Thursday, September 23, 2010

why we should share (part 2)

It’s a sticky subject: to tell or not to tell. But this is the battle every infertile couple must face at some point in their journey, and it’s something I thought about a lot this week since my experience at the conference.

Believe me when I say that I understand the fears involved with coming out of the infertility closet. Some of you mentioned them yesterday in your comments. Joey and I made the decision to tell after our initial diagnosis in February 2009. Or, I guess I should say that I made the decision to tell, not Joey. He was less enthusiastic about sharing the details of our current and future struggle to our friends and family members. Looking back, it makes sense. It was (and is) like opening the door to your bedroom - a place that is supposed to be private and intimate - and letting everyone you know inside.

To me, letting people into my bedroom was easier than building a bulletproof door. Realistically, I knew it could take months or even years for us to resolve our infertility, and I didn’t want to spend that time in hiding. I’m a horrible liar, and if I didn’t tell people the truth about what was going on, I knew it would only make things worse. As our marriage went on, our friends and family members would continue to (or be more likely to) ask us questions about having children. Telling them what was going on from the beginning would more than likely curb those curiosities.

It did, but it didn’t stop the stupid comments from some, and it didn’t stop others from avoiding me like the plague and refusing to speak to me altogether. I’ve blogged numerous times about the hurtful comments I’ve received, some from very close friends and family, and I will never forget those words. More than that, I’ll never forget the SILENCE of some. I think situations where people refuse(d) to speak to me about what we go through hurt more than the inconsiderate, unintelligent comments. But I do forgive, because people don’t know better. And people don’t know better because infertility is not talked about.

Sharing is not only about turning other infertile couples on to professional resources. Sharing also involves sharing yourself and your story. I’m not saying it’s easy. None of this is easy. It can be incredibly painful to repeat the details (or even the vague summary) of your personal reproductive story. Do I enjoy telling people I can’t conceive? No. It’s not fun for me to talk about how many IUIs have failed, how difficult it is for me to get out of bed every morning, or how I’ve had complete emotional breakdowns just walking past the baby aisle in a grocery store.

But telling others about infertility helps the people who are going through it. It also helps to set the record straight. I want people to know that the reason my husband and I can’t get pregnant is NOT because we don’t relax. Trust me: I have at least one glass of wine a night, take bubble baths, go out to dinner, and plan more vacations (even just weekend getaways) than most of my girlfriends. This has nothing to do with relaxation. It has everything to do with biology. Infertility is a physical disease that brings with it mental and emotional heartbreak.

So I talk. I talk to the point where I’m sure some people would like to tell me to shut the fuck up. But I talk in hopes that I stop the rumors and the misinformation. I talk in hopes that someone is listening and, whether they say so privately or publicly, and will admit they have trouble too. I talk because I want that person who tells his or her child or friend to “relax” that he or she is wrong. I know what I’m going through right now, what I have been through, and what I will continue to go through until my infertility is resolved. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the same thing.

Two days ago, I went out to lunch with a group of coworkers. A woman in the group spent 20 minutes talking about how badly she wanted grandchildren and how she kept asking her son and daughter-in-law, “What are you waiting for?” Another woman jumped in and said something about how women can have babies now at older ages - fertility doesn’t end when you’re 40. This is what we have to stop, and what we can stop. If we stop the silence, we can stop the rumors. If we stop the silence, maybe we can make the people around us more empathetic to our journeys. If we stop the silence, maybe we can make the pain for one couple just a little bit more bearable.

You might be asking yourself about that husband, who at the beginning felt uncomfortable sharing our story? Now, I barely recognize the man. He’s the first to tell me not to attend a baby shower, or tell me not to attend a function if I don’t feel up for it. He fights me for speaking time at our Resolve support group meetings. And when people ask him if we have children, he says, “No. We’ve had problems trying to have kids.” He is an advocate for me, just as much as I am an advocate for him.

Let’s be advocates. Let’s no longer assume that people know about infertility. Let’s put an end to the Kate Gosselin and OctoMom stereotypes. Let’s come out of the infertility closet. And let’s stick up for ourselves and each other.

33 comments:

CalmlyChaotic said...

Great post Katie! We struggled when we were first diagnosed as my husband didn't want to tell people but I too am a bad liar and when something is up with me, you can tell. It took a couple of months but he is now very supportive of telling people and does tell people on his own. We both kind of feel ticked off in that more people don't talk about it. It makes you feel so alone at the beginning. I think it's great that you do talk about it - the more people who do, the better!

Rebecca said...

Marvelous and inspiring.

I still have a hard time coming out to people but I'm starting to get better. I at least am able to "reinform" people who say idiotic things about fertility...

Courtney said...

Wow, I could have written this very same entry myself! I have always been really open about what we're going through. I remember being so desperate to find just one person that could finally say back to me "I know exactly what you're going through." Before I was open about IF no one knew how badly I was hurting. I was amazed at the love and support I've been shown.

S said...

Good post.

I will say, since more and more time has passed that I have been infertile, I have felt more of a responsibility to set people straight when they say dumb things like "She should just relax."

A couple of examples: some friends in their early 30s have told me that they are waiting to TTC because they have "plenty of time." While not trying to dissuade them from their plans, I shared that I had thought the same thing and found out, painfully, that it wasn't true.

Also, a friend and his wife had been married for many years and had no children. My father snidely said he thought it was because the wife "doesn't want to ruin her figure." I gently suggested that he consider the possibility that they couldn't conceive. And guess what? I was right.

Stephanie said...

Oh Katie you are so powerful. Bringing tears to my eyes on my lunchbreak! I agree 110% - its so important to share and I feel so blessed to have been curious enough to find the amazing blogging community of IFers. Its a long road, but hopefully one day there won't be so much ignorance

kayee said...

I have always been open about our IF struggle. I'm not ashamed about it. It's not my fault. But the main reason I talk about it, is because when I starting going thru it I had no one to talk to. No one talked about their m/c or the fertility treatments. So I swore I wouldn't do that to my friends. And in fact because of my talking about it, when a friend had an ectopic, she called me for support because she knew I went thru one. I was able to help her and make her feel not so alone. When we started this IVF process I first said "let's not tell anyone" but that has not turned out that way. We have a lot of caring family and friends and I am going to need them if this doesn't work. Why should we go through the pain of month after month without support. Great post Katie!

Glass Case of Emotion said...

Great post Katie! You hit the nail on the head.

Josey said...

Powerful post Katie! My husband was the same way, but now he's finally asking me if he can tell his buddies - go for it! There's only so many times you can handle the "why don't you have kids yet?" comment.

I'm switching jobs next month and seriously considering being very open in the future about our IF (which wasn't possible at my current job). It's liberating just to think about!

Conceptionally Challenged said...

I'm in the "bad liar" camp too. Everyone that knows me a little bit knows how much I want kids. And I would like to help remove the stigma associated with IF. Not that it's easy, but most people actually have been supportive. I'm quite shocked that people stopped talking to you -- why? Did they think it was contagious? That's outrageous.
You are amazing and inspiring, Katie.

Crossed Fingers said...

These posts have been amazing and a great way to push us forward to talk about it. Why should it be so hush hush? It shouldn't!

omginindy said...

Thank you for explaining your situation and informing me and I'm sure many others the real issues. I appreciate the honesty and openness of your blog.

suchagoodegg said...

Another awesome post. I'm not looking forward to sharing, but I know it's going to come out a lot if we are lucky enough to get to the pt that we can tell people we're pregnant. With twins, I think most people assume you had fertility treatments anyways. It is hard (for me) to discuss something so extremely private. But all of your thoughts are so very true...it's about standing up for ourselves, for each other, and for the women we don't even know. xo

Shannon Mac said...

I think you're right on -- the more ALL of us share about our lives, the more informed (and less ignorant) we all are. Which, obviously, is wonderful. I, for one, have learned many things from being your friend. So thank you for not being a keep-it-in-the-closet weirdo. Wait, there are no weirdos, just things "we" don't talk about. Loud and proud :)

someday-soon said...

I 100% agree with you! I am not a very private person and talked to friends and family from the beginning of IF. I tried to educate them on what to say and what NOT to say. You would be amazed at how many friendships I've made with others who also suffered IF but now have kids...I would have never known if I wouldn't have been so open with my story. For me it was a kind of therapy too. I love that you are out there advocating for yourself, your DH and all the other IFers in the world!

Another Dreamer said...

What a great post. I've always been open about what we're going through, and have had comments despite... but I just keep trying to educate and educate.

Kakunaa said...

My husband and I were out right away. I am one of those open book people, and while some people felt uncomfortable with the sharing, I have met others who were going through similar things, who didn't know where to get information. So it was a good thing. I totally agree that silence is NOT always golden.

AplusB said...

Katie - You are amazing! I really admire you. I was not able to be open about our struggles with most people, but it's something I'm working on. Sadly, it's gotten easier now that I am pregnant. Plus, with twins, people flat out ask if we did IVF. It's such a cop-out that only now am I telling some of our closest friends about what it took for us to get pregnant. But no one seems terribly surprised, so I wish I had just been more open from the start. I guess now all I can do is continue to share and hope to be a support to others who need it.
You are a role model to all of us!

Basic Girl said...

I too didn't share our story with most people until after we got pregnant, and I must say it felt so good to finally come out with everything we'd been going through. It definitely makes me wonder why I couldn't have been more forward with it before as well, but this post is such a great reminder of why its important to share our stories! Such a great post!!!

Kelly said...

You know, I get what you're saying but I just can't do it. I dread that moment in my classroom when a kid somehow knows and makes a smart ass comment. And then, my integrity will go down the drain because I'll lose it. It sounds like an excuse, but for that reason, I jsut can't. I'm sorry. :(

Kim said...

Amen to that Sister! I love you!

Dawn said...

I think I'm in the middle of out and in. I will tell most people that we had difficulty conceiving. I also will set the record strait when I hear people talking about how women can still get pregnant "in their 40s." But I'm not 100% out. My husband's family has no idea. That was his decision and I'm okay with that.

waiting and wishing said...

That was a great and powerful post! I however, am still in the infertility closet. We are two years in and only a handful of people actually know what we are going through and I'm sure plenty more are guessing at it.
You are a brave, brave woman!

JL said...

Great post! Truly inspiring.

I'm not completely out IRL yet but we're getting there. I must admit, I hate that we don't only have to deal with infertility, but have to educate the world about it at the same time.

Some days, I get so worn down by my own issues that the last thing I want to do is try to break down untruths and inaccuracies about this whole mindf**k.

You're strong for being so open and being such a great resource so in the future, maybe the stupid questions we deal with just won't be asked anymore.

Carli said...

Katie, I loved this 2 part post. I have always been one that has been open about our battle with infertility as well because - like you - it was easier for me than trying to hide it.

I applaud everything you said and even teared up at some of your personal moments.

Thank you.

Augusta said...

What a great post, Katie! I so appreciate your stance on the matter. We don't help our cause if we remain silent about it. The fact that you and your husband are "out" makes me feel inspired.

I have had such a hard time sharing with others our struggles with infertility. I often want to, but for a long time, I just felt like I would become a soggy mess of tears each time I had to say the words. I can say it more easily now. I've told 2 people this week and I am trying to come out of the closet.

Egghunt wrote about pain this week and it made me thing about how we feel our pain is disenfranchised. We can't own it because we can't publicly be recognize for what ails and breaks us. I think that, as you suggest, if we 'come out', we stand a better chance of a) increasing public awareness, and b) feeling more entitled to our pain because it is publicly acknowledge.

Thanks for your blog. I like reading your thoughts.
Augusta

Secret Sloper said...

Katie, another wonderful post. I admire your advocacy so much. I need to have the space of silence in my own life right now--I need it as we start this process--but I hope one day I can speak as openly and unapologetically as you do.

Amanda said...

I saw that you posted on "Sew's" post.
I commented too. I just felt like I had to say something.
I am still fuming over all of those nasty comments and the judgment they have placed on fertility treatments.

S.I.F. said...

I can't even imagine keeping quiet about my infertility. It would have meant never finding this world here and knowing of so many others who were going through the same thinking. Keeping in the closet would have been the most lonely thing I've ever done. Coming out of it was the only thing that helped me to find the support I so needed!

stacie said...

This is wonderful and all so true. I've been very open with friends & family for quite awhile now and I feel that I'm making at least a tiny bit of difference - in that people who were completely ignorant of IF now have some idea of what some people have to go through.

Kandid Kelli said...

This is beautifully written... & very powerful

WOW.

xo
-K

Negative Nelly said...

I totally needed this insight right now in my life! Thanks for posting this. I'm an oversharer by nature and due to the hush-hush about fertility...not so easy.

" More than that, I’ll never forget the SILENCE of some."

Last night, car, my mom. I hate the silence more than the stupid comments. And I've had some doozy dumb comments.

Jess said...

Amen!!! Well put! You are so right that we need to be our own advocates. There are so many stereotypes out there and so much misleading information that we need to stick up for the truth and what we really are experiencing.

Willow said...

You are strong and amazing and I love that you are so willing to help others through sharing your experience. I have gotten more and more comfortable with this over the years, and lately have used my status as an adoptive mom in a room full of fertiles at my moms' group to force them to realize that it isn't so easy for everyone and that an otherwise healthy 30-year-old is perfectly capable of being totally infertile. I talk a lot about how long we've been trying, and have learned that some of the other women struggled with infertility despite my assumptions that everyone there but me had it easy. It's a small forum, but I do feel like I'm raising awareness and opening dialogues. For a long time, I worried about being the token infertile friend, but now I now that it's an important role to fill in terms of offering support and educating others about the reality of our fertility. Good for you for figuring it out much sooner than I did ;)