Giving Voice Despite the Fear, Shame and Stigma of Infertility

Throughout the months of October, November and December, RESOLVE is asking infertility bloggers to be part of their Giving Tuesdays, focusing on awareness for infertility related issues. The theme for the month of October is GIVE VOICE. I'm a week behind, but thanks to my friend Jessica at My Journey to Motherhood, I am now on board with other infertility bloggers around the country.

Resolve to GIVE VOICE: Giving Tuesdays

I remember the early days of infertility. The initial consultation appointment with Dr. S.  The Clomid pills in the bottle. The nerves from my first ever surgery.

I was so confused about why my body wouldn't do what it was meant to do. I was angry at myself for waiting until my thirties to find the medical help we needed. I was scared the future Jeremy and I had always imagined was something that would never come to fruition. I was afraid of more failure and of the astronomical expenses that were tied to fertility treatments.

But, my biggest fear was something I had difficulty admitting. More than anything else, I was most afraid of the judgement and condemnation I was sure would come from my friends and family when they found out about our infertility diagnosis.

I was just waiting for everyone to confirm what I already felt in my heart: it was all my fault. You did this. You will never be a mother. You don't deserve a child. 

There are very few medical conditions that are still stigmatized in our society. Fifty years ago, women fought against the stares and harsh opinions when they endured cancer treatments and lost their hair. People battling diabetes fought against stereotypes in order to show that diabetes can affect people from all walks of life. Every condition, every disease our society has discovered has eventually had its day when barriers have been broken and people have accepted those afflicted with the disease. Every condition, it seems, except infertility.

Infertility is still a condition where individuals can blame themselves and others will support them in the blame game. When you tell a friend about infertility, you always feel as though you might be judged for your actions, like you need to justify the decisions you have made throughout your life, to demonstrate the reason why you should be allowed to be upset about your inability to conceive. Infertility is one of the only times when people feel it is acceptable to explain away your concerns about a medical condition with platitudes and cliches.

Before I opened up about my infertility, I close a lot of people out of a significant portion of my life. The pain of infertility was a private crisis, something only my husband and I knew. There was no help with the burden, only sharing it on our two very tired, very sore backs.

Writing that initial blog post was one of the most liberating and terrifying things I have ever done. I ripped back the curtain on a huge part of my life, a chapter that has shaped a great deal of my adult life, and as a result, my character as a human being. It felt as though opening myself up as a member of the infertility community allowed me to show my friends who I really am. By finding others through Resolve. By casting off the secrecy of my diagnosis, I allowed myself to take some of infertility's power away. Sharing my experience brought me from the cold, dark shadows to the sunlight once again. Though my days are often cloudy, I always know the sun is still shining and warming my soul.

I can't say that everyone has reveled in my infertility advocacy. I sense that I still make some people uncomfortable with the mention of infertility. I know some folks still feel awkward talking about it. I also still receive "well-meaning" advice from people who are concerned about the alternative approaches I might take (which I counter with advice from this post on the Resolve site.) But, all in all, being an open member of the infertility community has been a rewarding experience. Facing my fear of revealing my deepest secret has made me a better, more understanding person.

Has giving voice to infertility changed my infertility diagnosis?

Of course not. But that's not the point. Casting off the shame of infertility has allowed me to develop as a member of this community and to educate others about the issues that many infertile couples deal with. It has allowed me to find others who share my struggle. It has shown me a path to becoming an advocate for change for our daughters and granddaughters, if not for ourselves.

In short, giving voice to the fear, the shame and the stigma of infertility has allowed me to find a resilience I never knew I possessed. It has given me purpose when I felt adrift. It has allowed me to see that I don't deserve infertility-- no one deserves it. I didn't earn it and I didn't bring it on myself.  I am only meant to endure it and find a way to conquer it. I am only meant to grow and appreciate the blessings in my life more because of this hardship.

I am still terrified that being a strong, independent woman might never be enough without finding a route to being a mother. But, my role as a member of the sorority of infertility allows me to see others who have gone before me and have thrived. It gives me hope and perspective on this enormous obstacle. It allows me to see that, though it is small and feels rather insignificant, my voice matters. Giving voice to infertility matters for me and for my future family.

How has infertility shaped your path? Have you given voice to infertility despite your obstacles? 
Let's talk about it below!


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