Fertility Shouldn’t Be Taboo: Share Your Story
Cheers, dear readers,
A dear friend of mine (Alivia Tagliaferri, founder of Power Of One: Preventing Suicide in America) shared with me the following video that I will now share with you this week. The short clip features many celebrities (such as Tyra Banks, Nicole Kidman, and Celine Dion with Oprah) sharing their struggles and thoughts around infertility, the journey they’ve taken, how difficult it is, and most importantly the focus of the clip is on sharing our stories. They point out that 7.5 million women struggle with infertility — talking about it and the use of IVF shouldn’t be taboo as talking about it helps us heal and find support and feel less isolated. Yet many are embarrassed or feel shame to talk about it.
Without further ado, feel free to watch this short video… I’ll wait.
What did you think of the video? I found this video to be very inspiring, courageous, and comforting that more and more people – and in this case female celebrities in the spotlight – are helping to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and struggles of infertility. I for one would like to say a great big THANK YOU to the producers, video editors, and celebrities who shared so vulnerably and openly. I greatly appreciate you sharing your stories to help reduce the stigma!
This subject of why is infertility so taboo got me very curious, and I started to do some research on why we tend to keep our mouths shut.
I thought this article explained quite beautifully some reasons to consider sharing your struggles and experiences with others when and if the time is right for you:
Infertility could come out of the shadows, just liked breast cancer did in the 1970s, through the might of our personal stories. We, too, can kick to the curb the taboo surrounding infertility by the act of talking about it. (And who knows, maybe one day we’ll even get a branded lipstick to call our own.)
The secrecy shrouding infertility makes what is already an emotionally-, financially-, and physically demanding process even harder. It helps perpetuate the aura of shame and denies those of us going through the very necessary release valve of kvetching about the treatment that – yes!, we know – we are very lucky to be receiving. The secrecy and shame also help perpetuate the misconception that infertility is somehow more of a lifestyle choice than a medical condition that just like any other medical condition is worthy of insurance coverage.
Most of us can’t contribute scientific or legal advances to infertility treatments, but we are quite capable of chipping away at the stigma surrounding it—with words.
Well stated. I recently was speaking with a friend who has several children, one of which was a “surprise” in her early 40s. She was alerted by her husband of the existence of this blog that I have been co-authoring with my husband for over three years now. She very sweetly and sensitively shared with me her empathy and sorrow at my fertility struggles, and felt sad that she didn’t know about it while we were going through it. I do have a recollection of sharing with a number of friends my struggles as I was going through it, even though it was highly painful and challenging to talk about it all. Those who have been through treatment know that – as was mentioned in the video above – when you are spending tens of thousands of dollars for IVF procedures, it is so important to remain as positive and calm as the stakes are so high. In that moment, speaking to our friends who easily conceived can heighten our anxiety, fear and emotional pain, so often we stay away from it. I also wonder how many were so uncomfortable in the conversation, that they “forgot” it even happened. Selective memory perhaps. I forgive them and I move on as best as I can.
A few years after our unsuccessful attempts at fertility treatment, I did share some of my sadness and grief with a friend who later explained in an exasperated tone “Stop talking about your infertility!” This was years ago, and I have to say that I am still scarred by that incident. Who wouldn’t be afraid to share again after that display of insensitivity and lack of empathy? If I was talking about one of my deceased parents, would someone say to me “Stop talking about your dad!” Of course not! So why do that when I speak of my unborn children and that very real loss that the person I am speaking to luckily did not have to experience and suffer through?
This “silencing” due to someone else’s discomfort in the moment needs to stop.
I did some more research and found this article that further discusses why many of us don’t talk about infertility as well as other’s reaction to it. Here’s an excerpt:
Most often I hear it is so they don’t make other people feel uncomfortable, or they don’t want to be pitied. Regardless of the reason, it’s time for women to understand that they don’t have to be quiet about their fertility journey.
It is NOT your job to make people more comfortable.
Women have this amazing innate nurturing quality about them, and that means they always want others to feel comfortable. Whether it is talking about a great job promotion they got at work, or their struggles with falling pregnant, this type of silencing is what reinforces the taboo idea around reproductive health,,,,and you know what? It’s not helping anyone by NOT talking about it.
At the end of the day, whether you want to talk about your fertility, or you don’t, it is ultimately up to you. My point of all of this is to remind you that you do have a choice. If you want to share all the details, do so with confidence. If you want to keep your experience to yourself, that’s your choice, too. But the only way to end a taboo is to talk about it. If you’re being quiet about your journey for the sake of others, consider how many people (including yourself) might benefit from an open, honest discussion about what it’s like to try to conceive a baby.
It is so comforting to realize that we have a choice, especially when other choices have been taken away from us by the diagnosis of infertility. The feelings of isolation and feeling rather alone in your struggle can be so challenging and create much sadness. I urge you, my sisters and brothers, to reach out to others that you trust will hold your heart and words very carefully with kindness and empathy. Take the hugs that are given, and help create more awareness and tolerance for the dis-ease of infertility.
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. I wish you the best on your journey.