Monday

Infertility and Silence

While I frequently like to post funny or interesting things on here, today I'd like to take a (serious) moment to talk about a struggle dear to my heart: Infertility. Specifically, the silence surrounding it. This article says it best:

"One in eight American couples will experience infertility, and 1.1 million women will undergo treatment this year. That most won’t talk about it makes it that much more painful: A recent survey of infertility patients reveals that 61 percent hide the struggle to get pregnant from friends and family...."

The article goes on to say that most couples find it easier to claim they don't want children, than to talk about their infertility struggles.

To fear that you will never hold a child of your own is painful enough, but to then suffer that fear in silence and (sometimes) shame? In my mind that's unbearable. My heart hurts to imagine it.

I personally believe that the infertile suffer in silence mostly because of the reactions they have received when they were brave enough to speak. So today, I'd like to offer a list of ideas, should someone in your life be affected by infertility.

1. Please refrain from offering suggestions like: "Just relax/drink/go on vacation... it will happen." This minimizes the medical reality they are facing. Could you imagine saying that to someone diagnosed with cancer? The truth is: infertility is a real condition. It has medical causes. By telling someone to "relax", you are implying it is within their control. Translation: It is their fault.

2. Please don't take it personally when they excuse themselves from child-related events (baby showers for example). It is not a slight against you. It does not mean they wish you ill. Sometimes the gut-wrenching desire to have their own baby (never knowing if they will) becomes unbearable. Sometimes it hurts too much.

3. Please (if you are lucky enough to have your own child) put yourself in their shoes. Look at your own beautiful child and ask yourself: "What if I couldn't have this child? What if I didn't know that I would ever have him/her?" Then magnify that feeling infinitely....

4. Please be patient. The pain of infertility is far-reaching. It is not an injury that happens one day, and then you get over it. It is a re-injury. Month after month. Year after year. Holiday after holiday. The pain can subside and return. Medical intervention can offer renewed hope only to be devastated. Infertility is not something simple.

5. Please don't act like it's a taboo subject. Just like any other painful subject, sometimes the person wants to talk about it. And sometimes they don't. Infertility is no different in that way. If you don't know what to say, that's okay. Sympathy and a listening ear go a long way.

6. Please realize infertility can happen at any time. The questions about "adding number two" can bring about just as much pain. Many times there is an assumption that if you had a biological child you must not suffer from infertility. In reality, infertility can strike even those who have a biological child.

By no means am I an expert in this area. Just someone who feels the pain of my "sisters and brothers in arms". I don't want them to have to add loneliness to the list of pain they feel. As with every loss in life, community support can go a long way toward easing the burden of pain. I have been lucky to be educated by some close friends who suffer infertility, and I wanted to pass along some of what I've learned.

I think it's time to break some silence. Infertility is painful enough without the stigma that surrounds it.

And if you should know someone suffering from infertility who would benefit from counseling, please pass this along to them (or my website in general). I will soon be offering therapy for couples/individuals and groups with an infertility focus.

Wishing that you all would have love and support in your darkest moments,

2 comments:

  1. Your article is intelligent, touching and real. thank you.

    ReplyDelete

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