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.