Thursday, April 23, 2015

Litany of Platitudes

I'm going to warn you about three things here:

1) This isn't going to be pretty
2) This isn't going to end the way you think
3) You're going to get 2 litanies for the price of one!

So, now that we have THAT out of the way....what do we do about it? I could write for eons about how the Litany of Platitudes makes me feel. I could certainly wax on philosophically about the individual responses I have given to each of these amazing pieces of advice, questions, and *cough* generous offers. And yes, before you ask, I've been asked every single one of these 36 questions. It's not been pretty. More importantly, I've only been at this infertility thing for 2 years. And I'm positive that I've forgotten a few horrifying questions in that time. But suffice it to say, people navigating the pain of infertility get hit with a lot of "advice". Well meaning. Just like that well-paved road of intentions that'll take you allllll the way to Hades.

So here's where I take a turn. You're not going to like me very much for it either, infertile Catholics. Sorry about that. Download the following document (hover over it, then click on the top right corner to "pop out" and you can download or print) and then get GOOD at praying it. Don't just give it a cursory glance. Don't just look at it once and say "yeah, I see your point". Don't get angry with me and think I'm a turncoat. Really think about what we're all doing here - fine tuning suffering. We're finding a way to put the pain to use. We're dying to ourselves. And I'm pretty sure Christ is going to reward that with more Divine Mercy than anything else we could give Him.

Do the uncommon and take the less traveled path here. Put your pain to work. Let it sanctify you, like St. Josemaria Escriva used to say. Don't let yourself be persecuted by the insanity of these platitudes. Make yourself HOLY through them. Meditate on God's suffering. Unite your pain with Christ and ask Him to do something better with it than you can. Remember when you still liked me? ;)

OK, now I'm going to talk to the REST OF Y'ALL.

You need to STAHHHPPPPP with the ridiculous questions, judgments, ideas, advice, suggestions, and story telling of your neighbor's cousin's best friend's former college roommate's mom's aunt's sister about how she got pregnant drinking nothing but lime juice while dancing barefoot in a field of chickens for 6 days straight.



Compassion means  to suffer with. And no part of suffering WITH involves a constant drone of misinformed, hurtful, and downright dangerous things coming out of your mouth. When you don't know what to say - tell us you'll pray for us. When you don't know how to react - ask us what you can do for us. When you don't understand, tell us that. The single best thing you can alwayseverforevermore do for us is PRAY. That's going to be our default. As Catholics, we solidly believe in the power of prayers. And we believe in your prayers whether you are Catholic or not! If you don't have a relationship with God, this is the perfect opportunity to reach out to Him and say "Hi, I need to talk to you about my friend and the pains of her infertility." It's not unrealistic. It's not presumptuous. It's the least and most anyone can do.

And if after all of that, you still have something to suggest, ask if the infertile couple are open to advice. They'll tell you what they can handle. Treat them with the respect their condition deserves. You wouldn't tell a cancer patient to get over their chemo pains. You wouldn't tell them their HAIR LOOKED BAD. You wouldn't ask them if they needed your sperm to survive their disease.

So don't do it to us.

Few people (outside those who are actively in the thick of it) understand that the psychology of disease related to cancer is STRIKINGLY similar to that of infertility. In fact, I'll tell you squarely right now: I took more pills a day than a cancer patient last year. There. I said it. 27, y'all. A day. All intricately timed to waking, sleeping, eating, not interacting with each other, being far enough apart by dose, timed to a detailed medical chart. And that doesn't even take into consideration all the shots, blood draws, and surgery I underwent. There was never a month with fewer than 10 shots or blood draws. And sometimes the that number climbed to as much as 31 a month. And the month that looked like that was really 26 in one week, and a paltry 5 the next week. Look at the handywork of just one phlebotomist from one draw. We're not talking about metaphorical suffering at all when it comes to the journey of infertility!

Really though, it's all just exhausting. Your house fills up with charts, thermometers, books, graphs, medicines, and medicine-taking-paraphernalia. Every end table, counter, and bathroom nook becomes a place for morning, noon, night, and bedtime pills. But here's my real point: I'm nowhere NEAR unique. I'm on the rather lucky end of things right now, in comparison to what some have to do (uterine antibiotic lavages in preparation for marital intercourse anyone?)

Simply put, we're doing the best we can with the pace that our medical treatment demands. And most of us aren't just doing it for a baby. We're trying to improve our health first and foremost. We didn't choose this path. We didn't choose to be sick. We didn't choose our infertility. We're not basking in the attention from all the medical interventions. It's not a stunt. We just want to grow our family like you do/have. You get that right, parents? You get that those children you swear you'd die for are worth this, don't you?

So please, please, please, please, PLEASE give us a break from the Litany of Platitudes. All of them. For the love of all that is good and kind, leave the adoption cliches alone at the very least. Learn how to love us better! And remind us that no matter how ugly the journey is that we're on, you'll be there with us. You support God's will and timing and plan for our life and we will forever appreciate you for it. If you can't do that, you aren't really living the Catholic faith you profess. And neither are we Catholic infertile if we let the Litany of Platitudes get the best of us (all the time).

God's peace and goodness to everyone who found themselves reading along today. Thank you for taking this with the charity and love it was written with and thank you for following along with this humble blog as I seek to make sense of my own infertility.

This post is the fourth in a series on infertility. If you'd like to read from the beginning, click on the picture below to read the original post in the series where all of the posts will be linked.


  1. The first half was hard to read, both of the litanies really, but your point with the litany of humility is true, that is something I need to take to heart. Thanks for the second half of the article too, that is such a poignant way of addressing the platitudes.

    1. So glad it was received well. I know that people likely expected me to take a different approach here, but I really feel like the perfection of that Litany of Humility is more an answer for the infertile heart than anything else I've found to date. It's such a hard road to walk, but I certainly walk it with you friend.

  2. I've heard a decent number of those platitudes myself (although thank the sweet Lord I've never received any of those "offers"!). Sometimes I have to try really hard to remember that the people probably really do mean well and are just ignorant.
    I've always loved the Litany of humility. It's very beautiful and VERY hard to pray. Thanks for the reminder!
    Prayers are so important! At my request, my parish priest agreed to celebrate a Mass for Infertile Couples this evening. I'll be offering my Mass for all the sweet folks in the infertile blogging community tonight. Please keep me in your prayers as well. :)

    1. It is amazing the consistency with which people offer this advice to infertile women. Even hearing that my own experience hasn't been terribly unique is an eye-opener to what is culturally happening. So glad you appreciated the Litany of Humility. Prayer really is one of the only comforts in this journey.

      I definitely prayed for your parish's Mass for Infertile Couples. What a beautiful gift that was from your priest. Thank you for offering that Mass up for all who read here and blog about this cross. I continue to keep your own intentions in my prayers. Hugs to you, Casey. <3

  3. Depending on who it's coming from, I don't necessarily mind the "I know it'll happen for you!" that much, since it's clearly intended to hopeful and encouraging. (Doesn't necessarily work, but when coupled with "I'm praying for you," it can be comforting.) While I have problems with the "you shouldn't have put your career first," it is coupled to a real problem of many women not being aware of the link between age and fertility. It's stupid and hurtful to say it to someone experiencing IF, but as an overall culture, I think there is a need for people to be more aware of it. (All the celeb articles about so-and-so having babies in their late 40s or 50s don't help, especially since it's never made clear that it's not their eggs.) Personally I get most annoyed with the assumptions about having money, time, peace, etc and if I got the "Maybe God doesn't want you to have kids," I would probably not react charitably.

    It's certainly not easy to be humble and accept suffering, but hopefully we can all find ways to use it.

    1. I agree that when coupled with an action to pray, I take a lot less issue with that particular platitude. That said, I think I've reached the end of letting people try to make sense of the non-sensical out loud. It's not a "giving" action, it's much more a selfish action. Think about it - "I can't make this better, so I'm going to say something to try and smooth it over and force a resolution that makes me feel better, even if it doesn't fix their problem." That's how I read platitudes a way for people to eschew the call to suffer with people.

      I think learning authentic compassion is what we're missing as a culture. And I totally agree with you that the half-stories from aging celebrities is part of the problem at hand now. Women AND men need to realize that family life, for all of time, never depended on being stable in your career or having a Pottery Barn house. The change in values and goals is so stark, isn't it??

      Friend, I agree that it's not easy to accept humility and suffering. I hope we can all find ways to use it for good as well.

  4. "And most of us aren't just doing it for a baby. We're trying to improve our health first and foremost. We didn't choose this path. We didn't choose to be sick. We didn't choose our infertility."

    Amen! Thankfully I've only ever received a handful of the platitudes mentioned--mostly because I kept our struggle to myself and didn't want to share it with anyone but a few (helpful, too, since we were a new couple in a new town). Throughout our treatments, my primary prayer was for increased health, and if we're blessed with a baby, fantastic! But, as I like to quote from my favorite movie, "If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything."

    Thank you for sharing this as part of your series--and for the reminder of the Litany of Humility. Matt Maher and Audrey Assad (each) have beautiful renditions of it on their albums.

    1. It's so hard in the early days of IF to focus on your own health, isn't it? For us, we were forced to because my hormonal and reproductive health were so poor. I think it's easy to get tunnel-baby-vision though! I was very happy to read how your own journey through IF has gone, friend. Prayers to you in this great season of change, that God would allow you to feel His blessings as you navigate unfamiliar waters now and ahead! <3

  5. I discovered the Litany of Humility years ago and it has been such a saving grace. it really is difficult to pray but sooooo good! Great suggestions for us all to pray!

    1. I wish I had discovered the Litany of Humility at the beginning of our IF journey. It might have made things very different for us. Really, really, really difficult to pray. But each time I do, I feel God really sucking the pride and pain right out of me. Thank you for reading along, friend. I'm praying for your journey and really enjoying your blog, in case I haven't said that lately! <3