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?

44 comments

  • CS

    Oddly enough I never lowered my voice about being infertile. I still don’t even now as the mother of 3. It was and is a very important part of my life. I could only imagine that if I had been quiet and not shared my story with everyone I met or even strangers. My fear was that there might be an opportunity to not only educate people but also I never knew who might have a piece of the puzzle that I needed. I am a strong believer in putting things out there for others to think about. Truthfully, had I not let it be known that we were pursuing adoption, our first son would not have come to us. It was only because of my big mouth and quest to become a mother any way I could, that we found him as it was not through “standard” channels.

    Infertility never goes away completely. I can’t explain it. I should have been “over it” by the time I became a mom for the third time. But, I can tell you every time I read anything about a woman or couple struggling, the flashbacks are here and I can empathize more than I wish I could.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      Thank you for speaking up and out. Your ability to talk freely about your experience no doubt has helped immeasurably. Loved your analogy about the missing puzzle piece. That’s a great image for describing how I felt for a very long time.

  • how cool that you met another woman warrior!

    I wondered at the time if you fully realized the magnitude of that act, coming out to the world. so powerful. you are such an inspiration.

    it’s an interesting question whether we whisper to protect ourselves or others. I think I’ve done both.

    there are times when I don’t want to feel vulnerable and exposed and unleash this very intimate aspect of my life to just anyone and I hold it close. but more often there have been times when I am quiet because I am made to feel as if it is just not appropriate to throw my infertility and loss into the conversation, as usually it’s in the context of other people’s children. (I feel this more with my loss though.) it’s like I feel responsible for not making others uncomfortable about my personal plight. because I have seen it happen over and over and it is quite unpleasant for me too.

    I do talk about it, though mainly in 1:1 settings. perhaps most often I find myself telling a cautionary tale when the issue arises — e.g., don’t wait too long, get checked early, don’t take it for granted, etc. or I am asked about it now that we are pursuing adoption and happy to tell the tale. I know I’ve put several women on notice who just assumed it would always be a choice…

    excellent post. so glad to have you back!

  • CM

    Although I’m VERY outspoken about my infertility, I think the sort of silence to which you referred could simply be attributed to our tendency to speak softly about medical problems. Is it just a matter of etiquette, in this sense, at least? Most people wouldn’t talk loudly about their digestive ailments or gout, so when it comes to the REAL nitty-gritty of our (counter)reproductive organs, it’s just natural to tone it down a notch.

    But maybe there’s a deeper and more personal source of the whispering? I know we’ve all felt immense guilt when we hear about a woman/man/family whose problems are much worse than ours. We read about abject poverty, marriages falling apart, spouses being stricken with deadly diseases, and so on, and we feel selfish for having so much trouble dealing with our fertility struggles. How dare we feel sad when we have a great husband and a lovely home! AND, if you can throw a rewarding career in there, then for heaven’s sake, what are we complaining about?! There’s an ominous sense that someone might overhear our complaints, our emotions, our dissatisfaction…and tell us we either A) have a lot of nerve, or B) don’t know how lucky we truly are. And who among us wants to hear that from someone else, when we say it to ourselves all the time?

    Do we stay silent as a matter of politeness, or out of fear that some stranger will put a voice to the guilt I know we all harbor deep inside?

    Interesting and provocative question you have posed!

  • I actually just thought of a funny time when I did NOT whisper. I was having lunch with an old colleague and boss, some time after my loss but before treatment. he and his wife suffered infertility for 5 years and did 3 IVFs before moving to adoption.

    we sat at a small busy cafe in SF over lunch and got into it. we talked details about treatment, how hard it is to get those announcements, and how people didn’t know how to support us. I remember how good it felt to talk with him, how freeing it was, how supported I felt. we weren’t loud or soft, just discrete normal voices. but anyone nearby not entrenched in their own conversation could have easily followed ours.

    after a while, a woman dining solo next to us got up to leave. the two of us just laughed hard, joking at what a story she’d have when she returned to her office. I didn’t care because I didn’t know her. I’d not have spoken so freely if I did. hmm.

  • Cynthia

    I’ve toned down my volume, too, when I start talking about my own infertility with family and friends. I don’t necessarily think it’s for my own protection as much as I think it’s for everyone else’s protection. We’re taught to focus on the positive side of everything and take the steps needed for a positive result to happen. Unfortunately, in my case it’s almost impossible because we have unexplained infertility. No treatment has worked thus far.

    Most people have no clue what it feels like to be diagnosed with infertility and trying to digest, understand, embrace, and make peace with that is so hard. So when we’re talking about it with people, we’re trying to make some sense of it all ourselves (at least I am). And truely, if you’re not an infertile, you really don’t understand the depth of what this does to a human socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. It’s the *sort of* disease, you know? Some people are like, so you can’t have children, that’s not too bad, at least you’re not dying. But, I tend to think this is the worst thing next to dying. Some people think that something is wrong and your body isn’t functioning like it should, so they treat it like it’s a serious medical disease. It does feel, at times, that we are swept under the cracks of the floor and aren’t treated the same as others. Uggghhh, I really hate infertility.

    • stepping up

      …and the ‘unexplained infertility’ REALLY sucks. As adults in the 21st c.-we just want answers. Know that you’re not alone.

  • Adrienne

    Pamela,
    I am a mother of one 3-year-old son who initially got pregnant easily at 37, a month after my wedding. I am now 41 and was told last spring my chances of becoming pregnant again were not very high even with the use of assisted reproductive technologies. We opted against this, even though insurance would pay for almost all of it, because of the low odds of pregnancy and the side effects of treatments which might not allow me to be present for my son. I already have a form of autoimmune arthritis which can periodically hinder me physically also.
    I have told friends and family that there is a low probability of my having another child. Most have very little to say about it. Not even so much as an “I am sorry for what you are experiencing.” Most of them have completed their families and are happy with the size of their families. I guess they just cannot relate. Several have suggested adoption, which I was once enthusiastic about, but have changed my mind upon learning more about it. I am sure there are those who think we are very selfish.
    I still get very sad at times but try to think of the advantages of having one child and consider myself blessed when I think of those who could not conceive or carry a baby to term. In my mind, those women have it the roughest (although I realize this is not a competition for who suffers most) I am sure this will be a part of my life until I die. However, I am sure it will quit “haunting” me as time passes. Thank you for giving a voice to us, Pamela.

    Adrienne

  • I wasn’t quiet about my infertility but sometimes I wish I had been. It opens you up to lots of questions and assvice and horrible cliches that when you are in a dark moment you don’t really want to talk about. For the most part, I don’t regret telling anyone about my struggles. It just sucked when another cycle failed and everyone cheerily asked me how things were going or if I knew anything yet. I would then have to break the news over and over again and that kept the wound open.

  • Io

    You know, I was just thinking about this the other day as I was walking with two women at work. One is pregnant and started talking about her sister who is experiencing infertility and I just shut up. Later I wondered why I didn’t say anything.
    I think most of it is that I don’t want pity.
    I don’t want it to be awkward. And also, having MF, I feel like it’s not completely my story to share.

  • I have and continue to be very vocal. At least that is how I have seen myself, but as I went about my day today I realized that when DE came up, then my voice grew softer. It was ok that we have dealt with infertility, but I am still a bit ashamed that we used donor eggs.

    I am glad you bring these questions up.

  • I’m with Io on the male factor thing. I was silent about it for years because my husband didn’t want others to know, and it finally got to a point where I just needed to talk about it. I went through a time where I opened up a bit too much, but I’ve found a bit of a balance now about what I tell people – I can say that it’s not going easily without telling the whole story. And that’s kind of where I draw the line about whether I lower my voice or not. I’ve got no problem speaking up about our struggle to have a baby, or my visits to my clinic. But when I start talking about the donor stuff, I do get quiet. It’s partly that it’s not completely my story to tell, and also that I live in the same city I grew up in, and it’s fairly small, so everyone knows everyone. And while I’m ok with the choices my husband and I are making, I know that not everyone will be. Or at least there is a risk.

    Great post, PJ.

  • Sassy

    I lower my voice in public sometimes. Mainly I worry that the people around me don’t want to hear about it. I also get pretty tired of the advice from strangers as there always seems to be some special trick or drug or doctor that they think I must try even though we’ve moved onto adoption. I find it demeaning, like they think I haven’t tried hard enough but if I follow their suggestion I will have ‘earned’ a baby.

    I also find myself playing it down to others because I don’t want to be that crazy woman who can’t have kids. I need people to see that we’re okay and we can still be happy with our life even if it’s just the two of us. But it’s hard to balance that when I do get the odd stab of emotion about it and do need some space or to talk about it.

  • So great to see a post from you!

    I think it is an interesting question because there probably as many reasons as there are people.

    I started out talking about IF with a few close friends. Then, our decisions started to get complicated, and I realized that I couldn’t untell some of the things I had already said – and like previous commenters have mentioned, it wasn’t all my story to tell. It became absolutely crucial to protect our privacy as a couple, and if we had been successful in conceiving, the privacy of our children.

    And then, once you stop talking, it is hard to start again…

  • Wow, what an interesting observation…it’s something I’ve been thinking about myself now, the idea of “coming out of the closet” – ie, do I want to share our journey with others or not? Many of my friends know what we’ve gone through, even without me talking about it overtly, but I am often surprised to see that many don’t know…sometimes I think it must be so obvious, so visible on my face, then I realize, perhaps it’s not.
    It’s definitely something worth thinking about…

  • Hey, welcome back, my friend!

    Great question. On two occasions I did announce it at a Buddhist meeting because I just wanted to let go of the shame I felt by not attaining my dream. Yet suffering leads to compassion, so that was what I could offer to people. So whenever I learn of a woman dealing with infertility, I let them know that I will be there for her. That at least I am one person who understands, who can truly hear her.

  • jc

    For me, it is entirely for my own protection…and maybe a little bit of a control issue in that you will know if and when I choose to let you know. There is such a loss of privacy and dignity with IF treatments. I’ve lost count of how many strangers have visited my nether regions. It only gets worse if you choose adoption, because you have to bare your soul to complete strangers who then judge your worthiness. If I had children, I might be more forthcoming, but now I’m afraid that my story will be met not with understanding, but with pity.
    I also agree with CM’s etiquette theory. There are some things that the people at the next table shouldn’t be subjected to and, unless you are in a hospital cafeteria, medical conditions top the list.

  • Hey, it’s so good to see you posting again!! I have to admit I am mostly silent, for so many of the reasons listed above (aside from a few very good friends, many of them who have dealt with infertility & loss themselves). Partly to protect myself, partly to protect others. I’ve had so many people around me pregnant lately, especially at the office — to bring up infertility & stillbirth in their presence just does not seem kosher.

    Mostly, I absolutely hate feeling pitied. I know people sometimes whisper about us behind our backs, & I don’t want to add fuel to the fire (let ’em guess!!). And I hate the assumptions & misconceptions — I get the feeling that people think we must not have wanted a baby very badly if we didn’t do IVF/adopt/whatever.

    If, however, I find out that someone else is dealing with IF or a loss, I will tell them our story & offer whatever support I can. Sometimes I’ve made a new friend. Sometimes I’ve actually been politely rebuffed, which is an odd feeling. I get the feeling they don’t want to acknowledge that they are in any way like me in terms of what happened to us.

    Great question!

  • Alex

    I was pretty quiet about this when I was going through treatment. Not entirely at first, but even though the reactions I got were positive, as someone said above, as you go through failure after failure, you have to break the news over and over again.

    My hubby was entirely open and I pretty much had to conk him on the head repeatedly to get him to shut up. I was kind of OK with his talking, I mean, I knew that was just him and his way of dealing, but it made it hard for me, and I was already having a much harder time with what we were going through than he was (that’s not a generic statement about gender differences and the experience of infertility, just our individual situation).

    I was also 100% in the closet at work; I feared getting mommy-tracked without being a mommy.

    Now that I am a mommy, I’m very open about what I went through to get here, though I think many people would rather not know. It’s well and good to say that people don’t discuss medical stuff, but I don’t try to tell them about the dildocam or the IM injections, just that we went through treatment. No one flinches when I mention my stepdaughter’s knee surgery or my appendectomy; why is IVF different?

  • Infertility is medical, but it conjures up all sorts of stuff related to sex that can be uncomfortable.

    When you speak loudly, you get mixed responses. Women with children often don’t know how to respond; they become very uncomfortable, and the pregnant pauses are tough.

    I have a son through surrogacy and although it’s an amazing story, I’m often unsure how much I want people to know. When I come out as an infertile, of course people question where my son came from…is he adopted…when I tell them it was surrogacy, they will ask questions about biology, etc…stuff that seems so strange and inappropriate to ask. I’ve even had people say stuff about how my husband must have had to masturbate for tests, IUI, etc. It’s as if aspects of your life are expected to be an open book. Not just the IF, I can own it, but people expect me to answer questions about my child and about medical procedures that really aren’t open for discussion.

    Plus, the stupidity…the stories all the fertiles like to automatically recount about how they know someone who was IF and surprise, surprise, got pregnant when not trying or just as they brought home an adopted baby, etc.

  • Interesting question, Pamela Jeanne, which has already generated a range of really interesting responses.

    I find myself feeling very conflicted about how much to open up to people. On the one hand, my infertility is an important part of who I am, and I feel that I should be able to acknowledge that part of my identity.

    On the other hand, if you confide in people, you also open yourself up to a lot of inappropriate comments. Although I have told many of my friends and family that I’ve been undergoing fertility treatment, I do feel increasingly weary of having to be the ‘infertility poster girl’ – I find myself spending an awful lot of time answering questions about exactly what is entailed in a cycle of IVF, or else dispelling popular stereotypes about infertility.

    Although I feel that it is important that women in our situation talk about what we are going through, and that we try and dispel some of the taboos and prejudices that continue to surround infertility, I think that that process does make you extraordinarily vulnerable. Sometimes we may need to whisper in order to protect ourselves.

  • I think I whisper/lower my voice/use code names because I want the privacy. I don’t want people to know what’s going on if they can’t support me. I have friends who are with me on my journey, through the muck and the mire, and then then there’s those who choose to talk about me behind my back and never bother to pick up the phone to see how I’m doing. Infertility is tied to deep matters of the heart. I want to entrust it to those who will handle me/it carefully and thoughtfully.

  • lynn

    I whisper much less now than I used to. When I was going through it all, if I even dared to talk about it, I whispered. Now, not so much. At this point it really is a matter of fact sort of thing that happened to me and if it comes up, I explain it with more dispassion each and every day. When I was closer to it, the whispering happened. All the emotions I guess. Not sure that I realized it at the time though….

  • lynn

    This is off topic, but I have a question. What does a person who is pro-life feel about IVF? I mean, how do you deal with the fact of unused embroyos?

    • Becky

      Well, speaking as one person who’s pro-life and also dealing with infertility – many pro-life people choose not to do IVF, and the unused embryo issue is one big reason why. I’m Catholic, so I’m bound by the pretty definitive “no” the Church has given to IVF, and the unused embryos are a secondary reason why (you can google “Donum Vitae” for the official explanation if you’re curious). I wouldn’t try to ban IVF, I don’t think that genie can be put back in its bottle, but it is off the table for hubby and me.

      Outside of Catholic circles, I have heard of people who will do IVF, but have the clinic create only as many embryos as they are willing to transfer at one time. I suppose that probably lowers the chances of success, but it would ensure that there were no unused embryos if that was someone’s only hesitation. And of course there are those who go the embryo adoption route, not creating their own embryos but transferring one or two of someone else’s frozen “surplus”.

    • Alex

      Lynn,

      This too may be off topic, but for the record it’s not “just” pro-lifers who think about the extra embryos. I am firmly pro-choice but prefer, in my own choices, both to avoid creating embryos that have no chance of life and to minimize risk to any pregnancy that I might achieve (one, to date, which was a singleton and, happily, a healthy one). On the first count, I’ve been “lucky” to be a poor responder (to the hormones used in IVF to get the ovaries to ripen multiple eggs), so I don’t get a lot of eggs, or a lot of embryos. I have in the past frozen embryos but have never had so many on ice that there were any unusable ones (as things have turned out). Of course, that’s largely luck — both the poor responder thing (gee, who’d consider that luck?) and the way things turned out. I also never did put back more than two embryos at once, wanting to minimize my risks of triplets — drastically, in effect, since I’d been told I had virtually no chance of getting pregnant, anyway. And in truth had I ever had twins I might then have been stuck with leftover embryos, anyway, but that didn’t happen. If it had, I’m not sure how I would have handled the extra embryos, like whether I’d have considered donation.

      If I ever do IVF again, though, now that I have one kid and some sense of how hard pregnancy is on my body, I’ll only put one embryo back at a time. That does (dramatically?) reduce my chances of having another kid, but oh well.

      • lynn

        Alex & Becky — Thank you for your insight. I think it is a difficult issue and I keep hoping that the science will get better so that the issue of unused embroys does not exist. My fear is that Roe v. Wade will be reversed before that happens and then I do not know where that leaves IVF which has been a miracle for so many families.

  • After initially being silent about my infertility, I started talking about it more and more 2 years ago. I didn’t start talking about it right away. At first it was feeling ashamed that I was defective but then it was because I couldn’t talk about it without feeling tremendous grief and crying. I realized that if I cried, it actually took the conversation from being about infertility. Once I was able to talk about things in a more matter of fact manner, I found that I could get people to listen to me a bit more instead of trying to make me feel better.

    Ever since my successful cycle, I have actually found it harder again for people to take in and listen to the infertility part of my life. If the opportunity is there, I try to bring in the fact that I used IVF and that I used donor eggs but most people concentrate on the “happy ending.”

  • Great to hear from you! I’m so excited for you to have found such a wonderful peer and colleague. How lucky for you both 🙂

    I was always very silent about our infertility until recently, after IVF, when we resolved to live as a family of two. I’m not sure I can honestly say I’m completely open about it but I have told many people that we don’t have kids because we can’t, not because we didn’t want them. That’s when we get the same line every time: “well, have you thought about adoption?” like it’s some cutting edge thing we’ve never heard of. People just don’t know what to say about infertility! And they really don’t know what to say about childlessness, not by choice. I guess that is part of the reason why I still sometimes stay quiet about it. When I don’t feel like educating someone, when it’s a lighthearted social situation that I don’t want to dampen (for myself or others), or when I am feeling emotionally vulnerable … that’s when I’ve stayed silent. But those times are already becoming fewer and farther between. I find speaking out brings me some peace, freedom from hiding within my own story, and often times I also hear empathy directed towards those of us who have walked this difficult path. If I have to listen to stories about others’ kids for the rest of my life, it’s only fair that they listen to our personal stories, too.

    *stepping off soapbox*

    🙂

  • Geohde

    You raise an interesting question, as always PJ.

    I find it very hard to tell people that my twins were IVF after years of misery. They must all think I’m some superfertile thing, which is so far from the truth….

    J

  • I’m a DE mom, and I don’t lower my voice. I don’t raise it either. My infertility is a medical issue for me, and having come to terms with that, I know that there are many medical conditions that are much worse.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      It’s great that you’ve come to terms. 

      Rather than assign a particular value (better or worse) to a life experience, I find the ability to lend an ear or offer understanding when someone is having a hard time — regardless of the condition or experience — well, it goes a long way to easing the other person’s difficulty or pain. Fortunately, compassion is free and infinite.

  • I’ve always been open about our infertility, and pregnancy after IF hasn’t changed that. As I’ve said before, twins are considered “suspect,” so D. and I get plenty of questions about their conception, and we almost always acknowledge IVF or “needing a little help.” D. is pretty candid about it. We are glad to be advocates. I suppose it relieves a little of the guilt I sometimes feel in our outcome.

    Oddly, now, when we say “yes, we did IVF,” people are very focused on the positive outcome and never ask why we had problems conceiving, unlike prior to pregnancy. And a lot of people have said, “Oh, now you won’t have ANY problems getting pregnant again! I know someone who…” blah blah blah. Apparently IVF pregnancy, like adoption, is itself considered a cure for IF. *rolling eyes*

  • I have posted my answer at my blog.
    http://babygiddings.blogspot.com/

    Thank you for such a wonderful question.

  • sherylhs

    We have some seriously thoughtful, wonderful people blogging here. I identify with and admire each response. Like most of us, for me, it depends on the situation. If I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable or just don’t feel like putting up with the frankly stupid comments, I remain quiet. Sometimes, I think HONESTLY. How many times am I going to have to listen politely while someone tells me “but that’s no big deal, right? you can just adopt.” or “well, if you really want children, you just put your mind to it, and you’ll have them.” (ASIDE – this may be the most asinine statement. Could my mind (or any of our minds) be any MORE set to having children?? Gimme a break). Or, that timeless favorite, “well I know so-and-so who was infertile, and all it took for them was _____ (fill in blank).” In these situations, I like to imagine that the speaker is the tin man in the Wizard of Oz in DESPERATE need of a brain. But, most of the time now, I’m pretty open. My hubby and I will remain a family of 2, and I’m quite resigned to that fact. So, I do enjoy the opportunity to educate others on infertility and all of the portions of your life that it does touch – so yeah, sometimes, now, I’m vocal. It took me a seriously long time to get here, but I’m relatively comfortable in most situations talking about it and the heartache that it caused my hubby and I. Anyway, with the whole ‘mommy movement’ and all the momzillas every damn where you turn, I’m tired of us getting ignored and overlooked. I (like all of us here) am a person with needs and with feelings that I sometimes really need to express. If people don’t like hearing about it, they can either politely leave the conversation (the way I do sometimes when the children stories get to be too much) or if they want to really be dismissive, I can have my dog pee on them. (Yes, as it turns out, I’m exceptionally adept at potty training. At least potty training puppies to go on command, that is.)

  • For me, I have to be somewhat quiet about it because it’s not so much my story to tell… I don’t want to announce to a crowded restaurant that my husband has no sperm. Society makes it hard for infertile men – like they’re less MEN because they’re lacking in the reproductive department. When someone does overhear, I always wonder if I should clarify; “It still works!” “He’s no less a man because he doesn’t have sperm!” “It’s not like he’s a eunuch.” I guess my bigger problem is that I still feel the need to defend and explain. If our problems are truly ours alone, what business is it of anyone else? I just don’t want the public at large to think that my husband is defective… He may be my Spermless Wonder, but damn it, he’s mine.

  • Obviously I’ve been very open about having gone through infertility. In real life, I’ll talk about it one-on-one anytime, but I never go into detail – it just seems too private an issue.

    I think that when one does end up having one or more children after infertility that people are quick to dismiss the infertility as if it were no big deal. It was a big deal.

  • well, I am not very silent. In fact, I think many think of me as rude, crude, and impolite for speaking so freely about such taboos topics and miscarriage and infertility. I might as well going around announcing, “I just took a big stinky dump!” I seriously feel like I offend people to that degree when I flat out say, “No, I was not surprised to be pregnant – it took me 3 years to achieve it,” or “No, this isn’t my first pregnancy, but I hope it will lead to my first live infant.” People don’t like to be reminded of the nasty possibilities in life. Death, disease, and infertility – people think they don’t fit in a happy world, so they prefer to not acknowledge them.

  • This woman sounds wonderful. How great that you got to meet her.
    I will say though that I typically don’t whisper or stay quiet about my infertility. I will tell almost anyone what I’m going through, why I’m working extra hours etc. Sometimes it even feels like I have diarrhea of the mouth and I wish I could shut up as complete strangers are usually in the know about my infertility.

  • Carole

    I’ve shared our struggle with maybe 10 or so of my closest friends….ironically enough, after the fact I found out that two suffered previous miscarriages and four others had trouble or are having trouble conceiving. Two of that 10 or so were extremely fertile and I thought my sharing might encourage more sensitivity on their part. Fat chance. One offered to pray for me, gave me the “miracle” birth stories of her friend’s dog’s sister’s aunt’s alien nephew who conceived after…..” and continued to fill her emails with stories of who is pregnant now and stories about her own kids right down to details I don’t even care to know. The next, immediately after I shared our struggles, commented that she hopes their number 3 is a girl so they can balance out all these “boys…” I felt like someone had slapped me in the face.

    I’m scared of sharing because you never know who has been through it and for those that have, you might find that common thread, or you might (esp. now that I am pregnant) bring that pain right back to the surface….and I do not want to cause anyone that pain. For for those that haven’t been through it – they will never understand…… and in our society it seems more socially acceptable to ask someone about their choice/ability to have children than it is to tell others that they are insensitive and uneducated about infertility.

    I find myself angry and I’m really worried that if I do open my mouth, bad, ugly things are going to come out -sometimes the evil part of me wants to scream at all the insensitives out there and make them feel like big ole piles of dog doo doo….. My brother is first on my list………(along with two previous mentioned “friends.”)

  • Bea

    That’s a very interesting observation about your conversation. I wonder if, in general, it’s just the same reason people drop their voices in other medical situations, or when talking about other sadnesses. A loud, boisterous voice wouldn’t be right for talking about a divorce, or a chemotherapy regime. If this is the case, I guess there’s nothing too sinister in it. But of course, we should still be allowed to discuss infertility, at whatever volume, to much the same extent as people discuss these other things.

    Bea

  • I don’t — especially now that I have two, and my story isn’t some “We tried for SIX! Whole! Months!” but like real infertility with treatment and heartbreak and everything. I guess I think that by being open about it, someone who is struggling and doesn’t know where to turn could find a shoulder to cry on in me, or just realize it’s OK to talk about and not a failing to be ashamed over.
    And I guess I want people to know these two beloved kids did not come to me easy so even if I am bitching I am never not grateful to my soul for them.
    Also–infertility changes you. That doesn’t go away if you suddenly get lucky. Even though to meet me you’d think I was just some harried mother, the fact is that infertility is just as much a part of who I am as it was when we were still struggling.

  • AMEN – Stand up, be proud of this life challenge!!! We infertiles will need to lead the charge of removing the shame and stigma of infertility. It will happen – it happened with breast cancer. As Mahatma Ghandi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

  • myrtle

    Why I remain silent: I told no one except my family that I was going through IVF. Having to explain the reasons just was too overwhelming – so many personal, private issues we have been dealing with over the years. Now at forty, I just had my 3rd and 4th cycle fail. Doctor told me that “at this point we would recommend donor eggs from a younger woman,”–such a jarring thing to hear. Also makes me angry that she encouraged me to do my 3rd and 4th cycle back to back because it would be “my best chance” at my age. 30k later, your eggs are bad because of your age, and to finish the punch, my “best option” is now donor eggs!!!! Could she have said that before I spent that much money? When I told her I couldn’t afford it now, she said well time doesn’t matter with donor eggs, look at all these celebrities having kids at 40, 50 etc. I wonder what would happen if I unload all that on people when they ask me whether I have kids or why I don’t have kids. …People tell me to adopt, so many children out there blah, blah, blah. I have been told that I can even adopt embryos – little snowflakes. They say it so easily! They don’t realize that even the idea of donor sperm earlier in my life was an absolutely scary idea for me in our situation. I ask myself what happened to me that I let time slip by? And I am angry, sad and heartbroken all over again. My DH reminded me the other day, “our situation was not normal. we cannot compare ourselves to people who had normal situations.” My doctor, whom I chose because she was a woman and I thought she would be better than my last doctor, was so insensitive to tell me “you just do DE” and problem solved. So I guess I remain silent because all of the years of longing, frustration and despair need to be kept under a lid or it might lead into a total breakdown over a simple or insensitive question by both loved ones and clueless strangers.