Well Intentioned But Still Shallow Stupid

by admin on August 11, 2014

This is a story of someone who meant very well, I do understand that. But it still hurt.

My husband and I have tried for years to have children, sadly without success. It’s a very painful subject that we don’t discuss with others. Sometimes we tell our immediate family where we are with it, but otherwise we keep it private. We get the odd intrusive question (‘so why don’t you have kids?’) or the odd comment that really is upsetting, but that’s life, we get over it. But this one really, really upset me.

Last week I got a letter in the post and didn’t recognize the handwriting. Thinking a friend might have written, I open it and out falls a cutting from a woman’s magazine. Then the headline hits me – in big letters, it says INFERTILE??? Shocked, I unfold it to see it saying, “Try X!!” complete with pictures of babies and pregnant women. I say here that ‘X’ is an alternative therapy. Yes, I wish that X would help us have a baby, but I already know it will not.

I’m just dumbfounded. Tears are starting to my eyes – I’m not infertile anyway, I’ve lost several babies, but I can’t believe someone would send that to me, without warning, without asking, and I can’t imagine who would do such a thing. Then I see a little note with the cutting. And it is from a relation of my husband – a woman we have NEVER discussed this with, let alone asked for advice. It says that she hopes I ‘don’t mind’ her sending me this, but that it could be ‘another avenue’ to explore.

Leaving aside the fact that we are several years into this whole heart-breaking process (we are now looking into adoption), and that I’d rather put my faith in the medical profession than a woman’s magazine, I still can’t believe she thought that was ok. I don’t expect the world to care that we don’t have children, I don’t expect people to watch what they say around us – I just cry on my own and get on with it, but to send me that was the most hideous intrusion into my privacy about the most painful subject there is. I never asked her for help. I never mentioned it. I never, ever gave her ANY cause to think I would welcome something like this. She doesn’t even know why we can’t have children.

I cried my heart out getting that. Then I texted her to say that while I appreciated her support, I would rather not be sent anything else because it was a very difficult subject, and I hoped she understood.

As I say, I do know that she meant it kindly. I do know that it’s hard for people, who don’t know what to say, but please, do not give out unsolicited advice to people struggling to have children. Do not say things like ‘well, some people just aren’t meant to have kids’, or ‘well, of course, I’m lucky’ (yes, you ARE). It is heart-breaking enough without things like this, and sometimes not talking about it is just the only way for us to cope. 0615-14

There are things people do that can be “shallow stupid”,  “deep stupid” or just plain evil.   Your friend was being well intentioned but was shallow stupid nonetheless.    You handled it well and one hopes your friend won’t do this particular shallow stupidity again.

{ 149 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen August 11, 2014 at 10:34 am

Oh, sweetie I am so sorry this happened to you. I have had secondary infertility and I had a similar situation where I was invited to a church baby shower, I was asked what I would bring for the food etc. I informed the host that I would be sending a baby gift but that I would not be attending the shower, that baby showers are hard for me. She looks at me and says that I should come and celebrate someone else’s joy. Sigh…. Trying really hard to not lose my religion at that point I find a reason to leave and cry all the way home. Its hard and nobody knows until you’ve been there. Saying prayers for you and best of luck!

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PucksMuse August 11, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Argh, I hate when someone tries to get me to do what THEY want me to do by, basically telling me to be a better person. She delivered a comment that was devastating because she was worried about her “numbers” and didn’t stop to think about the damage she would do. I’m so sorry.

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A different Tracy August 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Ugh. “Be happy for me.” I always want to ask why they aren’t willing to be sad for me.

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Stacey Frith-Smith August 11, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Right? The expectation that you owe your attendance at a particular event can have some merit with very select and very close friends and family. But if they are close enough to you that your absence would really mar the event, they are close enough to know why you might not care to be there, at least in most cases. In any case, this sounds to me like a case of social and spiritual malpractice. Sometimes people don’t know when a little discretion and forbearance would serve them well (as in the case of this baby shower hostess).

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Lizajane August 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Maybe they are.

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A different Tracy August 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

If their sadness is so quietly and privately felt that I can’t see it, my joy can be felt the same way.

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Lizajane August 12, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Am I to understand that you are happy for these people but you refuse to convey it because they haven’t adequately expressed their sadness for you?
Living in your grief doesn’t help. Refusing to congratulate my nephew on his engagement won’t make it possible for me to ever see my son married. Never feeling anything but misery won’t bring him back to us. It’s a decision I make every day. Sometimes every hour.

A different Tracy August 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm

No, Lizajane, you don’t understand at all. I’m saying that if one has to say “maybe they are” sad for me, if one actually has to ask that question, that means one has seen no evidence of it, and therefore there’s no reason to believe they are sad. And that’s fine. I don’t WANT other people to be sad. But I also think it’s inappropriate for someone else to demand that I be happy.

AnaMaria August 11, 2014 at 8:47 pm

My mom and dad went through a decade of infertility before adopting my brother and then me, and during that time my mom stopped attending baby showers because they were just too painful. It doesn’t mean you’re being jealous or unsupportive, it just means that you’re a sane human being who doesn’t enjoy putting herself through emotional torture.

After hearing my parents’ story and now being old enough to watch many of my friends deal with infertility or pregnancy loss, it always baffles me how little people think before speaking. People walking such a path need support and a listening ear, but all they seem to receive is unsolicited advice or quick, thoughtless remarks to avoid deeper conversation.

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Angel August 11, 2014 at 10:36 am

Wow. I can’t imagine doing this–not even to someone I am close with. It’s painful enough dealing with these issues and stuff like this is just a harsh reminder.

I think you handled it perfectly, OP. I do believe it was not bad intentions–but I just don’t think the person really thought it through–how it would impact you. I would assume the person who sent it has never gone through these kinds of issues. My heart goes out to you OP. Best wishes with the adoption process.

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JO August 11, 2014 at 10:43 am

I’m so sorry for your struggles. I wish you luck in your future endeavors, whatever avenues you choose to explore.

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OP August 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

I have a small update.

It turns out that my husband’s family knew this was going to happen and nobody thought to warn me. My husband made it very clear that it was never to happen again and had very much upset both of us. He also told them why it was not the right thing to do.

It is sad. Anyone who knows us knows that we don’t put stock in alternative therapies or women’s magazines. Maybe they felt helpless and thought this was better than nothing, but it’s like the quest to help overrode everything they know about us.

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A different Tracy August 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me. And the idea that others are discussing your very personal problems is disturbing. I remember when one of my SILs was newly pregnant during one our visits, and we didn’t find out until we’d been there several days. Given that certain members of that family will talk nonstop about a pregnancy, I knew there had been a “don’t discuss it in front of THEM” agreement, which was very disheartening, especially since when the pregnancy finally was announced, it wasn’t done with any kind of care or concern for our feelings, so I knew that wasn’t the motivation for keeping it quiet. Good luck in your adoption journey.

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Lizajane August 11, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I don’t understand. They didn’t discuss it in front of you, but announced it without care or concern for your feelings. How did they announce it? How should they have? I’m asking sincerely since I have family members with fertility issues.

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OP August 12, 2014 at 3:43 am

I can only speak for myself: just announce it as you would normally. Our problem has nothing to do with a couple’s joy over finding out they’re having a baby and they shouldn’t have to consider us when they come to announce it. Believe me, we will be truly happy for them.

That said, calling to scream, “I’m pregnant!!!” down the phone the day after the woman has told you she’s just lost a baby is not very kind. That didn’t happen to me but my friend’s SIL did that to her. It took her a very long time to forgive it.

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A different Tracy August 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Several days into the visit, the pregnant SIL dropped several hints, and when I didn’t pick up the bait she finally told me (in front of her mother, my MIL) that she was pregnant, and her mother immediately started giving me helpful advice.

For your family members with fertility issues, a private announcement is best. I didn’t expect anyone to bend over backwards to spare my widdle feelings, but having a little time out of the public eye to absorb the information is thoughtful and helpful.

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Wild Irish Rose August 11, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Please tell me that your husband didn’t know about this, although his family did. How heartless!

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OP August 11, 2014 at 4:03 pm

No, he didn’t. He would never have let that happen. He also finds it very painful, and we did wonder if the fact it was sent just to me was a kind of assumption that it was seen as my fault that we have no kids.

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Carolyn August 11, 2014 at 11:12 am

ALL unsolicited advice on any subject has the potential to be hurtful so it is best not given. I learned 3 little questions that have saved me a lot of headaches. Before I open up my mouth I ask:

* Does something need to be said?
* Does something need to be said NOW?
* Does something need to be said BY ME?

If I can’t answer a full-throated, resounding YES!!! to all 3 of those questions, I don’t open my mouth at all. This saves my best intentions from turning into someone else’s hell. My struggle was not with infertility but with another matter that was very painful and something I wanted to keep private – there were a lot of people who loved me and meant well but wound up saying hurtful things, or having had no experience with what I was going through offered me advice as if they knew what they were talking about … some of which was actually wrong and would have made my situation worse. The most helpful things were when people were honest and admitted they didn’t know what to say to me … or if they had been through it to did NOT offer advice but instead shared stories of their experience.

Sometimes the kindest thing to say is nothing.

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Chelsea August 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I like your quick three questions to ask yourself before offering advice! For me, the hardest question to answer is always the “BY ME” one. I will keep this in my quote book for your comment:

“This saves my best intentions from turning into someone else’s hell” maybe change it to:

“Don’t let your best intentions turn into someone else’s hell.”

When a friend has a problem or is experiencing something difficult, I tend to research the heck out of it because 1. I genuinely care and 2. I like to be informed so I learn and, more importantly, don’t say something insensitive inadvertently.

It is a constant struggle for me not to share what I know when they know more than me about anything *they* are going through. I have found it helpful to type up what I would say/write/send to them in a document and then NOT send it. Instead, send a “thinking of you” or simply a “hello, how are you?” note, depending on the circumstance.

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Marozia August 13, 2014 at 2:40 am

Very well said!!

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crella August 11, 2014 at 11:08 pm

That’s brilliant! I like it!

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TinLizzie August 12, 2014 at 10:12 am

I like your checklist. My grandmother had one too. She told me everything you said should pass through three gates.

1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?

The third gate is the hardest to pass.

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Lisa Marie August 11, 2014 at 11:22 am

I well remember this pain. My heart goes out to you and your husband. Never doubt God
has a plan for you. I truly hope you happiness in the near future.

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splendidbluewren August 15, 2014 at 4:21 am

Dear Lisa Marie,

I have found in my own unsuccessful attempts to have children, and in the aftermath, that it is very upsetting when people bring up destiny, fate, the universe, or God. Not everybody believes in God, even though religious faith may have helped you in your times of despair. Please be aware this may be another comment which causes increased distress to others who are already suffering.

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MM August 11, 2014 at 11:22 am

Maybe I’m a bit harsh but I think sometimes people use “good intentions” too liberally. At a certain point, it stops being a valid excuse for rude, hurtful or boorish behavior. Unless you’re completely lacking in self-awareness, empathy or common sense, certain behaviors cannot be hand-waved away by good intentions. This is one of those cases. OP, I sincerely applaud you for many reasons but especially for your response. If it were me, this in-law would have gotten a stern and probably tearful lecture on privacy.

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jen d. August 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I agree. Lack of empathy is something we forgive a little too easily sometimes….

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Daphne August 11, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I agree. I don’t buy the “good intentions” excuse for blatant thoughtlessness anymore either. Especially when it’s so obviously purposeful — like a clipping via the USPS. She took the time to send it, she certainly had time to think about what she was sending.
If I were OP I would be tempted to send my husband’s family members a link to this thread.

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Evie3 August 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” applies here!!

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Dominic August 11, 2014 at 11:27 am

Thank you, OP, for sharing your story, because it reminds those of us who likewise might not think before doing something as stupid as your husband’s relation did not to do so. I don’t think anyone who has not gone through what you and your husband have could understand that it was, as you put it, “the most hideous intrusion into my privacy about the most painful subject there is.” A person could innocently believe he or she was being helpful, or make a remark without thinking that causes a great deal of unintended pain.

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Tara August 11, 2014 at 11:39 am

It is NEVER okay to ask someone about their reproductive plans or status. I’d say there’s probably an exception for siblings or your own children, but even then you should be careful about wording and not bring it up very often. It completely baffles me that distant family and strangers think it’s okay to ask when someone plans on having children, or even worse, why they don’t have children yet. It’s none of their business, because your medical history and what you do in the bedroom with your spouse is none of their business. Those things go hand in hand, and why people think that reproduction is somehow okay to ask about just baffles me.

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Lizajane August 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

But the woman didn’t ask anything. She sent a clipping which the OP was free to read, research or throw away.

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OP August 12, 2014 at 1:46 am

I think some people don’t understand why this is wrong to so many.

Imagine you are hugely overweight. Someone then sends you a clipping that says “FAT??? Try a gastric band!!!” Someone you have NEVER mentioned your weight to, ever, and you’ve read it because how else would you know what it is?

And you are horribly, horribly sensitive about your weight and feel bad enough about it already.

Would you honestly think that is OK? If you do, fine, but to most people that would be incredibly upsetting. It would also be none of that woman’s business.

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Lizajane August 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I was only pointing out that the woman hadn’t asked her anything. You give a good example..

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Jessa August 12, 2014 at 3:26 am

Except that the mere sending of the thing is the issue. You have to see what it is before you can throw it away, and the mere seeing of it, is hurtful to many women in the same situation as the OP.

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Kiki August 12, 2014 at 9:17 am

I completely agree with Jessa. As someone who is also struggling with infertility, I can imagine the pain it caused just opening it. This person had no right to send something to the OP without first checking with her to see if she would be open to suggestions. If the person had called first and let the OP know she was thinking about her and had read something and was thinking about passing it on, that would have given the OP a chance to say “no thanks.” Getting something in the mail screaming the headline INFERTILE would have made me cry, too.

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LonelyHound August 11, 2014 at 11:53 am

You are right, OP, I, like most people, do not know what to say. So, when presented with this all I can say is that I am sorry you are going through this.

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Cat August 11, 2014 at 11:53 am

This is rather like funerals where people make hurtful comments in an attempt to “make it better” when it cannot be made better. You handled it well and, hopefully, she will now know not to try to “help”.
You will get more comments if you adopt a child. People will ask intrusive questions: “Were the parents married?” or “Did the mother know who the father was?” or “Aren’t you worried that he/she may be mentally disturbed/have chronic health problems/be a crack baby/try to murder you later?” or “It isn’t really your child. Why would you want to raise someone else’s kid?”.
Think of answers beforehand. “I don’t believe that is any of your concern or business” works well for most people.
Be strong and live knowing that it will work out eventually. Adoption is a great idea.

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Moralia August 11, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Ugh. And if the child has a disability, “Why didn’t you get a good one?” o_O Really? I dunno, maybe because they deserve a family as much as any other kid.

I don’t see why anyone asks those ridiculous questions. An adopted child IS your child, they just don’t happen to share a small snippet of DNA. I sort of feel sorry for people who think like that because they have such a narrow definition of family. One of my husband’s coworkers recently brought his two newly adopted toddlers in to the office for introductions (siblings that didn’t have to be split up…double win!), they’ve been together for just 6 weeks and you wouldn’t know it from watching them.

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JO August 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

One of my favorite quotes: “we came from our mommy’s tummy. But that child is adopted. They came from their mommy’s heart.”

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Cat August 11, 2014 at 7:04 pm

As someone said when told she should have had “real” children, “What do you think these are-plastic?”

And then there is a friend of mine who adopted three children, all of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. People felt free to question, not only her, but also her children as to why they were different from one another. She taught them to say, when they were old enough to understand, “Hush! Daddy already shot the mail carrier and the newspaper guy! All that’s left is the delivery guy and we need our packages!”

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Goldie August 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Haha, these are both great responses!

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RC August 11, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I just spat out coffee. Thankfully laptop damage avoided. Do people actually ask such questions?? I am flabbergasted. Cat have you experienced these questions? I am so sorry if you have, you are a stronger and politer person than I; if someone stated “It isn’t really your child” to me, I would most probably punch them in the face.

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Cat August 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Here’s another one. My adoptive mother’s mother moved in with us when I was eighteen months old. Mother died three days before my twenty-third birthday and a-granny was still living with us. I had to quit my job to come home and look after my father who was in poor health.
Once Mother died, Granny’s favorite line to me was, “I paid five-hundred dollars for you so you have to….whatever she wanted me to do.” She would never had dared to say it when Mother was alive, but once she was dead, the gloves came off.
Granny thought that adoptive children were some sort of slaves who were exempt from the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States and that she now “owned” me. I told her she would have done better to purchase a Cocker Spaniel.

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Noodle August 12, 2014 at 11:22 pm

I was interracially adopted and my son’s father’s stepfather actually said the following, in a loud voice, in the middle of a VERY fancy restaurant the first (and last) time I ever met him.

“Why is your last name (Danish last name)?”
I answer that I was adopted but he never gave me a chance to elaborate and instead just cut me off:
“Then how do you know you’re really (race)?”

It was actually an open adoption and I know both of my birth parents. I was not about to let him know that, though, because I could tell that it would lead to another barrage of intrusive questions that were none of his business. I told him that’s what the court papers say, which was true, and said it in a firm enough voice that he got the picture and let it drop.

Unfortunately, my son’s father was not much kinder about my birth family and it was a major contributing factor as to why we are not together. That’s another story entirely.

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JD August 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

I’m so sorry for your pain! I understand she had no intention of causing pain when she did that, and I like the way you handled it.
People just don’t think — if they only REALLY knew someone with such issues, they would know that the couple has researched and tried and studied and googled all there is to know about problems with having children. There’s no need to add to the pain by offering unsolicted advice that is probably something they’ve already heard dozens of times.

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Raven August 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

How awful! OP, my heart goes out to you. It amazes me what people will say and do under the guise of “good intentions.” Good intentions don’t make it ok to hurt people.

DH and I are struggling to conceive, and it is a painful, difficult process made even more difficult by the wild and stupid things people say. It is not an easy path.

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Kimstu August 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Yes, you handled it perfectly, @OP, and responded very kindly to what was really an inexcusable intrusion, no matter how well-meant.

You would also have been justified in simply ignoring the letter. If your in-law later asked you about it, you could say coolly, “It’s very kind of you to take an interest, but this is a difficult subject for us and I’d rather not discuss it”. Rudeness is (sometimes) killed by freezing whereas the heat of outrage just stimulates its growth.

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Crochet Addict August 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm

How cruel of her! Her intentions might have been good, but she clearly didn’t think them through at all. My husband and I struggled with infertility for years, to the point that we started telling well-meaning inquirers that we didn’t believe we were capable of having children, and that we were focusing on building a life without children. Blunt, yes, but it stopped the flood of advice and questions. Ironically, I am now pregnant, and now we get the occasional “see, I told you that if you’d only try harder/give up/stress less/whatever it would work!” Which in and of itself I find presumptuous and rude. I think some people want to help you solve the perceived “problem”, but they don’t stop to think that their comments or actions might very well hurt.

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Moralia August 11, 2014 at 12:48 pm

You were perfectly gracious OP.
I hope they get it through their heads and let you guys to handle things in your own way.

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rachel August 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I don’t get why it is so mortally offensive for someone to offer advice in a letter. I think it should be quite obvious that this person took time out of their day to attempt to make someone else’s better. This site really loses touch with things that matter sometimes. I would like to know someone cares about my problems even if they couldn’t really help.

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Meegs August 11, 2014 at 3:38 pm

This is exactly what I was thinking….
And I struggled (and I mean STRUGGLED) with infertility as well.

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Stacey Frith-Smith August 11, 2014 at 3:58 pm

There is the concept of having the “standing” to speak about a particular matter. Unless your counsel is requested, most subjects having to do with health, finances and relational dynamics are considered off limits for very good reason- to avoid the type of situation OP encountered. The desire to help and the willingness to research answers doesn’t confer the privilege of advising someone. What does? Their direct request for assistance from YOU. If you really believe you have something worthwhile to contribute, it’s always possible to ask if they would like to hear your perspective (briefly). But that is risky too. Being emotionally present, mindful and kind are better ways to support most situations.

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jen d. August 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm

I think the OP made it clear why this would be hurtful. It’s a painful subject for her, and dealing with know-it-alls is emotionally exhausting. It was an invasion of her privacy, and the OP had never discussed it with this family member.

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Tex Carol August 11, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I agree, Rachel. I’m beginning to think I should never send a card, email, phone call, gift, etc. for fear of inadvertently offending someone. Being infertile myself (we went the adoption route and have had years of family happiness) I am familiar with all the tacky comments people can make, but I really think this woman came across the article and thought, “I wonder if Bob and Sue know about this? I’ll just send it along to them.”
OP’s response was fine, but could we all just try a little harder not to take offense at everything? Give people the benefit of the doubt unless you know for certain they meant to hurt you.

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JO August 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm

It’s rude because the advice was unsolicited, and of a very personal nature. Anyone who would bring up a situation so personal (which they aren’t even supposed to know about) and which the OP is clearly not comfortable discussing is rude. Period. No matter how well intentioned. And anyone, such as myself and many of the other posters here, who has ever struggled with this issue knows that having it brought up at all can be deeply hurtful.

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LonelyHound August 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm

If someone had sent her advice on the right neighborhoods to buy a house, good realtors or flowers to pot on your front stoop I might be inclined to agree with you. However, on an emotionally charged subject as fertility I absolutely do not. Since, OP told only select immediate family members about her struggle I am quite sure she was hurt to find out they were discussing this with others unawares to OP. That in and of itself is rude and hurtful because things get lost in translation or misconstrude. Then, ontop of finding out people are talking behind her back about a snesitive subject, OP goes on to get unsolicited advice from someone whose only medical background on the subject is apparently a women’s magazine. The intent behind the clipping may have been good, but what is it they say about good intentions?

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LonelyHound August 11, 2014 at 4:34 pm

That should say sensitive. Sorry folks.

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JeanLouiseFinch August 11, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Rachel, this went well beyond “offering advice.” It was similar to a situation where, for example, you went to a party with your relatives, and a week later, an officious relative sent you, unasked, a copy of an etiquette book.

OP – Many people have been telling you that adoption is OK. Just thought I’d let you know that as an adoptee, from the other perspective, they are absolutely right. Both my brother and I were adopted and both of us remained close to our parents as we grew up. Some people are better at creating children than others, but it takes real talent to raise children.

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OP August 12, 2014 at 1:52 am

Thank you so much – and to everyone for their comments on infertility and adoption.

It can be incredibly lonely to be surrounded by a world telling you ‘it’s a woman’s job to have children’ when you just can’t get there, and where we live, we will be likely to adopt children of a different race (assuming we can).

Thank you also to everyone who explained why this was so hurtful. It’s not just about it being infertility. It’s about it being something very obviously private that we have never, ever discussed with her. It simply was not her business, and what she sent us showed that she knows nothing about our situation either.

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ALM August 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm

“I don’t get why it is so mortally offensive for someone to offer advice in a letter.”

It has been my experience that infertility is something of a sacred cow in terms of ‘we must be sensitive to it,’ and ‘regular etiquette and expectations’ don’t apply. Sometimes this is seen as a free pass for the infertile to just assume the worse of others ‘because they aren’t sensitive to their unique pain’, or other times there is an expectation that the rest of the world has to revolve around this issue (we can’t invite them to the baby shower at all, we can’t be excited about our own pregnancy, we can’t announce our pregnancy without being sure to clear it with our infertile friends, we can’t have a baby unless our older infertile sibling does first). Change this to ‘get married’ or ‘go to/finish college’ or ‘embark on an exciting career’ or ‘buy a house’ and it sounds ridiculous. But infertility is the sacred cow that people are expected (or expect themselves) to bend over backward for.

As for this particular instance, getting this in the mail could well be offensive in the method of delivery. If this were the latest ‘get rid of fat’ product, the recipient would feel criticized. If the recipient were a cancer patient and it was a quack treatment, or if it were a prayer card for an atheist, it would also be offensive. Barring the sender’s lack of personal knowledge of the recipient’s condition (the assumption of infertility is offensive if the sender has not had this knowledge shared with them by the OP/husband), the other obvious source of offense (to me) is that the sender is usually in no position to have any sort of educated opinion about the matter in question, and speaks of an over-inflated sense of their ability to help. Unwanted advice is irritating enough without it being useless or even dangerous. We have to assume this relative is NOT a medical doctor/nurse, much less a fertility expert, or even someone who experienced infertility. It’s one thing to say ‘hey, you said you were trying to lose weight, Weight Watcher’s worked for me, do you want to be my guest at a meeting?’ versus ‘did you notice you’re fat? Here’s a coupon for the tapeworm pills that my great aunt Hilda used before the Depression.’ You don’t have to be infertile to have an opinion, but your opinion is neither welcome nor relevant.

But I do agree that being more generous in assuming people’s intentions is a good idea, not because the person sending it wasn’t a clod, but because taking it less personally is beneficial to the OP. Demonizing the sender and their motives probably provides a more comfortable place to vent rage at not getting the pregnancy and child they wanted, but it’s not a healthy coping mechanism and is not going to make for good relationships when a child does enter her life. Admin is right, don’t attribute malice when thoughtless covers it.

On the flip side of the coin, the OP has experienced the clumsy rudeness of the clod. In turn, don’t be one. I have two friends currently at different stages of the infertility game. One is sensitive to the fact that I have limited sympathy (no, I actually don’t know what a buttock injection feels like) and my own issues and disappointments in life. (Not everyone is childless because of infertility). The other has taken the ‘I’m the sacred cow and my pain is unique and inherently interesting’ approach. You can guess which one I’m more sensitive to.

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Daphne August 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Except that it didn’t make her life better, it made it worse. That’s why it’s offensive.

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mark August 11, 2014 at 6:23 pm

She didn’t offer advice though, she just demonstrated her ignorance. And in the process hit one of the OP’s triggers.

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Dee August 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm

It’s wrong because a person’s private problems are not up for discussion with that person unless they say it is. It’s wrong because unless you know exactly what is going on and that your advice would be welcome you cannot know if your actions are going to cause pain more than they will help. It’s wrong because it’s just plain none of your business how another person handles their own personal issues. Why you don’t understand that is perhaps where others should step in – you know, give you advice about how to get help for your boorishness. Then you can tell us if you still appreciate others “caring” about your problem (your interfering personality) and all the unsolicited advice they send you.

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Steve August 11, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Tomorrow you will receive a letter from a distant relative of your spouse. Inside you will find a clipped ad with the headline, “TOO FAT?” with before and after photos of bikini-clad obese people, along with a note saying, “I saw this and thought of you.” Since we’ve been speaking about reproductive issues, let’s say you also find an article entitled, “Living Large: How to Have Better Sex When You’re a Butterball.”

Care to model for us the thank-you note you would write for that advice?

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mark August 12, 2014 at 12:39 am

This!

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Reboot August 11, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Health matters, and infertility especially, can be incredibly painful for people to deal with, especially when they’re suddenly thrust back into the foreground with little to no warning. You show someone coping with those issues that you care by offering sympathy when they talk about them, not by foisting off this or that possible alternative – rest assured, the people actually dealing with the issue have almost certainly considered the alternatives already! Give advice -if it’s asked for-; otherwise, assume the person knows their situation better than you do and is on top of their options. If you want to take time out of you day to make someone else’s better, if you want to show you care about their problems even if you can’t help, why not offer to take them out for coffee, or just spend some time with them? For someone going through a difficult time, sometimes company does so much more than all the well-meaning but ultimately useless advice in the world. It may not be offensive, but it certainly can be thoughtless.

I don’t want children, but I suffer from several chronic conditions that a lot of people seem convinced they know fixes for, and it can get incredibly frustrating to have people saying “oh, have you tried x?” Well, no, because x doesn’t work. It’s painful enough being reminded that my body doesn’t work right; I can only imagine how much more painful it must be for a couple trying to have children.

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Allie August 11, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Offering advice about how I can improve my petunia bed or refurbish an old trunk in a letter might well be a lovely way to communicate. Offering half-baked advice about an incredibly private and painful subject such as reproductive health is inexcusably rude, intrusive and hurtful.

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whatever August 11, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Clearly you feel differently from the OP. Unsolicited advice, which is what this was, is rarely useful or necessary. If a person feels like she needs to “take time out of her day” to “make someone else’s better,” perhaps she should consider whether it *really would* make that other person’s day better, from the other person’s point of view.

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Kimstu August 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Who said anything about “mortally offensive”? A faux pas may not reach the nuclear-option level of “mortally offensive”, but it can still be insensitive, hurtful, intrusive and painful to deal with. As it was in the case of the OP’s well-meaning in-law and her ENTIRELY UNSOLICITED advice on the EXTREMELY PERSONAL subject of infertility treatments, a topic the OP had NEVER chosen to discuss with her. Anybody with a grain of sense and compassion should have known that just “meaning well” isn’t a sufficient justification for butting into somebody else’s private sorrows.

We can’t “make someone else’s day better” by offering them unsolicited advice about a very private and emotion-laden subject that they’ve never shown any sign of wanting to talk to us about. That is automatically intrusive and rude, no matter how sincerely we “care about their problems”.

If we want to “take time out of our day to attempt to make someone else’s better”, we should take the plain old-fashioned approach of just being, you know, NICE to them. The OP’s in-law could have perfectly well written her an affectionate little note (with no reference to children, natch) on a vacation postcard or whatnot, just to send a pleasant greeting or say “Hope to see you soon” or something of the sort. THAT’s how you brighten somebody’s day without acting like a pushy, insensitive dork.

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NV August 11, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Nobody is saying ‘Don’t offer advice in a letter’. What we’re saying is ‘When it comes to a topic as volatile and emotionally scarring and painful as long-term health problems, don’t offer unsolicited advice out of nowhere, especially if you don’t know that much about the person in question or their health problem and/or don’t have any experience with the health problem in question’. Obviously the relative in question didn’t set out to hurt the OP, but this was not a very smart move and in the end, not only has it not helped OP in any way, it’s just made things worse.

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ChicaLola August 11, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I remember that pain so well. I’ve since been blessed with 3 amazing children, but I still mourn for the 2 I lost before them. There are so many well intentioned people, but unless they have gone through it…..they will never understand how devastating their words or actions can be. I’m so sorry for what you are going through, and for the people in your life that just don’t get it :(

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Lenore August 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Wow. Just wowee wow wow. If anyone had done that to me, I’m 99% certain I would have let rip at them about just exactly why it’s wrong, why it was thoughtless and hurtful, and why “good intentions” simply do not excuse the audacity and mean-ness of their action. I simply don’t understand why people who are obviously not privy to that information think it’s perfectly fine to pry and make assumptions and gossip. I really don’t.

I’m not sure if it’s just the “pregnancy belongs to the world” attitude that makes people think they can ask intrusive questions – I’ve been asked “why don’t you have kids yet?” (I just answer with “We’re having too much practicing!”). Friends of mine who have been pregnant have had their bellies mauled by strangers, questions asked about the method of birth, breast feeding, comments on their bodies etc etc. The mind boggles. You wouldn’t go up to the expectant father, congratulate him and then give him a pat on the testicles, would you?

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A different Tracy August 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

You were far too kind to her.

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admin August 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm

You believe well intentioned but clueless people should be bludgeoned with guilt? Graciousness is defined as kindness to the undeserving which is exactly what the OP did.

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Tracy P August 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

How are the clueless going to get a clue unless someone gives it to them. Sometimes they just need to be whacked upside the head with a clue x 4.

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Tracy P August 11, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Whoops, meant to add more, but I got distracted trying to type clue by 4 with my hunt and peck style.

I don’t mean that you (general you) should be as harsh as possible to someone, but some folks just have no idea what they’ve done and never will until someone points it out the them. Someone might need to take them aside, tell them what they did “wrong” (in nicer terms) and explain why before they go about tearing through others lives without realizing it. Is it not considered polite to spare someone else the pain of this person’s blundering?

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admin August 11, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Because they are typically not terminally clueless nor clueless by choice so beating them with a clue x4 is overkill. I’ve had cancer twice and had several friends offer all kinds of holistic remedies. I just laugh and love them all the more for taking the time to do something they believe will benefit me because they care for me.

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A different Tracy August 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Is your cancer a painful subject that you don’t discuss with others, which is how the OP referred to their fertility issues? Are these lovely well-meaning friends so distant that you would refer to them as “a relation of my husband?” And did these distant relations decide, or hear through the grapevine, that you had cancer, without ever speaking to you about it, and send you (apparently with no return address) magazine clippings about it? If that’s not the case, I don’t see how the two experiences are similar.

Lizajane August 12, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Good for you, for beating it and understanding the spirit in which the info was given.

Daphne August 11, 2014 at 6:26 pm

But sometimes it’s kind to tell a relative that their clueless-ness is hurtful. I mean, who else is going to do it? If the person who sent the clipping is really that well intentioned I would think she would be happy to know that she should keep her nose out of others’ reproductive business. I know I would be.

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Lisa August 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm

OP, I am so sorry. I have been where you are and know where you are coming from.

You handled it much better than I would have. Much better.

I hope you and your husband find happiness in the future. Big hugs to you!

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Stephanie August 11, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I am truly impressed at your response, OP – I don’t know that I could have been as civil. My husband and I have similar struggles, and of late my MIL has taken to making comments such as “Well, it’s a good thing you don’t have kids, because [X]” where X can be anything from the fact that my husband has a large Lego collection to the fact that we have cats. It’s incredibly difficult to hear, and she’s only really made the comments when my husband isn’t around to hear, but I’ve yet to find a good way to shut it down tactfully.

I wish you all the luck in the world with whatever path you take.

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GEna August 11, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Has it occured to you that MIL may be suffering as well, because she wants you and your DH to have a child? And she says these things to try to put things in a different light?

Many times couples think it’s a private thing to have a baby, or to have troubles doing so, but it’s not. The rest of the family suffers with you.

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NV August 12, 2014 at 1:27 am

Anyone who thinks bringing up a painful topic over and over is a good way to make the people experiencing it feel better needs a clue like whoa. If the MIL really is ‘suffering’ and trying to make the OP feel better, then she needs some new methods ASAP, because that is just tasteless.

Stephanie, try ‘What an interesting assumption’ in a really icy tone, and respond to any requests for clarification with ‘I’m just saying, it’s an interesting assumption’. Or bean dip like crazy.

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BellyJean August 12, 2014 at 8:27 am

Why then, make the comments without her son (Stephanie’s husband) around? That’s not at all kind or thoughtful. It’s a dig, Plain and simple.

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Allie August 11, 2014 at 8:32 pm

My go-to phrase for shutting things down tactfully is “how nice” – as in, “it’s a good thing you don’t have kids, because the world is a terrible place.” “How nice”. I use it all the time when people say inane things to me or give me unsolicited advice. To date, it has worked like a charm ; )

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Chelle August 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I am so sorry you had to endure that! And how awful that others knew and didn’t warn you (or better yet, explain to the relative that this is NOT appropriate.).
As a fellow infertile, I feel your pain- but that is far worse than any comments I had to deal with. Sending an article like that is worse that your usual platitudes of “you just need to relax” and “you can always adopt.” (Note to others: those comments are NOT hurtful and ignorant, in case you didn’t know!)
Again, OP- I’m so sorry!!!

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Miss Raven August 11, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I commiserate, OP. I have an “invisible” illness (juvenile diabetes), and I tend to keep it quiet. It’s none of anyone else’s business, and I don’t want it defining me. But it does come up from time to time, and I have gotten some incredibly stupid unsolicited advice, specifically in regards to “alternative” medicine that have made my blood boil.

Oh, your aunt cured her diabetes with Chinese herbs and small doses of poison?? Goodness! How about my doctor and I go ahead and continue my insulin regimen and you keep your mad theories to yourself. There is also the vaguest insinuation that you, as someone dealing with the condition, are less knowledgeable on the subject than this healthy, lucky passer-by, which is equally infuriating.

Obviously my issues are not as emotionally involved as trouble having children. Aside from the blood-boiling stupidity, you were deeply hurt by the action, which anyone with any sense of decorum could have predicted. I am sorry that this happened to you. Hopefully your husband’s family learned a valuable lesson.

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Miss-E August 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I understand how frustrating that I can be but I really do think that in those instances people really think they are helping, that they be offering some tip that you would never have gotten otherwise. I suffered serious, chronic cluster headaches for several years. I tried every different kind of thing out there to no avail. Eventually a coworker suggested acupuncture and four years later I am almost cluster-free! I would never have thought to try that if she hand’t recommended it to me and I’m really glad that she offered that advice. Although, to be fair I was telling her about my frustrations with my illness at the time, it was nothing like what happened to the OP (which I agree was wildly inappropriate).

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Hanna August 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm

OP, while I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, I have a condition during pregnancy that makes it very difficult for me to carry full term. My first and only child was born in my second trimester. Thankfully he is perfectly healthy and thriving but I know that having more children will be very difficult and stressful. So I’m with you. I’ve gotten horrible, horrible comments during pregnancy and while my child was in the NICU. All from “well intentioned” people, but horrible nonetheless.

I’ve learned that when someone has a death in the family, or has cancer, or has a hospitalized child or anything else traumatic, the majority of people don’t know what to say. BUT, they feel the obligation to say something. And usually it comes out horribly. I was asked if my baby had died “yet,” for example. And that when he’s older he will blame me for his prematurity. This was a close relative so months later I had to sit her down and let her know how much I resented her for her comments and thankfully they more or less stopped from her. And from other people who don’t really know much, I just let it slide if I can.

One thing you need to do (and it sounds like you’ve been trying) is to derail the information train. Don’t tell anybody (and unfortunately I mean anybody) about your reproductive organs. No one needs to know except you, your husband and your doctor. If people ask, just tell them that things are fine and bean dip like crazy. It’s none of their business anyway. If there are people you can trust to be supportive and encouraging, go ahead. But if you know those same people have a big mouth and THEY know people who have even bigger mouths, don’t give them any information.

I wish you all the strength in the world and blessings!

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yabyhead August 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Uh, I’m sorry, but this woman only meant the best and she meant no harm at all. Why is it all that wrong to send someone a clipping that you thought maybe they hadn’t seen and it could be helpful? Ihear all of you….that it hurts, but I’ve been sent, told, texted things before from people who thought maybe I could use the info and I never hated any of it (and yes, sometimes it was as sensitive as OP’s situation). I want others to have “eyes on the ground” for me and pass on anything I’m missing or needing to know.

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Miss-E August 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I agree completely. People like that really do think they are going to help you, they want a happy ending for you. It’s moronic to be sure, but it isn’t malicious.

That’s why the OP’s response was so perfect. She didn’t call her out or start a big fight, she quietly and politely put the issue to rest.

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JO August 11, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I don’t disagree with you totally, but as I also pointed out to someone earlier, when that advice is unsolicited and the person is clearly uncomfortable discussing the situation, than yes, it’s offensive. It is an invasion of privacy. It sounds like you are more open about your situations and welcome support and suggestions, and that’s fine. But the OP has chosen to make it a private matter, which is also fine. And people should respect that.

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Peep August 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

What this woman did was wrong because the following reasons:

1) The OP had never discussed this information with the woman, and did not want her to have this information. The woman had not been asked to be “eyes on the ground”, she had obviously been gossiping with someone else who knew the OP’s situation and then acted on her own.

2) The woman blindsided the OP. It would have been *slightly* more excusable if the woman had contacted the OP about the article and asked her if she was interested instead of sending her an unexpected in-your-face reminder of the OP’s painful situation.

3) The article in question was just over the top inappropriate. To send somebody struggling to have kids an advertisement featuring pictures of happy women with babies with the word “INFERTILE” in bold letters is woefully clueless.

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mark August 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm

The challenge is very often people have no idea how truly ignorant they are about a topic. Especially if their primary source of information is popular media. I’m a computer expert and I welcome articles and links from colleagues. But let’s be honest, the odds that some article on computers in Vanity Fair magazine is going to prove informative to me and help me do my job is vanishingly small, so small as to make the effort by some random “less computer literate” person to send me an article like that an utter exercise in futility.

In the OP’s case the odds of me sending her anything useful are so absurdly small that I wouldn’t even think to do so. My ignorance on infertility is so profound that I couldn’t even begin to sort the wheat from the chaff. On the other hand if I was the clinic director of her fertility clinic or some support group of knowledgeable people the effort may be worth it, since in that case I would have the knowledge to offer an intelligent opinion.

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Lizajane August 11, 2014 at 7:14 pm

I agree with this. Chances are slim that the mag knew something her doctor didn’t…but the west if?

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Rayner August 11, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Passing along information or things when you’re close to the family and ASKED to do so is one thing, but sending someone unsolicited advice about a deeply personal matter like fertility is quite something else. And very unfair.

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Allie August 11, 2014 at 8:40 pm

It’s a complete invasion of privacy. Perhaps if she means no harm, she should stop and think about how her words and actions might affect others before she delivers any more unsolicited advice.

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Kimstu August 11, 2014 at 9:20 pm

@yabyhead: “Why is it all that wrong to send someone a clipping that you thought maybe they hadn’t seen and it could be helpful?”

A reasonable question, and the answer is that it’s wrong because you’re intruding on their very private personal business that they have NOT chosen to talk to you about.

Now, if you happen to know somebody who posts every day on Facebook about their husband’s impotence and their mother’s alcoholism and every other personal trauma they’re dealing with for the whole world to see, it’s probably safe to bring the subject up with them directly. And if you’re close enough to offer each other unsolicited advice and suggestions about your personal lives, then sure, go ahead and pass along your magazine clipping.

But if you happen to hear through family gossip about a not-close relative’s personal sorrows that they have never chosen to discuss with you, it is a HUGE faux pas to shove your oar in with unsolicited advice, no matter how helpful you think your advice might be.

If YOU personally don’t mind giving up some privacy in exchange for possibly useful relevant information about your problems, that’s your decision. But nobody should ever assume that they get to make that decision on behalf of somebody else who hasn’t confided in them. If somebody else wants your advice, they’ll ask for it.

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crella August 11, 2014 at 11:15 pm

That’s big factor in this, that the subject had never been discussed with this person, ever. It’s that icky-feeling shock of “Is everybody talking about our reproductive problems behind our backs? How did she know to send me this?”.

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NV August 11, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Because we’re not talking about a friend who came across some information in a new study. We’re talking about an in-law who OP *never* discussed this with, who apparently decided to just send her some information out of the blue without even asking if she wanted it. This woman is not the OP’s doctor. She is not a close friend. She is not someone who knows a lot about the OP’s health. So why would she feel that it is OK to just randomly send OP this information? At the very least, she should have called the OP and asked if it would be OK to send her this data, or told her about it over the phone. When it comes to matters like long-term health conditions, generally it’s best to leave it to the actual professionals. Also, the intentions don’t really matter. Meaning no harm is not a get out of jail free card. It’s not going to make the OP feel better.

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NostalgicGal August 11, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I commensurate about things are not going as planned. I hope that it will change in the future.

You handled it very well OP. Whether or not they were truly misguided or as malevolent as (downstairs); as someone else said… unless you’re asked, don’t give the advice or send the helpful little bit.

Not everyone WANTS to be a parent; not everyone GETS to be a parent. If you wish children, I hope you get your wish come true. And it’s nobody else’s business but yours.

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Wild Irish Rose August 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

These “well-meaning” individuals are the same ones who decided to lay blame for my breast cancer on me by telling me aaaaaaaaall the things I was eating were causing it. My own damn fault for not eating nothing but kale.

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Sam August 16, 2014 at 5:04 pm

This is similar to what happened to me. I was informed about ten minutes after getting diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis that it was my fault for being ten pounds overweight, and that I had done it on purpose to live off of disability in the ten years it would take me to end up in a wheelchair. Also, that I had been trying to screw this particular idiot so that his taxpayer money would support me, and he had to take over my job. I did it to HIM.
I am also infertile, and people ask me about it all the time. It seems to be all gloves off when you’ve been married ten years and no children have arrived yet. The most aggravating response to my “I have chosen to adopt” line was “Oh, I hope you can get a white baby! Don’t get a black baby!” I totally lost my cool on that one and probably earned a place in e-hell for it. No. Can you earn a place in e-hell for any type of response to that? I think I did quite well not punching the idiot.

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Kheldarson August 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Ugh, how awful! I’m sorry that happened OP! I’d say that at least you were able to track down the root of the problem and address it, but that’s not much consolation. :/

My mom had something similar happen once; we’re a fairly conservative Catholic family, and somebody dropped an envelope with a Chick tract in it into our mailbox. And it had to be somebody she knew because it was addressed with a name configuration that people who know my mom know she uses (telemarketers/mass sendings never address her this way). She wasn’t happy, to say the least.

Condolences, though, for your struggles. I hope something positive comes your way.

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Kayesse August 11, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I have experienced an acquaintance sending me unsolicited articles for what she perceived was a problem in my life. While I’ve seen a couple of comments saying it was nice of the relative to show they care, it is rude because
– It is presumptuous for the relative to think they know what the problem is when the OP hasn’t confided in them
– It’s presumptuous and arrogant for them to think they have the answers when they were not asked for help or a solution
-Because they don’t have a close relationship with the OP, they don’t have the understanding that this is a sensitive issue and this is an issue of boundaries
– The source of their information is not seen as a credible solution for the OP

My acquaintance was ‘shallow stupid’ when she decided to send me a propoganda article describing all the problems my mixed-race daughter would have. She became ‘deep stupid’ after I pointed out how offensive it was and flawed the article was and insisted that she was ‘helping’ me. And then she was surprised when I deleted her as a Facebook friend.

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Ai August 12, 2014 at 8:50 am

As someone who IS a mixed-race child and now in an interracial marriage…wow. Your acquaintance actions and the her following reaction to your response is pretty damn shocking and hurtful. It’s surprising how many don’t get how hurtful their “help” can be, and in this case how deeply offensive. I’m glad you confronted her and then deleted her as a facebook friend; no one needs someone that freaking rude and out-of-touch (I just hope out-of-touch) in their lives.

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lakey August 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Many of these threads have to do with people making comments or asking questions about personal issues, whether related to appearance or reproductive issues.
When I was young we were taught that you are supposed to mind your own business. That means you don’t comment on someone else’s appearance, and you don’t ask questions or comment on their personal life. And whether or not a person gets pregnant is extremely personal.

I sometimes think that all of these stupid reality tv shows have led people to believe that everything is fair game for discussion.

OP, good luck.

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mark August 11, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I learned a long time ago people rarely appreciated unsolicited advice. I know I don’t. I just keep my mouth shut and mind my own business.

If someone brings it up in a conversation or it comes up in a normal situation I have no problem with discussion. But almost any comment to me that begins with “You should ….” or something similar, well for me I’d prefer you keep it to yourself. As an example “You should buy this stock”. I don’t like being told what to do. I try and return the favor and not tell others what to do.

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Daphne August 11, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I think because there is just something that feels really intrusive about receiving unsolicited medical advice from people who have no business discussing your private health concerns. If you ask for it, that’s one thing, but the OP didn’t ask.

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Daphne August 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm

above comment was a reply to yabyhead.

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internetmama August 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

For people asking why offering advice/help can seem hurtful/offensive, the problem is not that you care enough about the person to offer advice. The problem happens when someone starts giving advice without asking if the other person is willing to hear/talk about the issue or subtly (or not so subtly) assigning blame for the person’s situation. It does not sound like the in-law was blaming and it does seem that she was trying to help but you need to make sure that your advice is wanted.

My older son was diagnosed as autistic at age 3. His father and I made the incredibly painful decision to place him in a group home when he was eight years old. The severity of the autism requires 24 hour treatment/care. We have received a tremendous amount of support from friends, family and community. We have also received a tremendous amount of unsolicited advice, prying questions and blaming tactics.

We have received advice about gluten free diets, chelation therapy, detoxification, behavioral treatments, whether we are too strict in our expectations or not strict enough. I have been asked if I felt that his difficult birth (he was not breathing when born) caused his autism, do I think vaccines did it, how could I consider letting him have any further vaccines, why did I choose not to breastfeed, do I think it would make a difference if I had fed him organic baby food, did I eat tuna fish (which might have contained mercury) while pregnant?

None of this is helpful. Most people mean well. Some people I suspect just want to assign blame to make themselves feel better or to convince themselves that if they don’t do what I may have done, their child will be okay. Saying “I was reading something in the newspaper about an autism treatment, would you like to hear about it?” is very different from launching into treatment information that I have most likely heard of and made my own decision about.

OP’s relative did mean well but it was handled very insensitively. I think OP’s response was perfect.

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Lizajane August 11, 2014 at 7:15 pm

What if? That is

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FizzyChip August 11, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Dear OP, I am just sorry this happened to you. The whole situation. I am reminded again of the phrase, “you can choose your friends, but not your family”. I am sure your family member was well intentioned, but that doesn’t lessen the pain, nor does it excuse such thoughtless behaviour. I just don’t understand why people just don’t stop and think how THEY would feel in a similar situation???

As someone who has experienced a similar thing, I can relate somewhat and I send you my good wishes and hugs. Just remember it is NOT your fault, you did NOT solicit this and it is NOT your problem that someone else feels obligated to interfere and provide commentary to your life. x

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Lisa August 11, 2014 at 7:54 pm

I know I’m in the minority, but, I think you were too sensitive to your husband’s relative attempt to help. We had experienced infertility for several years but we didn’t take offense when people offered “advice” because they were well-intentioned. The doctors did not find a reason for the infertility so I eventually went to have acupuncture treatment. We conceived during the first cycle and I continued receiving acupuncture treatment because the acupuncturist wanted to help my body maintain the pregnancy. We have a brood now! I know you and your husband do not want to try non-traditional options but keep in mind acupuncture has been around for 2000 years for good reason. Good luck.

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mark August 12, 2014 at 12:33 am

And your post illustrates the problem with unsolicited advice. What evidence can you offer that the acupuncture had any casual effect on your becoming pregnant? All you really have its a coincidence. For this to be useful to someone suffering from infertility, it would need to come from reputable medical literature.

I’ve seen this same phenomena in my life. My oldest is autistic and a lot of parents of autistic children are bombarded with claims that by vaccinating their children, that they caused it. And this causes a lot of parents huge guilt. And it’s because people make unsubstantiated claims.

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Lisa August 13, 2014 at 12:38 am

Mark, three kids after years of infertility isn’t a coincidence. While some alternative therapies are questionable and without backing, acupuncture withstands the test of time. Sure, acupuncture doesn’t help everyone, but, what western medical therapy helps 100% of everyone who is seeking help?

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SueS August 13, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Umm yes it is a coincidence. Please read up on how one proves an hypothesis. Causation is not the same thing as correlation. I suffered from years of infertility, miscarriages, spent hundred of thousands on ART and IVF cycles and thousands of dollars with the best infertility acupuncturists in my area and NYC that I could find. I even had acupuncturist come with me to my transfer so that I could get “the best possible response” from my acupuncture. And of course none of it worked. So by your thought process that would mean that I did something wrong, since acupuncture has been around for 2000 years and it worked for you.

Interestingly, because you have 3 children you are NOT, in fact, infertile and you have proven it yourself. You actually have more children than the national average in the US. So congrats on your super-fertility. Now please take a moment to try to remember how painful it was before your super-fertility kicked in. To offer up your ridiculously unsupported advice only adds to pain of people who are actually infertile.

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Lisa August 14, 2014 at 6:14 pm

SueS, You make an illogical conclusion that I assume you (or anyone else) who did not conceive with acupuncture did something wrong. As I mentioned earlier acupuncture does not help everyone but neither do Western therapies (like IVF). Additionally, I was diagnosed with infertility by MDs, so, yeah I was infertile. Acupuncture corrected the infertility. I don’t doubt whether I had one or a dozen kids after seeking help from acupuncture, you would chalk it up to coincidence because it did not work for you. Why don’t you read up on acupuncture and its effects on fertility?

http://aim.bmj.com/content/24/4/157.abstract

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF03347091

http://www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research.3.infertility.pdf
http://www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research.8.infertility.pdf
http://www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research.9.infertility.pdf
http://www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research.10.infertility.pdf
http://www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research.12.infertility.pdf
http://www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research.14.infertility.pdf
http://www.westlakecomplementarymedicine.com/research.15.infertility.pdf

http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/features/ancient-art-of-infertility-treatment

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/womens-health/articles/2012/01/27/acupuncture-may-boost-pregnancy-success-rates

OP August 12, 2014 at 2:02 am

“keep in mind acupuncture has been around for 2000 years for good reason”

I find your presumption breath-taking. I did not ask for your advice on how to have children. You do not know me. You do not know our medical reasons (trust me, acupuncture will NOT overcome what we have, and we investigated it years ago).

We do not have unexplained infertility.

On a thread about making assumptions on people’s private business, you have done exactly that. And you have also patronised me while pointing out your own good fortune.

Please keep that advice away from other people, you clearly have no idea how much it hurts.

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Meegs August 12, 2014 at 10:15 am

Sorry but unlike your original situation (and I admit I don’t really understand what is so hurtfully offensive about it), you brought it up here. Just becuase you are upset about what happened does not mean everyone has to agree with you. Lisa didn’t “presume” anything. She merely related a personal experience that you might find useful about a sitation that you brought up.

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bap August 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

OP, I am with everyone else offering my sympathies that you have to deal with this. And I’m sorry you have had to deal with it even on this forum – unbelievable! Hugs to you and your husband.

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Max August 13, 2014 at 12:43 am

OP, it seems you might need to see a therapist to help you work out your feelings of anger and disappointment. Lisa was offering her personal story… not rubbing the fact she has kids in your face. If you don’t want to hear opinions that are contrary to yours, then e-hell or any other website that allows comments, is not the place for you to vent your frustrations. If writing helps you, then consider keeping a journal or writing a blog where you can delete comments you don’t like.

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OP August 13, 2014 at 5:48 am

No, Max, I don’t need to see a therapist. I am not angry with the woman in the story, I acknowledge over and over that she meant well, which is why I thanked her.

I am not angry with Lisa either. Just astounded that she decided to say ‘hey, try this for infertility’ to a stranger who has said she is NOT infertile and does not want unwelcome suggestions – Lisa telling me to keep acupuncture in mind IS a suggestion. After I had said I find that unwelcome and hurtful.

Adding ‘we now have a brood!’ to a woman who has lost several children over the years is just plain ignorant.

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Brenda August 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Since you do not give us the details of your situation (which is completely your prerogative), I won’t say I know how you feel. We have struggled with not being able to have children as well so I offer my sympathies to you and your husband, OP.

You actually do sound very angry at your situation because you allow innocuous things to hurt and offend you (i.e. the relative, Lisa)… to the point where you feel the need to vent on E-Hell and look for support from total strangers and then become offended when someone, unfortunately, disagrees or says something that bothers you. Short of becoming a recluse, there is nowhere in our modern society where you can completely avoid comments (direct or indirect), reminders, etc… of the problem you two have faced and endured. At the very least, you can confirm with a therapist that therapy is not warranted… or you may be surprised that it might be beneficial.

Max August 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Your anger towards the relative is evidenced by the title of your submission (you said her act was “stupid”.

You are misinterpreting Lisa’s comment “we now have a brood!” – it sounds like she’s trying to encourage you that there are non-traditional ways that can be successful. You are offended because you do not have closure.

Lisa August 14, 2014 at 6:35 pm

You have not read my post clearly. I wrote that the acupuncturist suggested continued treatments to help keep the baby to term… which shows that I was not implying or assuming you have unexplained infertility. And, I was not patronising you when I said we eventually had kids. It was to point out that acupuncture worked for us. And for not having an idea how painful it is to not be able to have children (for any length of time), you are wrong to assume that it was not painful for us to have trouble having kids.

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Ai August 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

On a post where the OP describes a very hurtful experience due to someone’s giving her unsolicited advice and we have someone in the comments giving her…unsolicited advice.

Wow. That’s just freaking rude. There are so many comments explaining that whatever your intentions maybe, it’s still pretty rude and in this case very hurtful to give unsolicited advice and yet you still came here and did that very thing. Like the OP mentioned as a reply to you, you offer nothing useful nor any sources to support your claims. I would say you are being “Stupid Shallow” but considering you seem to IGNORE the entire point of the admin’s response to OP, I have my doubts whether you are being just “shallow stupid” or intentionally crueler.

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Ai August 12, 2014 at 8:50 am

*intentionally cruel. Sorry, that typo was bugging me.

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WillyNilly August 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Wow.
The OP *very clearly* states that she has struggled to have children but that she is NOT infertile.
Your post demonstrates precisely the original problem “here’s advice on how to fix a problem you don’t have but that is similar in its outcome…” The original letter I imagine was like salt in a wound – it won’t help in any shape or form because it doesn’t address the issue even remotely, it solely makes the wound more prominent; your advice seems to fall along the same lines.

OP I offer you the out sincere good luck and happiness with whatever path life take’s you down.

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Angel August 13, 2014 at 12:46 am

Um… Lisa said the acupuncturist suggested continued treatment to maintain the pregnancy… Didn’t OP says she could conceive but suffered miscarriages?

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Phoenix August 12, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Give me a link of at least 10 scientific documents made within the last 5 years that support your claim. Oh, and they have to be from reputable websites.

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crebj August 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I am so sorry.

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Mojo August 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Never ask a middle aged woman if she has children.
If she has you’re likely to hear about them soon enough.
If she hasn’t , she probably doesn’t want to talk about it.

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SueS August 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm

This is is the prayer of most infertile women.

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Phoenix August 12, 2014 at 10:20 pm

I figure that postin anything about religion, weight, mental condition, child bearing status should be deemed unsolicitated abd rude. These matters tend to be private and therefore unless they ask, trying to give advice would make the sender like an inconsiderate meddler.

Whether or not the recipient has an actual trigger should not matter, that is private stuff and therefore rude.

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Pipkin81 August 13, 2014 at 12:35 am

I am so sorry that your friend was so thoughtless and insensitive, but it does not surprise me. For some reason there are a lot of people who think that they have a ‘right’ to know exactly why someone doesn’t have children.

No matter how heartbreaking going through treatments and not conceiving, there are people out there who think they know the miracle cure.

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SueS August 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

OP – you are the picture of grace and calm in the face of a hurtful act. I dont know if I could be as composed, particularly since family members were well aware that you and your DH were keeping things private – and unsolicited advice and conversation about your fertility is usually the top reason for keeping these things private. I can never understand why that is so hard to see.

Please accept my sincere wishes for peace and happiness for you and your husband.

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Ginger0630 August 13, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Wow! How intrusive and just plain STUPID!!! Why would she think that it was ok to send that to you, especially if you had never spoke to her about your issues?

I think you handled it very well, but I wouldn’t have been as nice, especially for a subject that personal and heartbreaking.

Good luck on your journey toward parenthood.

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CheezWhiz August 13, 2014 at 11:44 pm

A lot of comments here so I may be repeating someone else’s thoughts… I think the problem is actually whoever in the husband’s family was blabbing about OP’s difficulties to others like the relative who was not supposed to be in the know. Considering there were people in the husband’s family who knew the relative was planning on sending this article and didn’t do anything to dissuade her, it might be that 1) whoever was talking out of turn gave the the relative the impression that OP’s difficulties were common knowledge in the family – that it wasn’t meant to be hush-hush or 2) others in the husband’s family actually wanted OP & hubby to consider alternative therapies.

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Lizajane August 14, 2014 at 7:52 am

I think the family talking about it is what caused the problem, also.

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Jackie August 13, 2014 at 11:50 pm

I guess you never know if you’ll offend someone… if you don’t say anything, you risk appearing as if you don’t care (been on both sides) and if you say something, you risk appearing intrusive (again, been on both sides). Unless specifically stated, there is no reliable way for someone who is concerned to know which way to go. So, IMHO, the person who is in a difficult situation has the additional burden of graciously receiving or not receiving sympathy, advice, well-wishes, etc… With that, the person who is in a difficult situation also has to establish healthy emotional boundaries so that people’s attempts or lack of attempts to reach out don’t cause a emotional spiral.

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Lizajane August 14, 2014 at 7:53 am

Well said. Very.

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SJ August 14, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I am amazed at how graciously you handled this.

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just4kicks August 15, 2014 at 4:43 am

Best of luck to you, I hope you will have the family you want very soon.
Many years ago in my early twenties, I became pregnant. My boyfriend of over a year dumped me immediately, and I did not want to have an abortion. I gave a beautiful little boy up for adoption. I picked the couple myself with the help of a Catholic agency. He has grown into a wonderful young man. I felt, and still feel I made the right decision. I am now married for almost twenty years and are blessed with four so wonderful children of our own and a child from my DH first marriage. A few years ago, I ran into a lady I was working with when I went through my first pregnancy and adoption. She asked how I was doing, and of course I showed her some photos of my family. She looked at a photo with all five of my kids and said, “WOW!!! FIVE KIDS?!? …..And to think you DUMPED OFF THAT POOR BABY with another family all those years ago and ended up having FIVE more!!!” I was stunned and walked away without another word. I didn’t “dump off” my son. I was not in any position to care for a child back then and made a choice that was best for my son. I live with guilt everyday, even all these years later. Every year on his birthday, it’s a very rough day, and I still cry all these years later. My family knows all about him, and my older boy’s wish to perhaps meet their half brother some day.
People can be so cruel and thoughtless….I hope I never run into that “friend” again in this lifetime.

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Enna August 16, 2014 at 2:44 pm

That was a really insensitive thing to do.

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admin August 14, 2014 at 11:51 pm

And with this, the hijacked discussion will end.

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admin August 14, 2014 at 11:52 pm

I created the title of the blog post, not the OP.

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