth group students. I always feel like the bonding & learning that happens over this one weekend is like 6 months of weekly small group times. It's amazing.

And I did end up telling them about my infertility. My last post brought up a few questions for Amanda that she addressed on her blog: should we talk to kids about infertility? In what context is that appropriate? What does that look like? As she states in her post, she knows the fact that I was telling my students about my infertility wasn't directly about discussing infertility with them (more about sharing myself with them, infertility just happened to be the topic). But the fact that I wanted to brought up some ideas and questions, so feel free to join in the discussion over there (and here!).

As I thought about telling my students, I realized my desire to tell them was very much about wanting to share with them that I have struggles, too. That I consider them 'friends' who I care about enough to let into my life, just as they have let me into theirs. And I have known these girls well for two and half years (which is a significant amount of time to a 14/15 year old) and plan on sticking with them for the next three and a half...we do have a friendship of sorts. Of course, my relationship with them will be very different since I am an adult and they are kids! I need to carefully choose what I let them in on, and although I want them to start to learn to care for others, I do not want to tell them and be needy for their support. I am adult and I have other relationships that I can draw support from -- that is not their role in my life. But as I said in my last post, I think there can be valuable things they can learn through walking with someone in a struggle -- even if it is a modified, toned down version of that struggle.

I wondered if those goals should be different because the topic is infertility. I would have the same desires and goals if I were telling them about any other struggle in my life -- like, what if I had a sister who was diagnosed with a terminal disease? I could do the same and tell them about it as a way to let them into my life and start to learn about caring for others. But because that is not the topic and it is infertility, does that change things? Overall, I don't believe so. With the topic of infertility does arise the topic of s.ex, but I think that is very secondary. The s.ex part is not the struggle or the pain. It's the lack of a baby. And obviously, discussing anything remotely to do with s.ex with teenagers could bring that topic up....and I would have to use my discretion as to how to talk about that in an appropriate way without getting too personal about my own intimate life. And what about the educational side of learning about infertility? Not my goal, but it could come up. If they ask questions about the topic of infertility, to me it would seem appropriate to answer them.

However, it is true that I waited to tell them. If I had a sister diagnosed with something, I would probably have told them right away. Was I waiting because I wasn't sure if I should tell them? I don't think this waiting was because I questioned the appropriateness of the topic, but rather because: 1) I didn't know if they would care or get it. But as I thought about the potentially positive things about telling them, this seemed to matter less and less, 2) I didn't want to speak too soon -- I've been in the testing stages and didn't want to come out about my IF before I was certain I was IF, and 3) I wanted to wait until I had emotionally processed the diagnosis to a point that I could tell them without being overly emotional and make them uncomfortable seeing me upset about a topic that would be difficult for them to grasp.

Whew, that was a long intro to this now overly anticipated conversation. :)

Here's how it went down:

Me: So, something I haven't shared with you guys yet is that M & I have been trying to have a baby...

*Interrupted by happy squeals. They naturally thought I was going to tell them I was pregnant*

Me: Hold on, don't get excited. M & I have been trying to have a baby, but we haven't been able to.

Girl 1: That sucks. It seems like the people who shouldn't be getting pregnant do, but you should and you can't.

Me: Yeah, sometimes it feels like that.

*The conversation shifted to another topic, but returned to IF after about 2 minutes*

Girl 2: So how long have you been trying?

Me: One year.

Girl 3: Have you been to a doctor or anything yet?

Me: Yes, we've done some tests.

Girl 2: So does that mean you won't ever be able to have a baby?

Me: Not necessarily, we're still figuring things out and hope we can.

Girl 3: I'm sorry.

Me: (somewhat stunned at this genuine sympathy) Thank you.

And that was it. Simple & sweet. I think they 'got it' much more than expected. And I have no idea what, if anything, will ever come of that conversation. But I was glad I told them.


Anonymous said...

You made them "aware" and awareness is key. Now should it happen to one of them, infertility won't be nameless and faceless.

You have now made it OK for them to broach subjects that ordinarilly aren't talked about.

Amanda said...

Glad to hear it went well. I figured it would, but it is always a little hard to put yourself you there.

jones said...

Thanks for stopping by the other day. I really appreciated your comment. I was looking through your old posts and I, too, have issues with spotting starting around DPO7. I hope that we both find some answers . . .

Erica said...

It sounds like it went perfectly. Sometimes it's the young ones that know just what to say. If only adults remembered more often to just listen and say, "I'm sorry for your struggles" rather than give advice.

Teens are always told to abstain and/or practice birth control or they'll end up pregnant. If only things were that easy. Getting the message out there that IF exists and couples work together to move through it was most likely a great learning lesson for them.

I hope the trip was fun. :)

Mary said...


That was great that you talked to them. I actually got a little tear reading conversation flow.

Caroline said...

Hi Hillary,
I'm glad that the weekend went well. It sounds like you handled the topic of IF with sensitivity. Sometimes it's good that it is "out there" as others can learn from your experience, and hopefully they can also provide you with the support and encouragement you deserve.