I think I've been rather fortunate since my diagnosis with infertility almost five years ago in that most of my family members and friends have been understanding and compassionate re: our situation. Sure, there have been falling outs here and there. As I always say: tough times teach you who truly cares. But, in general, we've received a great deal of support from outsiders who haven't dealt with the physical and emotional ramifications of this disease.
However, I know that some of you haven't been as lucky. Even I know what it's like to lose someone you love because they don't understand what you are going through or how to help. Somewhere along the way, the lines of communication become blurred. It's almost like a game of telephone. You say one thing and by the time it gets to the end, your words have been twisted and turned to the point where you don't even recognize them.
For the most part, I think we (as a community) are making wonderful progress in helping outsiders understand the basics of this disease. We spread awareness on everything from who suffers to how it's treated. I even think that we are making progress in helping to open those lines of communication -- in teaching others how, and why, to be sensitive about certain topics related to pregnancy, child rearing, etc. Yet, I still hear stories of misconception when it comes to us. The people. The "infertiles." I thought I would take a moment to examine a few of these big misconceptions that I've heard recently:
Myth: Infertiles hate fertiles.
Fact: Those who suffer from infertility don't hate people who don't suffer from infertility. Not by a long shot. I think almost all of us would agree that we don't wish this disease on anyone. I'm happy that a large majority of couples can conceive on their own and I hope that this number increases. I DREAM of a world where infertility doesn't exist anymore. Is it difficult for those who suffer from infertility to be around women who get pregnant easily? Occasionally. Do we envy you sometimes? Absolutely. We would love to be able to experience the miracle of pregnancy in an easier fashion (or at all, in some cases). However, it doesn't mean we hate you. I think I can speak for everyone in the ALI community when I say that nothing we say or do is ever intended to be a personal attack against those who can have children without medical intervention.
Myth: Infertiles don't want to be around kids.
Fact: While seeing children can be a reminder of what we don't have (yet), I don't think I've ever heard an IF sufferer say that he or she doesn't want to be around children. We love kids, clearly, or else we wouldn't be trying so damn hard to have them. But, sometimes, we have emotional days -- as every individual is entitled. Maybe it's the anniversary of our miscarriage or that failed IVF cycle. Maybe we've just had an adoption fall through or another couple has been chosen over us by a birth parent. So, we decline an invitation to spend time with your kids or to attend an event where children may be present. It has nothing to do with you or with your children. It has everything to do with self preservation and protecting ourselves from unnecessary stress and/or emotional trauma. We love you, we love your kids, and we want to be the best version of ourselves when we spend time with you. Sometimes that means taking a day for us. (And surely this applies to so many areas of life outside of infertility.)
Myth: Infertiles will never feel happy or fulfilled unless they have kids.
Fact: I promise, we aren't all bitter, angry hags. We don't sit at home all day, blinds shut, angry at the world. We're all productive members of society. We all enjoy various hobbies and activities. We do like spending time with friends. And yes, many of us enjoy talking about infertility. Talking about my disease doesn't mean that I'm not happy or fulfilled -- and it didn't mean that before I had my child, either. I like talking about it because it makes me feel in control. Speaking about my disease makes me feel empowered. Making friends with others who've had similar experiences is also enjoyable. It's a reminder that I'm not alone, and it's a chance for us all to make a difference in the way infertility is both treated and perceived. It doesn't mean I'm not happy. It just means I'm channeling something bad into an activity that DOES make me happy, which is advocating.
Perhaps this is the next wave of advocacy and raising awareness. Maybe we start to move away from the hard facts and begin moving toward the personal stories. Maybe we focus on making those individual connections that have, for so long, been kept apart. And maybe we begin trying to repair those frayed telephone lines in an effort to understand each other more clearly.