Silent Sorority

Infertility Survivors Finally Heard

December 11, 2016

Triggered In A Way I Didn’t Expect

Triggered is a word I don’t take lightly.

To be triggered is when anything, as an act or event, serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions. That’s why a trigger warning now seems appropriate. The correlations I draw here might leave you triggered. You may want to skip this post entirely.

It took me nearly a decade to fully understand my trauma triggers and why they evoked such a visceral reaction. To recap for those newer to my blog posts.

Some of my triggers over the years have included:

  • Any talk, headlines, photos — any references for that matter — of ‘baby bumps’ or pregnancy announcements. Fortunately, no longer a trigger now that I’m embracing menopause.
  • The dog whistle use of ‘mom’ — as in we all know that women who are moms are infinitely more valuable than women who are not. We beg to differ.
  • IVF marketing of all kinds —  particularly the egregious selling of unproven ‘add-ons’ (further explained by Jessica Hepburn) and the boastful campaigns that include baby images implying that anyone who wants to get pregnant can. Not true.
  • The question: do you have children? — asked by someone who is too lazy or too insensitive (hard to excuse in this day and age of infertility talk) to understand that the person on the receiving end may have once boxed up baby clothes and keepsakes for donation after learning their pregnancy or dreams of parenthood didn’t fully succeed. Do everyone a favor and wait for someone to volunteer any parenting status. If they are, you’ll know soon enough.

I was reminded just how intensely my grief and pain consumed me following three devastating rounds of failed IVF. My triggered response resurfaced when a dear friend now living far away and not on social media wrote to update me on her life and ask about mine this past week. In her letter was this memory:

“I still remember vividly spending time talking with you in the car after the dinner in Los Gatos. I have seldom experienced such raw and honest rage and pain.  You opened my eyes to my own insensitivity and that of others.  People make such careless comments, not realizing that the collateral damage can be stunning.”

Clearly, our post-dinner conversation some 10 years ago made a lasting impression.

See also  Insights from Catching Sight of Thelma and Louise

Further muddying the waters [bctt tweet=”While we talk ‘momhood’ and ‘dadhood’ in all aspects of sports, politics, celebrity or social circles” username=”SilentSorority”] it’s still not acceptable to openly grieve IVF losses or to leave some space for those involuntarily childless. (Tip: By the way, keep your pity in check. We do not want it. Instead, simply hear with an open mind and heart and acknowledge the complex emotions that result).

Triggered by Trump

It’s also not cool to raise the con of fertility treatment marketing. Yes, the con of fertility treatment marketing. As Ken Kesey once famously said, “The secret of being a top-notch con man is being able to know what the mark wants, and how to make him think he’s getting it.”

I’ve written at length about the slick marketing of IVF. Show me a fertility clinic website or social media feed that says, “WARNING: IVF fails more often than it succeeds” and then I’ll concede we’re in a new, honest era where reproductive medicine is concerned.

So, now perhaps you can see why this recent national election has left me triggered in a related way.

  • How about all the fake news. We can get you pregnant!
  • Bold claims about the way life should be. If you vote for me I’ll make America GREAT again.  If you were a mom, your life would so GREAT!
  • Anyone who didn’t vote for Trump is a sore loser! If you didn’t succeed with IVF, it’s all your fault. Get over it!

There is nothing ‘normal’ about this impending presidency. The specter of a con man in office is chilling, unnerving and downright dangerous. We all must remain vigilant and hold him accountable to the people he is elected to serve. As Sarah captured so perfectly, infertility actually have prepared me better than I knew for a Trump presidency. She writes:

“Wishing deep in my heart of hearts that Trump does a good job is much like wishing for a pregnancy on the heels of multiple failed fertility treatments; you want it more than anything but know on a level it’s probably not going to happen.  Most of all, I was shocked that I was shocked.  When one loses their children to infertility after years of trying and doing everything right only to walk out into a sea of indifference (please read the “you can have mine”, “you’re lucky”, “you can always foster or adopt” “it wasn’t meant to be” and “at least you can travel now” minimizations), one’s list of what will shock them in life from that day forward becomes severely truncated.

So it started to dawn on me that, by chance, I’m already set up for this, this Trump presidency thing.”

Triggered No More


That’s also why when I saw this headline, On the Internet, to be ‘Mom’ is to be Queen, last week in The New York Times, I thought. Nope. Not gonna let this trigger me. I got this.

See also  Loss and Life Beyond Failed Fertility

How about you? You doing alright? Let me know either way.

Different Than I Expected 10 Replies to “Triggered In A Way I Didn’t Expect”
Pamela Tsigdinos
Pamela Tsigdinos
Writer, blogger and, oh, yeah, infertility survivor. My memoir, Silent Sorority, tells the whole story. There's a movie in there somewhere. Given the quirkiness needed to relate it all I'm thinking Jennifer Lawrence would be a good fit.


10 thoughts on “Triggered In A Way I Didn’t Expect

    Author’s gravatar

    Doing all right, and thank you for asking, Pamela. :) <3 Admittedly, this can be a hard time of year, with all the focus on kids and families and the increasing dark & cold weather (at least where I am!). I too saw the NY Times article & another by Slate on the Mom topic and wrote about it on my blog, after a young girl at the mall called me "Mommy" as a sales pitch (!). I found it more ridiculous than anything else, but yeah, it did trigger a few painful thoughts too.

    Author’s gravatar

    It’s interesting that you wrote this right at this time, when recently I was triggered more than I’d been for a long long time.

    On the bright side, I’ve just spent the weekend with my family (sisters and nieces and great-nephews), including an almost eight month pregnant niece. I cringed a little at something her mother (my sister) said, but again it was passing. I was happy to be able to be with her, to wish her the very best, to give her something for the baby, and to be able to support. What a difference a few years and menopause makes!

    I haven’t yet read Sarah’s piece on infertility and Trump. But I kind of hope he doesn’t do well, because if he does, it negates everyone’s earlier concerns. And those concerns were and are valid. The “miracle” pregnancy doesn’t mean that everyone who tried IVF was crying “wolf.”

    Author’s gravatar

    I think the biggest residual trigger for me is deceitful IVF marketing. I have a habit of trawling social media to find it. When I alight upon a clinic that is inflating its claims of success by quoting clinical pregnancy rates, or is urging its patients to “have faith and you will achieve success!” I get very righteously indignant. I want to bring them down. Definitely still and might always be a trigger for me. Not because I “failed”, but because I had the same drivel fed to me by clinics – it’s more a case of wanting justice for others, and to expose dishonesty, rather than a visceral thing that upsets me.
    I also hate the lauding of moms in the media, definitely makes me feel disgruntled and cranky. I already feel outnumbered: we don’t need the whole celebration and fetishising of motherhood to get worse.
    The “Do you have children?” thing didn’t bother me till recently, I think because I’m only asked very rarely. But I was at my company’s Christmas drinks last week and over the loud music an older colleague (I blogged about this old git once – he asked me if I’d had a good Mother’s Day when he didn’t even know me!) leaned across to me and said the actual words “Will Santa be visiting your house this Christmas?”. I couldn’t really believe my ears so I asked him to repeat it. He did, then got a bit impatient and said “Do you have kids??”. I said no, and he looked anywhere but at me, the embarrassment palpable. I just laughed it off with the poor women sitting in the middle of us and then said I was going if this was the level of smalltalk….
    I agree: lazy, insensitive and just downright cretinous to talk like that in a mixed group. Luckily, I’m more aghast about what a boring moron this man is, than upset.

      Author’s gravatar

      Oh, wow. There’s dense and then really DENSE! Wish Ireland and California were closer together. Sounds like we’d have lots of areas for discussion. So appreciate you and your blog! xo

    Author’s gravatar

    Doing very well, thank you for asking, Pamela. At age 61 now, I find that it really does get easier all the time. I think there are a variety of reasons. At post-menopause, there isn’t the hormonal urge to procreate and it’s nice to be on an even keel all the time. I’ve known more and more families over the years where the kids were a source of heartbreak, not joy. I’ve known women who fell apart when their kids went off to college or other post-high school endeavors. I’ve learned that there isn’t one path to happiness. I’ve learned resilience. I’m better at accepting disappointment and moving on to Plan B. For that matter, I’ve learned that most disappointments are minor and fleeting in the grand scheme of things.

    After years of looking at the perfect-appearing families and wishing I had what they had, now the tables have turned and there are people who envy me my freedom to do what I want when I want. I’m a year and a half from retirement and weighing my options and possibilities. And I have planned on the practical level for the inevitable time when I will need help with daily living and am grateful for having been able to make my own decisions about all of that. Fortunately, I’m in excellent health and that time, though inevitable, should be a long way off!

    Best wishes for the holiday season to all of us in the Silent Sorority. To those struggling with pain and triggers, I wish you moments of joy in between the hard times.

      Author’s gravatar

      So glad all is well in your world, Diane! I still remember with much fondness our meeting a few years back. Your warmth and promise of better things to come answered a deeply held craving xo

    Author’s gravatar

    Yeah, we’ve definitely got this! Resilience and preparedness EARNED.

    Great post, and especially this: “The question: do you have children? — asked by someone who is too lazy or too insensitive (hard to excuse in this day and age of infertility talk) to understand that the person on the receiving end may have once boxed up baby clothes and keepsakes for donation after learning their pregnancy or dreams of parenthood didn’t fully succeed. Do everyone a favor and wait for someone to volunteer any parenting status. If they are, you’ll know soon enough.”

    The do you have children question has been a long standing pet peeve of mine, but more so one’s inability to zip it and talk about something else when I answer “no”. Not being prepared for the simple direct answer of no renders asking rather ridiculous. Plus, since when do people with kids not talk about them?? An unnecessary question that calls forth so much pain. And for what?

    Ok, rant over. That felt good.

      Author’s gravatar

      Rant on, sister! Thanks for the blog post prompt. Look forward to our next conversation. Your voice and insights always lights up my day. Looking forward, too, to seeing you in person when I’m on the east coast next month — just weeks away! xo

    Author’s gravatar

    Oddly enough, I was triggered a few days ago by someone telling me that he and his wife planned to adopt. My husband and I battled infertility, took some treatments but declined IVF, then decided to move on child-free. I couldn’t tell you why, but something about that man telling me that they planned to adopt put me in a tail-spin for the rest of the evening. My husband and I don’t want to adopt, so why did I get so bent out of shape? Somehow it felt worse than any sonogram posted to Facebook, or the what feels like daily “When will you have kids?” question.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

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