Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How Thinking in Reverse Can Help Me Think Straight

Lots of weird thoughts have been swirling around in my head lately. Disjointed bits of things that seem to have no theme.

But there is a theme, sort of. And if I reverse or rephrase the situation it helps me to figure out why I'm uncomfortable. (Again, not saying anyone should feel the way I do, I'm not even sure I KNOW how I feel. I'm still fumbling in the dark on this stuff.) Which makes this a long rambling post...apologies. I'm going to continue and expand on more of the bits in the coming days and weeks, but this is what I've got today.

So a few thoughts for you. There is a lot of stuff in the blogworld, and real life, that pits women against each other. Breastfeeding vs. formula, ART vs. adoption, SAHM vs. WOHM, donor gametes vs. use your own genes, "real infertiles" vs. "only sort of infertiles", physical disabled, vs. mental disabled vs. "normal healthy people." (WTF is a normal healthy person, btw?)

You get the idea....

And all along we get mad at each other, instead of using my favourite political tactic, "Follow the money" or even "Let's fight the real enemy." (Pick any or all here, government, corporations, male run society, medical establishment, religious authorities...) Women do this to each other so much, I swear it boils my blood. I know I personally get triggered, and lose it, and later think, "WTF did I do/say/type this?" And the real jerks get away with it....and laugh their asses off at us. Don't believe me, see this . Should be mandatory viewing IMHO.

So, my first rewording is on Starbucks cup #208. The original text says:

"I wish couples who desperately take every means to conceive a child would realize that adoption is a wonderful alternative. A child who becomes your child through adoption completes a family. Just as when you commit to your spouse or partner there are no biological ties, yet a family was formed. This child enters a family the same way! It is not blood and flesh that form a family, but the heart."

(This reminded me of Pizza Hut and it's stupid campaign, which offended everyone in adoption, and IFers. They were smart enough to take it down pretty quick after some of us blogged about it. If you google it now, you can only see the site by clicking on cache.)

Just to make it really clear that this isn't about adoption or ART, but about why some mega corporation has a lot of nerve trying to tell the IF community and those involved in adoption how to live, a couple we had over for dinner helped me "rewrite" #208 for you.

Bob is a paraplegic, and Janet has female IF, and as a couple, they don't think Starbucks would ever put this on a cup:

"I wish paraplegics who desperately take every means to walk again would realize that wheelchairs are a wonderful alternative. A wheelchair that replaces your legs completes your body. Just as when you get in your car there are no bodily ties, yet a way to get around was formed. This wheelchair entered their lives the same way! It is not blood and flesh that form a body, but the heart."

As Bob said, "Any disease or social situation you insert here would end up offensive sounding, and if they wouldn't dare do it to me as a paraplegic, why should Starbucks do it to you?"

Do any other rewrite, like for breast cancer or gay marriage, or WHATEVER, and you will see why Starbucks was wrong, and we shouldn't be fighting each other, but them.

Another rewrite:

Unhelpful things to say to a woman who has had a miscarriage, or gone through IF:

"You're young, you can have other children"
"It probably would have been abnormal anyway"
"This was for the best"
"You're lucky you are alive"
"At least you didn't get to know it"
"It's over with now you can get on with your life."
"Better luck next time"
"Time heals all wounds"

"Why are you complaining, you have other children/ a good life / a husband / money?"
"Just adopt"

Society has become a little more aware and fewer people say these things anymore, but just 20-30 years ago, infertility was treated as if it was irrelevant, and infant loss never ever spoken of. Miscarriage under 20 weeks is still written off as less of a loss than over 20 weeks. We are now slowly getting some respect, but just barely.

Hmmm, respect, so what if we rewrote this for someone else? No one would say these phrases to a paraplegic or a cancer patient. Try to picture a Doctor saying to a woman with breast cancer, post-mastectomy, "This was for the best." Hmmmm, maybe not?

Can we try rewriting it for adoption now? Please?

"You're young, you can have other children" (To birth mothers)
"It probably wouldn't have had a good life anyway" (To birth mothers)
"This was for the best" (To birth mothers and adoptees)
"You're lucky you are alive" (To adoptees who have the nerve to be pro-choice)
"At least you didn't get to know it" (To birth mothers or adoptees)
"It's over with now you can get on with your life." (To birth mothers or adoptees)
"Better luck next time" (To birth mothers)
"Time heals all wounds" (To birth mothers and adoptees)
"Why are you complaining, you have other children/ a good life / a husband / money?" (To birth mothers and adoptees, throughout their lives)

"You should try IVF. Just do fertility treatment." (To adoptive parents)

Society has only very very recently begun to think about adoptees and donor kids who are not so grateful to have had their entire race, religion, genetic history, health history, culture, language, and geneology erased and rewritten by judges and social workers and Doctors. As an adoptee, I'm often told how I should feel about my childhood and parentage, even though I'm a 38 year old fully competent grown woman. No one would dare tell me how I should feel about any other thing in life. But adoption? Infertility? Miscarriages? Open season people...

What can help me as an adoptee feel respected? Open adoption helps a bit, and not having money involved helps. Open records and reunion helps a bit. Honest communication helps a bit.

But it will never be the same as if I was raised by my genetic parents. And it will never be the same for a birth mom or donor parent who doesn't raise her genetic child. Raising an adopted or donor child will never be exactly the same as if you raised genetically related children.

It will be different, not better or worse, but different. Why is saying that so threatening?

What is this myth that all families have always been exactly the same forever? Why do we pretend this mythical family structure is so perfect or desirable that we have to torture each other and shit on each other's feelings to retain the fantasy?

Minimizing the feelings of another person is never helpful, and never respectful, IMHO. In any situation in life. Whether it is adoption, or infertility, or cancer, or who we love. It can't just be about us, or our desires or fantasies. Truly becoming a full member of society requires us to stretch, and try to respect others' feelings of pain & joy, however incomprehensible they may be.

Corporations like Starbucks, or fertility clinics, or government/private adoption industries have a huge financial stake in making sure we are at each other's throats engaged in the Mommy Wars instead of analyzing their actions and motives. We need to analyze their real agenda, and ask more hard questions of them instead of assuming they are benign entities with our best interests at heart.

To sum up, when in doubt, rewrite the question. Does it work for other situations?

If not, maybe we need to rethink the whole idea. Maybe we need to fight the real power.


  1. You said that so well, that I really don't know what else to add except...

  2. You touch on so much. I've read, gone shopping, thought, chopped, sauteed, stirred... And read again.

    People don't think before they speak, or write a campaign for that matter.

    It's a great shame.

  3. Well said. I haven't seen that cup, but the more I hear about it the more pissed off I get. And, you are right, we shouldn't get pissed off at each other.

  4. It's a classic tactic of the powerful - divide and conquer. So long as we're fighting each other, we don't pay attention to what the powerful are doing and they can go on doing it. And what are they doing? Acquiring more power. It's quite breathtaking to watch, actually.

    Why do we bite the bait? Insecurity about ourselves and our choices, and an inability to see shades of gray and be comfortable with them. Much of society is still governed by their lizard brain (myself included). And it may very well be our downfall.

    Wow, what a cheery comment. Sorry about that.

  5. I would like to add the comment that a family member said to me after failed IVF #2, BFN #352- "Why do you want to raise a child in this world anyway?" and lets not forget the ever famous- "Just relax and it will happen"


  6. Add the "Just be grateful" to that list.....

  7. Let me disagree a little.

    "Try to picture a Doctor saying to a woman with breast cancer, post-mastectomy, "This was for the best.""

    Does he mean 'You made the right choice. Without the surgery you would have died'? Then yes, it was for the best.

    Or is he dismissing the person's feelings?

    The dismissiveness in those statements hurts, though some may have a grain of truth in them.

  8. here's my write of cup #209:

    "coffee jerks should stick to slinging coffee on blank cups, because their customers are just trying to wake up in the morning--not be reminded of all of life's intimate traumas on something as seemingly innocuous as a flipping paper cup."

  9. whoops! should have said "in" blank cups.

  10. I had this Starbucks cup this morning and it made me so mad I posted about it on my own blog. It was, without a doubt, my last Starbucks ever. So I started googling to see if maybe I was just being an overly sensitive infertile. From what I've found, looks like I'm not.

  11. I don't think what you said about adoption is threatening. It's real. True. Whatever. An infertile who doesn't want to be childless trying to get perspective.