Why I’m Talking about Infertility Now
In honour of Canadian Infertility Awareness Week I’m posting personal stories and photos from our struggle with infertility and ultimately conceiving through IVF. I like to think these stories are “from the vault” because I never thought I would share them. But you know what? They need to be shared because this is something that we shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about.
I’ll be blogging about our story all week and I hope it will give you the courage to break your own silence – you are not alone! Did you know that 1 in 6 Canadian couples face a fertility issue? It is so much more common than most people realize and the sad part is many don’t talk about it when they need support the most. So I’m talking and I hope you will too. Feel free to send me a message at email@example.com
We didn’t tell anyone when we started trying to get pregnant. I mean, it’s kind of like putting a sign on the front lawn that says “we’re having lots of unprotected sex” which is just awkward. For many couples it “works” after just a few months of trying and they can share the happy news. But what happens when you try for a few months, then a few more, and a few more after that. When months turn into years and you wonder if maybe, just maybe something is wrong?
For me, it was hard to bring up the subject with people. Those who would ask “So, when are you having kids?” or say “It’ll be your turn soon!” were usually not the ones I wanted to open up to anyway, and family members seemingly had no expectations which made it difficult to bring up that we were struggling with something they didn’t even know was happening. So I didn’t talk about it until things were getting serious with specialist appointments and treatments.
They tried to understand
For years we kept it a secret. It was the biggest secret in my life, one I couldn’t bear to let anyone even catch a hint of what we were going through. I told maybe 1 or 2 very close friends and my parents – that was it. I think some of the friends that I told just couldn’t relate because their stories were so much different, they were the “pregnant on the first try” people. They gave their sympathy, listened, and said all the right things – but there’s something about infertility that only someone who’s gone through it can understand – they just get it.
There’s something about keeping a secret to protect yourself that actually makes it worse. I didn’t tell anyone because I was embarrassed and ashamed. Society stigmatizes infertility – even more for men – because it’s intricately tied to how much of a man or woman you are. For years I was proud of my “child-birthing hips”, but little did I know it would be hard to even conceive a child to birth! For men, they are made to feel like they aren’t good enough if they can’t get a woman pregnant, like they are lacking something that makes them a man. Which is so completely wrong.
The elephant in the room
The more I kept quiet, the more paranoid I became that people would find out. Each time an acquaintance would ask “So, do you have kids?” and I’d answer with “Not yet, but we’d like to” I thought they were on to me. When another wedding anniversary passed with still no pregnancy announcement I thought they were on to me. When I saw a friend at the store while buying baby yarn to knit yet another blanket for my future child I thought they were on to me.
A medical condition
So why was I afraid to talk about infertility? After all, it’s a medical condition – like diabetes, cancer, anxiety disorder, or hair loss. You don’t do anything to “catch” infertility, it just happens. Often its a genetic condition or something you’ve had since birth so it certainly wasn’t brought on by anything you did. I was embarrassed and I didn’t need to be.
When I needed help the most, I couldn’t have it because I was too afraid to tell anyone what I was going through. Yes, I went to a support group at our clinic and posted in endless anonymous online forums, but it wasn’t enough. So last year during Canadian Infertility Awareness Week and 6 months after giving birth to Rowan I finally went “Facebook official” and posted about it. What followed was an incredible outpouring of support and stories from friends who messaged me to talk about their own struggles. They told me about their miscarriages, years of trying, IUI, IVF, and loss – I heard it all. About the loneliness, the isolation, the embarrassment, tears and heartbreak. The stories I so desperately needed to hear when I was in the middle of it myself.
It’s my turn now
So I made a promise to myself that I would no longer be silent about our story. Since last year I’ve been pretty open, saying that we went through IVF but never really put it all out there. It’s been healing for me to talk about it openly now and I know it’s helped others too. Not everyone is at a place where they want to share their story and that’s okay. I don’t judge you for keeping quiet, I just know that I can’t do it anymore. If I make a difference for just one person by sharing my story it will be worth it. I sure wish I had someone to talk to back then and fortunately since sharing our struggles, I now know of several friends who can relate.
We are starting IVF again later this month and I plan to share that too. Stay tuned because my story isn’t over yet!
Have you been affected by infertility or know someone who has? Are you open about your struggles and how has that affected you? Tell me in the comments below!