With Mother’s Day (AKA hardest day of the year) approaching, I wanted to write a couple of articles over the next couple of weeks about the lesser talked about issues when struggling with infertility. One of these issues is why many of us choose to keep our struggle with infertility private. Whether it’s up until you’re actually pregnant, keeping a miscarriage quite, or up until you are ready to share your journey with others. There are so many reasons as to why we choose to do this. Because there are so many different reasons as to why we keep our journeys quiet, I wanted to reach out to my fellow TTC sisters to get their opinions as well. I also wanted to show that there are more people out there struggling with infertility than you may think, just because no one around you has mentioned it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in your circle of friends isn’t dealing with this. Knowing this, if you aren’t dealing with infertility it may make you wonder or even be a little upset that some one around you doesn’t ‘trust’ you enough to talk about this struggle. That’s not entirely the case, like I mentioned before there are several reasons as to why we keep our journey through infertility quiet.
There will be several quotes from my fellow TTC sisters about this topic, and because they are choosing to keep their journey private, I will be keeping all their quotes anonymous to protect their identities. So without further delay here are 5 reasons why we choose to keep our journey through infertility quiet:
I know what you’re thinking right now, “Shame? why would anyone feel shameful for being infertile?” Well, there are a lot of reasons why:
- “…I always thought people would think less of me or think I was “broken” if I told them about my infertility journey.”
- “With friends I felt embarrassed and ashamed of the whole situation…”
- “…I’ve stopped telling people (first cycle everyone knew every detail!) because although they were being supportive and amazing I found that the pressure of letting them all down as well as myself was too much…”
For myself, I was ashamed for a long time. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t get my own body to work the way that it was supposed to, that I couldn’t (and probably never would be able to) give my husband biological children of our own. Especially when there were so many people around us who were able to get pregnant after just one month of trying.
2. Hurtful comments, or unsolicited advice.
I’ve experienced these comments myself, not just from family, but from complete strangers and friends as well. I’ve gotten, “Well maybe God doesn’t think you will be best fit as parents.” or “Maybe you’re just not praying enough, or are too stressed.” But the worst was “You know it’s because you don’t eat meat right? If you were to begin eating animal based proteins and lose a couple of pounds then you would get pregnant.” Yup, you read that right. Lose weight and eat meat again. Not many of you know, but the reason I don’t eat meat or have dairy based products is because I’m ALLERGIC. And yes, this person knew both of those facts. I’m also no where near to needing to lose weight from a medical standpoint. But lets not get me started on that last one.
With that being said, we weren’t the only ones who kept our journey private for that reason as well. Here are some more people who also had the same reason:
- “…I didn’t want to hear that I’m stressed or that we need to stop thinking about it and it will happen. I didn’t want to hear about “if it’s meant to be…” or anything about His plan….”
- “…I’m a plus sized woman and along the way my size has been brought up as playing a factor in my infertility. Nothing hurts worse than two heart breaking parts of my life being combined. I’ve always worried about the questions and the hard comments that come with this season. Some days I can barely hold myself together as it is. I don’t think I could handle tough questions or well meaning but sometimes hurtful comments on a regular basis…”
- “… For us, we’ve heard “the stories”: ‘oh I know someone who tried and tried and then when they adopted, got pregnant’ or the ‘you just need to relax’. It’s hard to open up to people who can’t open their mind or relate to our situation…”
- “…Another reason why, is because it has been so hard and heartbreaking we just don’t want everyone’s opinion and their questions. Especially from people that don’t understand or have never been through it…”
This is one reason that has frequently come up when discussing infertility. This has mainly been from people who have step-children. I’ve had conversations with so many couples who talk about the judgement they receive from outside the marriage. They have told me that people will frequently approach them and tell them that they should just be happy to have the step-child in their lives and be done with infertility treatments. That they are being selfish in pursuing to try and conceive a child of their own. Well, it’s not selfish to want to be able to conceive and have a biological child of your own with the person you have committed your life to.
- “A lot of it for us was how ashamed I felt and I was trying to process everything, and the other was that we were so worried people were going to judge us. Especially where my fiancé has a son from a previous relationship. I was just worried what people were going to say about it all but there are still things we’ve kept quiet from friends and family.”
Another reason I’ve encountered is from couples who have experienced people telling them that they must have done something in their lives to deserve infertility. To accept that infertility is obviously a punishment of some sort. to move on with their lives and be thankful. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! I know infertility can feel like a punishment sometimes, okay most times, but it doesn’t mean that it is. Every person who I have talked to who struggled with infertility has told me how much stronger they have become by going through this season of life. Because there are so many stories about the judgement or criticism they receive daily from others, many have opted to open private accounts on social media as a way to be able to share their struggles and ask questions without being judged.
- “I guess, for my husband and I, it’s to avoid judgment. I opened this separate account not linked to my personal one because I wanted a “safe” space to share… away from the judgment or criticism from friends or family members (some of who may mean well even though it doesn’t always seem like it).”
Constantly answering people’s questions or telling the same story over and over can really ware on the person. It’s not that we mind telling people what is going on, it’s just that sometimes the constant bombardment of questions, opinions, and suggestions becomes incredibly overwhelming. Add in stressful infertility tests, treatments, specific timings needed for each drug or test, and you begin to feel like you’re drowning in the ocean. It can also be incredibly overwhelming to constantly be forced to explain the reasons why you decided to pursue treatments, why that specific treatment (i.e. IUI, IVF, DEIVF, etc.), and the Mother of all questions “why don’t you just adopt?”
- ” Some days I can barely hold myself together as it is. I don’t think I could handle tough questions or well meaning but sometimes hurtful comments on a regular basis.”
- “Also, another reason is if/when things don’t go right, it sucks to have to explain it to everybody (sometimes over and over again to different people) when you just want to crawl into a corner and be with your own thoughts.”
- “I’ve stopped telling people…because although they were being supportive and amazing I found that the pressure of letting them all down as well as myself was too much.”
In other words, we just don’t need that added stress in our lives.
5. Holding out for that special moment.
Beginning the journey through infertility causes your life to become an open book. What I mean by this is your doctors need to know almost every aspect of your life, sometimes this includes even delving deep into your family history to try and figure out what is going on. You’re even asked about intimate topics, functions about your body that you may not even be comfortable with sharing to your partner. You are both incessantly poked with needles, forced to take pills that mess with your emotions, have to take test after medical test, and you even have to sometimes (most times) go as far as having timed intercourse which then is also needed to be relayed to your doctors. It begins to feel as though you no longer have any type of privacy or control over your life. So for many of us, even though we may mention that we will be doing treatments, we are still vague. Why? Because we are holding onto one part of this journey that we can control, that gives us hope; to finally announce we are pregnant.
It may seem like such a small thing to most, but to be able to finally tell your family or friends that after all the pain, after all the suffering, after all the tears, that you and your partner successfully created a tiny human that is in your body at that very moment is everything. Sometimes holding onto the hope that that day may come is all we have to get through the pain.
- “I haven’t told everyone when exactly we’re doing each step of our treatment. Honestly, it’s because I think about “normal” couples (the 7 in 8 lol) and all the fun things they get to do to surprise people. It’s way more fun to surprise people with announcements etc when we finally DO get pregnant, rather than people just asking, how’d it go? Seems silly, but it’s a big deal to me!…”
- ” I haven’t told my parents because I’ve always dreamed of being able to surprise them and tell them they are going to be grandparents (like anyone else who can conceive normally)…”
There you have it, five reasons why a lot of us choose to keep our journey through infertility private. Whether it be for a portion of the journey or all of it, we all have our reasons.