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Feeling Awkward About Infertility

Recently I was asked the question, "How can infertility feel embarrassing?" Surprisingly, I didn’t know how to answer; I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was just a few months ago that I was keeping such a significant part of my life secret. Like many couples suffering with infertility, I thought that my husband and I would keep it to ourselves until we had “success” with pregnancy. But now, after being so open about our infertility journey, I'm thinking more about that question. How can infertility feel embarrassing, awkward, or totally taboo? Here’s what I came up with.

One: This doesn’t feel like my story. 
I remember the first conversation Jk and I ever had about children. It was summer, bright and hot outside; we sat on the street underneath a shady tree while we sipped slurpees. We were dating and I was hungry to know every detail about his beautiful soul. We curiously asked each other questions for hours, back and forth. Hesitant and wide-eyed, Jk asked me how many children I wanted. We hadn’t talked about love or marriage so the question hung heavy between us. Children. Each of us might have children some day. Maybe even together.

That memory feels fragile and sacred to me now. As I talked with my blue-tongued boyfriend that day, I had no inclination that we would ever suffer from infertility. Babies felt far off, but certainly not unattainable. I guess that’s why I say that this doesn’t feel like my story. Fertility appointments, blog posts, and IVF needles never crossed my mind. And as silly as it sounds, I’ve found myself feeling embarrassed that it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

Over time, I’ve come to accept infertility as just another part of my life. Every person deals with unique challenges and this is mine. I can’t wish it away and I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. But I can make the best of it. I can share my ups-and-downs and I can soak up every last drop of this good life that God has given me.
Two: Infertility can put me in an awkward place with other women, especially mothers. 
I have so many girl friends who I love and adore, but I’ll be honest...Infertility can feel isolating. For women who have never experienced infertility, I understand that it can feel impossible to find the right words to comfort a friend. For those who are expecting or who are already mothers, maybe you feel guilty that it has worked out for you and not someone you love. Infertility can feel like an awkward barrier sometimes.

I recently had a really good friend tell me that she and her husband are trying to get pregnant. I didn’t feel awkward or envious. In every corner of my heart, I genuinely wished her success and happiness! Speaking from the perspective of someone suffering with infertility, I’ll admit that I’ve felt the jealous knee-jerk reaction at seeing a pregnancy announcement. But just because I want a baby doesn’t mean that I don’t want anyone else to have one. You do you.

What I hope above all else is that women in every stage of life can find a way to strengthen and uplift each other. If you feel awkward about infertility, find another way to connect. Please please do not use isolation or avoidance to cope with differences. Surely we can find a way to love and appreciate one another.

Three: People just get weird when you talk about sex. 
I asked my husband why he thought infertility could be an awkward or taboo topic and that’s what he said… “People just get weird when you talk about sex.” Well, there you go! Most (normal) couples don’t go around talking about their reproductive health. I’ll be the first to admit that opening up about birth control, sperm count, and balloons in your belly can be totally awkward! (Especially when your mom, bishop, and brother are following your blog. Hi guys!)

What I’m trying to say is that infertility seems taboo because fertility is taboo. For many, conceiving a child is sensitive and private. These are the same individuals who believe that not conceiving a child should be just as private. To each his own.

Despite how you feel about privacy, modesty, and babies, I have found that for my husband and I, talking about our infertility journey has been the best thing ever. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it now, this kind of openness isn’t for everybody. We’ve found that for us, it’s the easiest way to tell our friends and family what we are going through. I’ve been able to access more information and connect with more women than ever before. I have awkward questions, but it is such a blessing to get answers from friends who have been through what I’m going through!

So yesinfertility can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, but so can a lot of other things! If I had waited until we had “success” to tell our story, I would still be silent today. I would spend months waiting and worrying alone. But instead, I have friends supporting me, strangers sharing their stories with me, and a whole community encouraging me to stay strong. Awkward or not, I’m embracing this infertility journey that is ours. 

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Afterword:

Every man, woman, or couple experiences infertility differently. Wanting to acknowledge the unique challenges that others face, I asked the members of an online IVF-Support Group, How can infertility FEEL embarrassing? Their answers were inspiring, heartbreaking, and gave me all the feels. Here is a look at what just a few of them said:

I don’t feel accepted in my religion or culture. 
- “We're Catholic and our religion is against it so we don't tell many people because I don't want to deal with the comments.”
- “It's embarrassing because in most South African or African Cultures and societies a woman is always the one to blame for infertility within a marriage and you get called hurtful names.”

I don’t want advice, questions, or feedback from others.
- “People just are not educated about infertility. They make ignorant statements not to be cruel, but because they don’t understand.”
- “Get on board and be supportive or move along.”

Infertility makes my husband feel like less of a man/makes me feel like less of a woman. 
- “A majority of the time I’m fine about it, open and frank with people. But, if I’m being honest, deep down I feel like less of a woman. Like a defective woman. I don’t talk about it with anyone. No one says or does anything to make me feel this way, but...there it is.”
- “I was embarrassed because I felt like I had failed as a woman and a wife and that I was letting people down because of it.”
- “I think infertility has made me feel like less of a woman, like I can’t just do the one big thing a woman is designed to do.”

I’m not embarrassed anymore. 
- “I'm much more open about it now. I didn't want this, but this is my life, so why should I have to hide that when it's such a big part of my life?”

Comments

  1. You are awesome. I think it has got to be SUPER hard to talk about it, but at the same time, how it lifts a burden off of you because you know you're not alone. I just announced I am pregnant, but my husband and I saw a fertility specialist because we weren't getting pregnant and they were worried my bout with cancer back in the day might've affected something. Then out of the blue, I was pregnant. God sure works in mysterious ways-- I was so depressed and had pretty much given up on the thought of it, when BAM. I know i'm one of the lucky ones. But you are SO strong and amazing. You guys are in my prayers always and I love you both. Stay strong. You got this.

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  3. I know children are an enormous factor involving the social, cultural, and/or religious norm. But from another completely different perspective, by which, both my husband and I now, at the age we are, have decided not to have any children at all. Having children doesn't always mean having your own. There are so many babies out in the world who desperately need a caring and loving home but never get the chance at such a beautiful opportunity. Also, just being able to help others with their kids can be just as rewarding without the expense and time it takes to raise a child of your own. And yet, still have the kind of freedom to accomplish the dreams/aspirations you would like to accomplish for yourself too. What I've never been able to understand in this life, is why all the pressure and stress to have your own children. There are definitely other options that perhaps God has asked of us as human beings to consider. Yet we do everything that we can within our capability, no matter the expense or other factors that are involved, to forcefully and un-naturally make a pregnancy happen. It can definitely be a very controversial topic so maybe that's why it's considered so taboo. Just something to think about for whatever it's worth. However, I still do wish you all the blessings in whatever you decide to do for you.

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