Dear Miss Manners:
My husband and I found out two years ago that I am infertile. Since then, I have undergone several extremely painful diagnostic tests, as well as two very expensive and unsuccessful rounds of in-vitro fertilization treatment. One of these ended in a rare type of miscarriage, eventually resulting in my having to go to the emergency room, in danger of bleeding to death.
I also felt compelled to leave my previous job after my supervisor threatened to fire me for taking two days off to recover from the miscarriage. So, to put it mildly, my husband and I have been through the infertility wringer.
In the first year or so after I was diagnosed, I was still happy to receive friends' and relatives' announcements of their pregnancies and the births of their children, as well as baby shower invitations, etc. However, as our finances have been steadily depleted and our hopes of ever having a child even more so, it has become increasingly difficult for me to react with anything other than extreme sorrow and depression to others' "baby news," even though, on another level, I am genuinely happy for them.
I know from reading comments on the Internet of other women who are infertile that I am far from alone in reacting this way to such announcements. I realize I can hardly avoid every pregnant woman or young child, nor do I want to -- at least not in the long term. However, in the short term, I am still grieving and having great difficulty coming to terms with my situation.
I am wondering, therefore, if it would be rude to send an e-mail to several friends and relatives who I know are pregnant or who have recently given birth, politely asking them to please refrain from sending my husband and me birth announcements, Christmas cards containing pictures of their cherubic toddlers, etc. (We certainly do not expect anyone to go out of their way to buy or make us a separate card -- if they just leave us off their lists, that is fine by us.)
While I believe these good friends and close family would probably be understanding, I am still afraid to cause offense to people. Would such a request be inappropriate?
With the greatest of sympathy for you, Miss Manners cannot condone your telling people that their happiness upsets you. Fortunate people have feelings, too, and it would be dreadful to insinuate that their children constitute some sort of affront to you.
In the long run, as you know, you cannot avoid the fact that people you know will propagate. What you can do now is to get someone to censor your regular and electronic mail so that you will know who has sent you cards or greetings without having to see pictures that upset you.
Dear Miss Manners:
I have a casual friendship with a man I meet in the park. My problem is that every time the man and I part, he leaves with the saying "God bless." That's all, not "Nice seeing you" or "Have a nice day." How am I supposed to reply to "God bless?"
"Goodbye." It means the same thing.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c) 2004, Judith Martin