This week is National Infertility Week. I have never experienced the gut-wrenching pain that must accompany years of trying to conceive, but I have experienced wanting a baby, losing a baby, and resorting to medication in order to make my body do what every female body should do. Is built to do. Because if I can’t have babies, doesn’t that in some unexplainable way make me less of a woman? Doesn’t that make me broken?
For someone who’s never experienced fertility issues, the above reasoning may sound ridiculous. Of course that doesn’t make you less of a woman; it just means you’ve met a few biological hiccups. To that I say this. Watch your body fail you month after month as that square on the pregnancy test comes up blank more times than you can count. Watch your husband, who wants to understand but never will, try endlessly to lift your spirits and then fall apart, defeated, when he realizes he can’t. Watch everyone around you flaunt their baby bump while you – ashamed, sad, angry – cover your empty stomach with one hand and your teary eyes with the other. If you’ve experienced all of these things and you still want to call it a hiccup, be my guest.
Many people live their lives on a platform, preaching endlessly (annoyingly) about a cause that consumes them. Since our miscarriage, I have – gulp – become one of these people. Right after we found out we’d lost our first baby the doctor told us (in a failed attempt at consolation) that 10-25% end of pregnancies end in miscarriage. If that number is so high, if there are so many people out there struggling with fertility issues like these, why the hell is nobody talking about it?
Loneliness is a crippling ache. Until I started reaching out to people I felt like I was the only one who had ever lost a child – because that’s what it was, a child. In a world where it’s okay to openly discuss things like drugs, sex, and violence, it’s not okay to discuss infertility. Why is this topic still taboo? Why. Aren’t. We. Talking. About. It. All I wanted was someone to remind me that I wasn’t alone.
10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Given these odds, one of my friends may someday experience what I experienced. This shatters me for many reasons but mostly because I hate to think that they will encounter the same lack of resources that I did. Where are the books? The experts? The people, the women who have gone through this before? Don’t they have something to say – some insight, some wisdom, some hindsight?
Shame is a nasty thing. It lies to you, tells you that you’re inadequate, incompetent, inferior. And most of the time, because shame is relentless, you start to believe it. Maybe I am less of a female if I can’t get or stay pregnant without medical help. Maybe I really will never have kids. Maybe I’m not nice enough, not smart enough, not strong enough to have a baby. Maybe, just maybe.
Lies. All terrible, destructive lies. Women who struggle to become mothers are resilient, determined, and courageous. They should never be ashamed of their struggle; they should be proud of their strength. It takes a superhuman to face defeat on a daily basis, to battle biology month after month, year after year, in pursuit of the one thing that makes it all worth it. And how wonderful, how refreshing to know that, based on numbers like 10-25%, we are surrounded by so many amazingly resolute women. Infertility is not an ugly mistake that needs concealed; it’s beautiful a scar that must, for the sake of everyone who experiences it, be shared.
Happy National Infertility Week.