Recently this article was posted for National Infertility Awareness Week. I found it insightful and helpful.
Infertility is such an interesting concept when you really think about it. It has a major impact on the lives of so many (some stats say 1 in 8 couples, while others say 1 in 6 couples), and yet the topic remains taboo in a lot of ways. If you’re not struggling with it, you don’t have to acknowledge it, and that only serves to isolate those who are.
When you’re sick, people rally around you and your family. Support is offered in many ways. Rarely does anyone judge you for your illness. And people tend to understand it, at least on the surface. There are intricacies in infertility that most people cannot understand, and sadly, human nature makes people afraid of that which they don’t know.
It’s so strange to feel judgement for something you did not cause, and do not wish on your worst enemy. To hear that tone about something that has robbed part of your life and left you a broken shell of your former self. It just doesn’t seem to be understood by the general population as being as overwhelming as it is. People think it’s small, because it won’t directly kill you, it can’t be that terrible. Like it’s simply a take it or leave it scenario. No one ever told a terminally ill person that they were trying too hard, that it was time to get past it, that everything happens for a reason. You don’t look at someone suffering in the eye and pseudo blame them for their situation because they want something too bad.
However, with infertility, it’s almost all that.
Sure, there are increasingly more people who understand what it is, what it means, how it can impact you. There is just so much of the opposite as well. So many fertile people telling those struggling to just relax, asking if they’ve tried this that or the other, wondering why they cannot be content with the life they currently lead. You hear comments about how hard parenthood is, as if that’s a consolation for your empty womb. And believe me when I say NO ONE has ever wanted a beer badly enough to trade their ability to get pregnant for a free pass to enjoy patio beers, no matter what you think.
Infertility is doubly cruel in how it strikes. Most people don’t know in advance of trying to have a baby that they cannot. So you’re already deeply entrenched in the idea, clocks are ticking, friends are growing and glowing, and you’re ready to jump on the baby train. Only, you don’t get a ticket. Not only did you not get a ticket, but if you want to arrive at the same destination as your friends who are napping in the club car, you have to run, jump, leap, fall, bleed, cry, navigate, beg and pay for a CHANCE to get there. The journey changes your life, it changes your relationships, it changes who you are. And everyone else simply gets to arrive.
I’m not saying pregnancy and parenthood is easy, but it’s a completely different struggle. When you’re infertile you spend just as much time desperately trying to become a parent as you do petrified of the idea. Most people get pregnant with relative ease, and THEN they get to panic about what having a baby really means. Infertile people get to struggle to get pregnant, all the while wondering if there is some greater cosmic reason they can’t, and perpetually trying to talk themselves out of it because maybe life really is easier the way it is. You don’t get to enjoy the process of trying to start or build a family and THEN worry about what it means, because you have time to do it all together.
Time is another frightening concept to those suffering infertility. It passes quickly, but you’re always waiting. You live your life in 2 week increments, each one causing you more stress. You want to get to the next step, but that brings you rapidly toward the later years in life when things get even harder. Time builds long gaps between your friend’s kids and yours; it builds long gaps between siblings. It ages you, just as the struggle does and with every tick of the clock, you’re reminded of your failures.
I don’t know if you can ever get past the struggles either. In talking to people who have either succeeded in building their families or simply moved into a new reality, it seems it never goes away. There is always that part of you that mourns the loss of simply getting pregnant.
Infertility is many things. It’s unfair, it’s difficult, it’s stigmatizing and it’s lonely, it’s more than there are words. So take a moment this week to think about the people you know who are suffering, probably silently, with it. And with 1 in 8 odds, you can be sure you know someone.