Why Do We Whisper?

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Sshh … keeping quiet is cool.The restaurant evoked images of what I suspect Tuscany feels like. The sunlight splashed across the tables at midday and the diners on this particular Friday in late summer were lively and noisy — except for moments at a stretch at the table where I sat with a fellow infertile.

Not only did she experience infertility hell she wrote her dissertation on “the loss of fertility in the child bearing years” at UC-Berkeley in the 1990s. She’s since become a transpersonal psychologist. (Go ahead check out the link. I didn’t know what that speciality was either).

She’s all that and a bag of chips — funny, smart and a true model for the kind of “at peace” infertile I hope to become. She came my way after reading about me in the New York Times, which by the way has become something of a defining moment in my life. It’s one thing to be one of a thousand or more mostly anonymous bloggers lighting up the Internet writing about not being able to conceive, it’s quite another — if I do say so myself — to announce it to the world. Talk about owning the state of my busted uterus. Anyone who g.oogles me gets the news front and center. Pamela is infertile and she works in marketing and she hangs out with Silicon Valley types who devise robot cars among other things. (Whoa. Did you see that she’s infertile?) I can’t help but wonder if and how that knowledge has changed people’s perspective of me.

Okay so back to lunch. We started out cheerfully comparing notes about how we spent our summer vacations, offered up our latest take on the very competitive U.S. presidential contest and swapped titles on favorite books we’d read — or in our respective cases — were writing. That’s when our volume dipped to nearly a whisper.

Here we were two women who hadn’t exactly made a secret about our infertility and we’re suddenly all but making hand puppets to discuss the topic. She was astute enough to call it out. She dropped her fork and said in a normal voice again, “Did you notice that? We both dropped our voices the minute we started talking about infertility.”

I looked around the restaurant in wonder. There to my left was a table of women talking at full volume about their children.  My lunch companion mused further about our behavior. “Why do we do that? Are we protecting ourselves or the people around us?”

It led us back the title I’ve chosen for my book: Silent Sorority.  She had read the manuscript and was offering impressions. She found herself reading the title as silenced sorority as though society had taken away our voices. It gave me still more to think about.

It’s complex question isn’t it? Do you remain silent about infertility (even after having become a mother?) If so, why?