Infertility. Whenever I start wondering if I’ve said all there is to say on the topic and the many ways the experience is misunderstood I find more raw material. Two good reasons for writing came at me sideways and, not surprisingly, each wound me up.
Now that there’s no longer smoke coming out of my ears, I’d like to talk about them. One came from HARO, an online service media use to reach sources. (I’m a subscriber.) The second came from a woman who finally conceived after struggling with infertility. She contributed a column to Exhale. Both in their own special backhanded way completely dissed women without children after infertility treatments fail.
And if there’s one thing that gets my goat, I mean really fries my tomatoes, it’s when I feel my little tribe of women — those without children after infertility has shattered us — is marginalized or worse, ignored or judged unfairly. What did the offending parties say?
1) “Writing a book on hope for couples with infertility issues. Interviewing women and men on their stories of infertility. Must be a story of hope and you did eventually have a baby. Could be from IUI, IVF, adoption, naturally, etc.” (oh, the implications of this! must NOT get wound up again)
2) “I’d found in the related [childfree after infertility] communities that did exist a brand of bitterness that I found tough to swallow. Not every individual, of course, but the overall tone… possibly related to the traits of folks who were able to move on with grace versus those who clung to the pain.”
And you’re wondering why so touchy, PJ? Let’s start with the second one first. “Clung to the pain?” Seriously?? It’s laughable that anyone would think feeling such pain is elective. This woman clearly doesn’t know she’s talking about. Every woman I’ve ever known in this tribe would like nothing better than to ditch the pain, deep six it permanently and forget it ever existed. Easier said than done I’m afraid. It’s taken me longer than I ever expected to work through the bitterness but that’s mostly been exacerbated by a society blithely pretending that no pain ever existed or questioning whether the pain was, in fact, legitimate (infertility losses don’t “count” don’tchaknow).
I had more support and understanding when the neighborhood stray cat we used to feed passed away. With all due respect to Jose Motown (the cat), his passing was sad, but it didn’t rock my world. So when someone implies we’re responsible for our own suffering and the complex emotions (not to mention the questioning of our identity, purpose, relationships, etc.,) well, that tends to augment the bitterness not sweeten the pot. Our ability to “move on with grace” takes superhuman effort amid the many obstacles in our path. Cut us some slack, please. With a little more compassion we’ll get there faster, thank you very much.
And now to the first item. I replied matter of factly to the query this way:
If what you’re writing about is hope tied to infertility then you do women and men who rediscover hope after surviving infertility by creating a meaningful life with children as a part of it (being devoted aunts and uncles and mentors) a tremendous disservice. You are also reinforcing the negative stereotype that couples without children have no hope, nor by association, meaning in their lives without being a “mommy” or “daddy.” I encourage you to rethink your definition of hope and what it entails where infertility is concerned.
So much infertility ignorance in the world, so little time…
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