Infertility is horrible and lonely. It’s a time of sadness and anxiety, interspersed with brief moments of hope that are dashed all too quickly with yet another failed pregnancy test or another sympathetic phone call from the clinic telling you what you already know—another month has gone by and you still aren’t pregnant.
Initially, we didn’t tell anyone that we were starting fertility treatment. After all, one little monitored cycle and we would be done; it was just a matter of pinpointing ovulation, so why share that with anyone? OK, one short cycle with Clomid and we could go and pick out baby clothes, so who needs to know? Alright, just this one cycle with a trigger shot for ovulation, surely that’s all we need. Fine, we’ll do a medicated cycle as well. Wait, that didn’t work? Let’s do another. And another. Let’s do all of that and add in an IUI or six, you know, just for kicks. Hey, you’re a doctor we haven’t seen before; maybe your insemination technique is better than the previous two or three doctors we saw and…maybe not.
At a certain point, however, we began to tell people about our struggle, making it just a little less lonely. We had friends who also had fertility issues and it felt good to be able to talk openly with them. We also told our respective families and were thankful for the support and sympathy that they gave us.
Others, in whom we hadn’t confided, would try to gauge the situation in that asking-but-pretending-not-to-ask sort of way that people have. “How are things?” they would trill, while pointedly looking at my stomach. “Oh fine,” I would reply, through gritted teeth.
Mostly, though, we kept what we were going through to a fairly small circle, so writing about it publicly and openly on Kveller was quite a big leap, but given the reaction, it’s one I’m glad I took.
Since the article appeared, I have been inundated with kind and loving messages from friends, family, and acquaintances. Even more special, a number of women have opened up about their past battles and on-going fertility journeys, and I feel privileged that they took the time to share their stories with me.
One told me of her success after six embryo transfers, when she had all but given up hope of ever becoming pregnant. Another told me that she never thought she would be waiting so long for her second child, while a third confided that despite becoming pregnant naturally with her second child, after receiving treatment the first time, the familiar anxiety has returned.
Infertility is not one of those things we talk about publicly. Along with miscarriage, it falls firmly into that “below the belt” taboo category that people just don’t discuss. As a result of the silence, those suffering miss the support given in other painful and difficult situations.
Part of the reason, I think, is the feeling of failure that comes with not getting pregnant. After all, how hard can it be to do one of the most natural things in the world?
Somewhere in there, there are also feelings of guilt for the things we did and the things we didn’t do that might have led to a different outcome. If I had rested after an embryo transfer, would it have worked? If I hadn’t gone on that bumpy car ride, would I be pregnant? Did I walk too far? Carry something heavy? Stretch in the wrong way? Was I too negative? Did not thinking positively change the result?
The truth, of course, is that whether or not we get pregnant is out of our hands. So while we can’t change the situation—for ourselves or for anyone else—what we can do is be more sympathetic, more caring, and more considerate to those we know who are going through tough times, no matter the cause.
And dare I say it, perhaps we should also be more open about our own struggles and accept the love, strength, and compassion that come our way as a result.