Sunday, September 09, 2007

How much is too much?

So, I went to the clothing sale this weekend. Did well, got lots of what I needed but not all (no snowsuit for Corinne, though I got a winter COAT and several Christmas dresses, and a new wardrobe for the winter). My sisters did great, and got a double stroller, play kitchen set, and all of the clothing they were both looking for. As usual, while working the sale, you tend to get paired up with another mom and you will spend the day chatting.

The mom I met yesterday was fairly nice, though she felt the need to roll her eyes when people would arrive at the check out and change their minds on an item, or be confused or whatever. Which I don't understand, cuz we're VOLUNTEERING so why do you care what they're doing? Just go with the flow. Anyway, we got to a lull at one point, as usual, and were left to work very slowly while chatting. We got around to my 3 and her 1 child. The normal questions for me, "how old, are you done, do you work, etc. etc." I then returned the questions and she started to go into great detail of her infertility issues for 10 years, their 7 plus miscarriages, her IVF that resulted in triplets that she lost at 12 weeks which almost killed her, their adoption of her son, now about 2 years old and the open adoption that they have with his birth mom.

So. My question to you all, is it just me, or was that verrrrry detailed information to share with a complete stranger? I mean, we weren't sitting on a park bench while our kids played. In THAT situation, I think introducing yourself and your history is important to a future friendship. But in a one-day working relationship? In a situation where she KNOWS for a fact that I won't ever see her again, until the next sale? Also, she began to cry when talking about the triplets, NATURALLY. Which I would have. I don't know that there's ever a time that I COULDN'T talk about the loss of even one child, let alone the numbers that she has lost, withOUT crying. Which is why I put down my piles of tags that I was adding and talked to her, without being distracted and rubbed her back (which sounds SO cheesy, but what else could I do? She was a STRANGER). I thought of all of the women online that I've met, and tried to picture them sitting next to me and to offer her the support that I'd like to give to my friends (you know who you are) but am unable to due to the limitations of the net. But it still comes down to, we were working, and I didn't want to cross any boundaries with her. While some women crave physical and emotional support, others get completely furious when people who haven't experienced their pain try to just listen and "help." (which is a ridiculous thought. As if I could help with that. I'm sure nothing could help but the return of her children.)I did the best I could, and I hope it helped, but I am left feeling out of sorts...

Anyway. Hope I didn't offend. I just felt completely taken aback at the level of information a person can give a stranger during what was supposed to be a quick introduction between customers.

Please feel free to offer any advice on what to do if I should encounter a woman with a similar experience.

15 comments:

Melissa said...

Some people are just very open. I think you handled the situation very well. I'm not sure what I would have done. I don't think there's any more you could have done. I guess you could have stopped her and told her she was making you uncomfortable... but... um... that seems a tad insensitive. So, you handled the situation very well in my opinion!
And I'm glad you got some good things! Hopefully you'll find a good deal on a snowsuit before winter gets here. :)

andria said...

Here's my take and I could be wrong, but, it sounds like the girl probably has no one else to lean on and maybe she did view you as a potential friend. I know when I was lonely and the mother of one, I talked to people in the check out line at the grocery store, although, none of those women were told about our reproductive issues. You did the right thing and she probably felt better unloading it.

painted maypole said...

although it does seem a bit inappropriate, sometimes emotions come out at inappropriate times. Maybe seeing all the other moms and children that day was making her sad, and it just all came bubbling out. She may have gone home and said to herself "gosh, I'm such an idiot" Or maybe she's an attention seeker. But I would choose to go with she just needed a listening ear, and it sounds to me like you did the best you could.

we are reilly said...

some women (and men, for that matter) have a hard time making friends -- I think she just felt really comfortable around you and she may have secretly wanting to become 'friends' with you and have a relationship with you, outside the sale.....

You did a good job of consoling her, but don't feel out of sorts --you were the person she needed at that moment.

Michelle said...

My first thought was maybe she was just really comfortable and at peace with her whole experience that she can talk freely about it to whomever, but then you said she was in tears so I guess that's not such the case. That does seem to be a bit of TMI to be sharing w/someone you just met and in that situation, but maybe she had been hurting for some reason and really needed someone to talk to. I probably wouldn't be able to share that much w/someone, but some people are more open I guess. I think you handled it well, what else could you do.

Tricia said...

I'd have to offer that sometimes when I meet someone and we are comparing family notes it is easier to just spill all, than wait for all the questions. It's a weird kind of...'I don't really know you so I'm just going to give you the nitty gritty because your probably going to ask anyway'.
And while those questions are all part of the conversation sometimes it seems invasive to be asked instead of offering. And, frankly our family is a story- not just run of the mill.

Life With All Boys said...

I have found myself giving off too much information a time or two. It's like once I start talking I just can't shut up....

Tonya said...

Sounds like you handled it ok. I think as women we tend to be more vocal about what is going on in our lives then we should sometimes :) I know I have been guilty of sharing too much! But I don't think I would of shared in that situation but who knows maybe it was the anniversary or something like that triggered her thoughts about her babies?!?!

Elle*Bee said...

I don't see how you could have handled it any differently.

Perhaps it's a by-product of our overly busy, and often overly technical lives - there seem to be fewer opportunities for actual face-to-face interaction. And let's face it, you were a "captive audience." I think you handled it well.

Kailani said...

On one hand, I personally wouldn't divulge that much info to someone I didn't know well and didn't have a whole lot of down time to talk about it. However, maybe she just needed someone to talk to.

Kailani
An Island Life

LaughterThoughts said...

she could obviously tell that she had someone willing to listen who seemed to care. there's definitely a lot of hurt in her life, and that's a big burden to carry... it was probably nice for her to be able to unload it for a while. talking through things helps with the healing process. while it was an information overload for you, you responded the right way. she just needed someone to listen. sometimes i get to talking, feel comfortable, and end up telling a whole lot more than i ever planned. just feel honored by it-- you know she felt comfortable and "safe" with you. :)

Ruby said...

You handled it well.

I think that it's easier to open up to someone you know you'll never see again (especially if you have NO ONE you can really talk to.)

I'm sure that just by lending an ear and shoulder you've done more for her than you'll ever know.

Your so thoughtful and understanding. She's quite fortunate to have had YOU as a volunteer-paired-up-mom.

Zerch said...

Wow. All I can say is that I just stumbled upon your blog just this second from a link on another blog, which I had also stumbled upon.

I have been dealing with infertility for about 4 years. Still no babies for me. We're now pursuing adoption. I have to tell you, I've never been so "open" with people (even complete strangers) my whole life. My only explanation for this woman (and myself) is that this infertility (call it what you want, IVF, Recurrent Miscarriages, inability to conceive) is the most difficult, life-sucking, relationship-shattering, stressful thing I've ever encountered. The loss. The feelings of failure. The disappointment. It's hard to come to terms with the whole idea of it and for some odd reason, it kind of helps to talk about it even though sometimes it's inappropriate. I think it just comes bursting out because for most women dealing with these issues, it's the only thing they can think of most days.

I would say that this woman considered you (if only for a moment) a shoulder to cry on, someone who might be able to give her just a little bit of comfort, or a little bit of understanding. I'm glad you handled it the way you did. I'm sure it seemed weird, but sometimes desperate people just have a need to feel better.

niobe said...

I know that when I lost my twins (one stillborn, the other dying shortly after birth), especially at the beginning, I would sometimes feel such an overwhelming grief that once or twice I poured my heart out to complete strangers. This was very unusual for me, because generally I'm a very private person.

But I couldn't talk to my family because, even a few weeks after the twins' death, they expected me to be "over it." I pulled away from many of my friends, partly because I felt jealousy that their children were alive, while mine were dead. But also my friends seemed uncomfortable around me, as though my misfortune was somehow contagious. They didn't know what to say to me, so they just stopped talking to me.

I say all this, because I can completely understand how someone could say things to a stranger that must have seemed overwhelming and strange. Sometimes all the people you're closest to are tired of you being sad all the time or scared of your grief. You really feel like you have nowhere to turn.

Tracey said...

Thank you ladies. I guess I can understand the draw to a stranger. I can talk more comfortably in front of a group of strangers than in front of a group of family, so I imagine that there are similarities to the feelings of "nothing to lose" when talking to a stranger.

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