Sometimes it takes getting pregnant to realize how many people around you are dealing with infertility. Suddenly, the floodgates open, and friends and acquaintances finally feel comfortable to share what they had to go through on the way to building their families.
One in eight couples in reproductive age suffer from infertility, yet when you go through this yourself, you sometimes feel all alone. One of the main reasons for that is that people simply don’t talk about this.
Why is it so hard to speak up about infertility? For me, it was first and foremost my zealous protection of my privacy – not only when it comes to infertility, but really in every aspect of life. I’m not a big sharer in the first place, and the struggle to conceive was especially hard to share. There’s something very intimate about the infertility journey, both because it has a lot to do with your sex life and reproductive systems, and because it’s a struggle that only you and your significant other can be fully privy to. We told our closest family members, but inviting other people into this process seemed wrong, and was in many ways against our nature.
There was also that nagging feeling that even if we shared, not much good would come out of it. Too often, it seemed like everyone around us was getting pregnant on their first try, and we felt that they just wouldn’t understand our struggles. We were fortunate to find strong support and encouragement from the online infertility community in the blogosphere and on social networks. Those new friends have been invaluable to us and we feel that we were, and still are, constantly helping and being helped by being active in this inspiring community. Yet in our immediate environments – in family gatherings, hanging out with friends, at work – none of this existed. We were quiet about our journey, as was everyone else. It seemed like no one was particularly eager to talk, and no one was particularly eager to listen. If as many as one in eight of our friends was fighting this battle, we were completely unaware of them.
And then there was fear. Infertility is an island of uncertainty. It’s hard to tell how long this will take, or what the ending will be. Some couples get pregnant on their first month on Clomid, others struggle for years. Some end up conceiving with their own eggs and sperm, while others find the answer in sperm donation, donated eggs or embryo adoption. Some turn to surrogacy and adoption, and other choose to live child-free. These are all processes that take time and involve many physical and mental challenges. Once you’ve shared your struggle with infertility, you can’t take it back. Questions will come up at times when you don’t want to hear them or are not prepared to discuss them. Friends with the best intentions will sometimes make uninformed suggestions and recommendations that will drive you up a wall. People will wonder – to your face and behind your back – why this is taking so long.
Being silent about infertility often seems like the best solution, and for many people it is. It’s a completely personal choice that only they can and should make. I chose to keep things to myself for a long time, and it felt like the right thing to do. But over time, new thoughts started sneaking in. I wanted to support others by telling my story and showing them that they are not alone. I wanted my experience to inform and help those who are at stages of the journey that I have already gone through. My way to do this was by starting this blog. When I did, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Sharing felt good. It felt right.
Now that I’m pregnant I tell my story not only to my online communities, and I hear many stories in return. I often suspect that those people who are eager to share their story with me now have been waiting to share it for a long time. They’re excited to finally find someone who they know will understand, someone they can open up to at last. Many of us are like that – we want to start talking, but making the first step is always the hardest. So before you make that step, know that you’re not alone. People with infertility are all around you, and like you, most of them haven’t taken their first step yet. But if you feel like you may want to, I recommend to take the plunge. Talk with someone you trust, post it on a social network, start a blog, open a pseudonym Twitter account and find the incredible community that’s active there. Find a first step that you feel comfortable with and take it. You’ll be surprised at what you might find once you do.
This post is part of a concerted effort of infertility bloggers around the web to share a simple message: you are not alone. We are spreading the word about National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and the infertility movement. To find out more, check out the following links:
Basic understanding of the disease of infertility
More about NIAW