This will be a short-ish post. Longer, more fun ones like Preggo in Paris will be coming up soon! But, my friend pointed out to me that this was Infertility Awareness Week, April 22-28th. So, I thought I would be remiss not to share a little about it here.
Resolve is the National Infertility Association which does education, support, research and more. They also were the organization that coordinated the support group I went to for pregnancy loss. They have had lots going on this week to raise awareness and “flip the script” on the infertility conversation…or lack thereof.
They have been using the hashtag #talkabouttrying to encourage people to be more open about their efforts, and maybe challenges, to conceive. There is so much shame, guilt, stigma around not being able to get pregnant, or carry a child to term, that so many women (and men) are afraid or embarrassed, or a variety of other feelings, to share it. And with so many people around us “seeming” like they are getting babies magical stork style, that is even more reinforcement not to talk about it.
I read this article on Today.com that really spoke to this message.
If this journey and this blog has taught me anything, it is that there are A LOT of women who are going through this silently, and often feeling very alone. I’ve gotten endless emails, messages, comments, texts, or even visits to my office to say I’m going through this right now, or I’ve been there, etc. And, some, even thanking me for being so open about my struggles because they’ve found comfort or at least camaraderie in going through this mess. But, I don’t think I should get credit for this. I think I just wrote what I wish I had to read myself. I want any woman going through this struggle, which is…NOT HER FAULT, to feel like she can be honest about it without shame or guilt.
I think part of the shame comes from well-meaning individuals who just say things they think are nice and helpful, but can make people hesitate in speaking up because they imply responsibility. Like “if you just relax, it will happen”, “just give it time”, “if you can reduce your stress”, “have you tried eating_______?”, “If you just pray”, “have you tried *insert any other unrequested advice*. While I know these suggestions and comments come from a good place (mostly) they also put the onus and responsibility on the woman to DO something or NOT DO something to fix her fertility problems. Which, just by nature, implies blame for the problems existing in the first place. When, in actuality, there are very healthy, fit, un-stressed people who have fertility issues all the time, and there are incredibly un-well folks who have babies all.the.damn.time. *Please see most of the shows on tv currently*
If you are having trouble getting pregnant both womanhood and manhood can be questioned. You even pick this up when someone does get pregnant with small comments to men like “Good job”, “You did it”, “high five bro”, “you successfully put dna into a vagina where it connected with an egg at the exact right time and implanted into a uterus”, etc. Think about what kind of message that sends to men and couples who are struggling. Is that guy doing a bad job? Is he not a real man? These small comments can leave a lasting impact inadvertently.
The hardest thing for me, and I think other women who deal with this, to come to terms with is that it is not our fault. It is not because of something we did or did not do. We are not dealing with this as some form of punishment for some past indiscretion. So comments that relate to our behavior and choices feel very blame-y, or imply it is within our control which feels awful. Cut it out. Please.
I think if women, in particular, but everyone in general was less judgmental in conversations, took more time to listen than plan responses, and avoid making comparisons when they don’t exist (i.e. my catsitter’s sister once…), women dealing with these struggles might be more willing to come forward. It’s hard to admit that the one thing your body is supposedly made to do is not working. It makes you question everything about your womanhood. And people’s responses really do make an impact on how you feel about it.
Also, no shade to the folks who get pregnant without issue and have uncomplicated pregnancies. That’s amazing. But, for something that has happened since the beginning of time (procreating), there is a vicious cycle of acting like everything is hunky dory. Pregnancy happens quickly and whenever you want it to, you’re nauseous and then everything else is great, you give birth and walk out hours later looking like Kate Middleton, acting like you’re not wearing a diaper filled with ice…I mean, seriously, did you see that? When that is seen as the gold standard, and anything else is less-than, it’s hard to feel brave enough to be honest. But, more women have some type of issues that arise, than not. In this social media world we live in, the lives we share online and in public are often the curated versions we’d like to share and not reality. And then that is how others compare themselves.
So, to all my sisters in the struggle, only share what you’re comfortable sharing, but know from experience that you’d be surprised how much of a supportive and understanding community you have out there. Your womanhood is not in question. So, if you’re feeling ballsy (pun intended) #talkabouttrying. It feels pretty good. ❤