Opening up about my infertility was the best thing I ever did. The shame was suddenly gone. Instead of the annoying and frustrating questions and suggestions about why or when, I started receiving little nods of encouragement, hugs, and suddenly, privacy! Suddenly, asking came with an apology or an embarrassed backpedaling, ("I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't ask"), when it came at all.
Others started sharing with me their own struggles. It has been therapeutic to realize I am not the only one going through this, although it can be very isolating at times and it often feels that way. I have been made aware that there are many around me dealing with similar issues, struggles they too have faced in silence or alone, of which I was unaware. I have friends who worry as they race the biological clock to find a spouse, wondering if it will be too late to have children. Others have undergone rounds and rounds of fertility treatments without success and can't emotionally or financially afford to continue. Some have children of their own but hurt for the desire to have more, only to feel misunderstood and alone as many people assume they should be happy with the children they already have. Still others have lost children during pregnancy, and many have lost children after birth.
Even those going through similar challenges don't quite understand my experience. And I don't quiet understand theirs. But after sharing, instead of feeling alone, I feel supported by a large group of people (including those with and without fertility issues) who finally get it. They are rooting for me. They may be feeling sorry for me. But at least they (somewhat) understand now.
* * *
I have also received a lot of compliments about my bravery for sharing; my courage for facing this trial.
Am I courageous?
I don't know. I kind of feel like I am just living. The same way people would ask how I do it in regard to my job, my response is the same, you just do. What other choice do you have?
Does talking about it make me brave?
I almost feel like not talking about it was harder for me (I do have a tendency to overshare). But realizing I have put it all out there online has given me moments of nervousness, usually right after posting and wondering if I said something wrong or inaccurate or just plain dumb...so maybe?
Does going through it make me brave?
There are plenty of others as I said before struggling along with me. I don't think I am any braver; but I did decide long ago, even before trying for children, that I would not let me infertility define me. I've been lucky so far.
Hello, my name is Erin. I am a happy wife, surgeon, daughter, sister, and friend. Oh, and I can't seem to have children...yet.
So yup, I am pretty great (can you sense my half sarcastic smile here?)! I appreciate the kind comments from people telling me I am ( I know, I know, I would make a great mother one day).
But, I was also given a painful wake-up call by someone close to me when she informed me that during her own battle with infertility I was less than supportive to her.
I was surprised and sad that she felt I was not there for her when she needed me most.
After I stopped feeling sad and like the huge hypocrite I try desperately not to be, I gave myself a break: I now see that without experiencing infertility for myself at that time, I had no context to be a support. I just plain didn't know what to do or say. Ironically, I even thought I was being helpful and supportive -- giving what I thought was helpful advice and encouraging statements.
This is an important reminder when I think on comments I have received from those around me who are trying their best to be supportive and understand. Just as I laugh out loud at the sheer amazingness that people *accidentally* get pregnant, I am sure the inability to conceive is equally as difficult to imagine for them.
With that context, I thought I would share a little more about ways you can be supportive as you search for words to encourage your infertile friends...Surely, you have them as about 10% of couples struggle with this, and unfortunately, often in secret. If they decide to open up, I have some thoughts on some ways you can respond.
But there is a catch. You'll have to wait because I really should be in bed!