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Welcome!

This blog addresses various emotional aspects of experiencing infertility. It is written by a clinical psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your journey!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Infertility and competitiveness among women--a question

Here is a question for those out there in cyberspace who might be reading this blog...during your interactions with the "fertile" world, have you ever felt that women were using your infertility to somehow position themselves as "better" or "superior" to you?

I would like to hear about other people's experiences in this regard because this issue has confused me for years, both on a personal and professional level. I, as well as many of my clients, seem to have had this experience. However, because the social cues involved are usually not overt, I myself could never be sure if it was her or it was me--was I projecting my own competitive feelings onto her, instead of the other way around? An example that comes to mind occurred with a colleague with whom I briefly shared office space. This woman was familiar with my personal struggles with infertility. When she announced her pregnancy during a staff meeting, she made a particular point of telling me, in front of everyone, that I should drink that bottle of diet coke she had left in the office refrigerator--it wouldn't be a problem for me to drink all that caffeine and nutrasweet like it was for her. Now, at the time, I experienced that as rather hostile attempt at one-upmanship. But I suppose it could have been my issue with her pregnancy--who knows, maybe she really just didn't like diet coke going to waste. (As much as I love diet coke, I never could bring myself to drink that particular bottle.)

In my practice, I've heard clients recount numerous tales of belly-rubbing, insensitively-timed pregnancy announcements, and snide comments that sound, on the part of the pregnant ladies in question, suspiciously competitive to me. But again, I hear everything through the filter of the person who is describing the situation. So it is hard to know definitively.

My guess is that sometimes this type of competitiveness is occurring, because I think we all know people in our lives who, in order to maintain their own self-esteem, need to feel superior to other people. For them, I don't suppose infertility or pregnancy would be off-limits in those cases.

However, I also think that sometimes, it might indeed be projection of our own competitive feelings onto the other person, who is most likely caught up in her own life and not thinking about our problems at all.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts on this matter, I'd love to hear them! Hopefully, through sharing our experiences, we can gain greater clarity on this issue. Thanks for reading!

9 comments:

  1. Most people I know don't know that we are dealing with IF. I do, however, find that a lot of women in my life seem competitive about simply having kids or being pregnant even without knowing what is going on with me. I get comments of "what do you have to be stressed/tired/worried/etc. about, you don't have kids?" I get comments about how of course I can work late/lead the student group/etc. because they have kids and I don't. There are lots of "well, when you have kids..." comments said with a superior look down their noses. I'm not sure that it is really competitive but it does seem to be said in a way to make me feel inferior and little. And, I think you're right that I don't know if this is really their issue or my interpretation of it.

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  2. I have not experienced this (so far). But I feel solely responsible for an ill timed pregnancy announcement, or "we did it in one cycle - we are so fertile" comment affecting me. Every time someone says that, I feel like I am a failure, like I couldn't do as well as them because we can't fulfill a basic function of nature.
    People who don't have difficulties conceiving don't know that others could have trouble. Their lack of sensitivity is because of their lack of understanding of the situation. And IF makes a person extremely sensitive - even the most innocent comment is taken personally.

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  3. I think that often people are not thinking about other peoples feelings or situations, they are simply thinking about their own.

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  4. This is an interesting post. The diet coke woman was very intsensitive, but as you say, who knows what her motives were or what she was thinking?

    I've experienced nothing overt, but sometimes subtle things, but again, as you say, I'm not sure if this is just me being oversensitive. A common one for me has been when I tell people of our struggle they respond "Oh you poor thing. I mean, I can't really understand because I just have to use his toothbrush and I fall pregnant...". This comment seems quite unnecessary to me and it does seem like they're showing off, but i have heard it quite a few times.

    But honestly, I have no idea what goes on in fertile women's heads or what they feel, any more than they can understand what goes on in mine or what I feel.

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  5. I am here from ICWL and I know this is an older post but I wanted to address it from a different point of view. I was once on the receiving end of criticism from a fertile friend for posting in my blog that I thought I was a better mother for having struggled with IF, and that many women may feel the same. She looked at it as I thought I was saying she wasn't a good mother for not having to struggle. I was really thinking about it from the point of view of how changed I was as a person. I felt that going through what we did as a couple made us stronger, and it made me appreciate what I had so much more. I can't speak for what would have happened if I hadn't gone through IF, but since I did, I think it made me better prepared as a mother.

    But yes, those "my husband just has to look at me" or, "I want to wait until next month to start trying because we've always gotten pregnant right away and I don't want the baby due around Christmas" kind of comments sure do sting.

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  6. I very much appreciate all of your perspectives. I think that they have made me realize how much my own sensitivity and projections may have been at play, regardless of how insensitive others might be. For me, it shows how important working on self-esteem issues is while you are struggling with infertiity. Thanks again!

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  7. I love your blog, and thank you for writing it. Here is one of my stories of feeling like other women are competitive and hurtful from this point of view, it is on this older blogpost of mine http://asecondline.blogspot.com/2010/12/i-am-mothership.html

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  8. Great post & a wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing these perspectives and advice.

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  9. After 7 years trying to conceive I finally got pregnant 4 weeks after you casted on me your pregnant spell and followed your program. It was simply amazing. I had history of recurrent miscarriages and was also diagnosed with genetic problems but with your spell I got pregnant naturally at age 44& after 2 HSGs and 4 negative IUIs including 6 induction Clomid cycles and laparscopy. Everything in your spell makes sense. I am recommending your pregnancy spell to all my friends. Contact EKA (dreka14demons@gmail.com) God bless you!"

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