It’s that time of year again – a time when we come together during National Infertility Awareness Week to share our stories, speak our minds, advocate, support one another, and most importantly, listen.
Today I am dedicating my blog to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker’s latest book The Mother of Second Chances based on her blog Ever Upward that released April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.
Yesterday Elena shared her story, and tomorrow we will hear from Lindsay at Knock Me Up Doc and author of The Two Week Wait Challenge. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward.
What do Ricki Lake, Chrissy Tiegan, and most recently Nancy Kerrigan, all have in common?
Ricki spoke out about her husband’s suicide.
Chrissy spoke out about postpartum depression.
Nancy spoke out about recurrent miscarriage.
Not only did they speak out, but people listened. People related to their pain. People didn’t feel as alone. Hopefully people felt less ashamed about their own experiences, and more courageous to speak out themselves.
Brene Brown, who has spent the past twelve years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, defines vulnerability as “…basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” She says “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.”
Ricki Lake, Chrissy Tiegan, and Nancy Kerrigan are all celebrities who would naturally have the courage to speak out, right? They have so many fans and followers who would be there to congratulate them for being brave, and who would support them through their grief and loss.
For as many supporters as they have, there are that many more naysayers. Each one of these celebrities probably knew that being vulnerable would expose them to ignorant and sometimes hateful comments. But they spoke out anyway.
In the infertility, childless not by choice, and pregnancy/infant/child loss world, there is a mixture of those who have chosen to publicly speak about their experience and those who have remained anonymous.
What causes someone to speak out and another to withhold? Why do some use their names in real life and others choose to remain anonymous?
There are many reasons people withhold and remain anonymous.
- It’s none of anyone else’s business what I’m going through.
- I don’t want to burden people with my problems.
- People won’t understand.
- I don’t have the time or energy to tell my story.
While some or all of these might apply, in my humble opinion, there is undoubtedly one reason people choose to withhold and remain anonymous.
- I am ashamed that my body is not working.
- I am ashamed that I’m jealous of my friends and family who are pregnant.
- I am ashamed that I’m angry at my friends and family for not understanding what I’m going through.
- I am ashamed that I’m crying in the bathroom at my friend’s baby shower.
- I am ashamed that I declined an invitation to my friend’s baby shower.
- I am ashamed that I’m showing up to yet another holiday/birthday party without my own children.
- I’m ashamed when I am asked “When are you going to have kids?”
- I am ashamed that I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life.
- I am ashamed that we used donor egg/sperm/embryo to conceive.
- I am ashamed that we had to use a gestational carrier.
- I am ashamed that I spent so much money on medication and treatments.
- I am ashamed that I cannot provide my significant other with a child.
- I am ashamed that I cannot provide my child with a sibling.
- I am ashamed that I have a child, and want another.
- I am ashamed that treatments didn’t work for me.
These, and so many others, are reasons that we hide behind the anonymous blogs and fake social media handles.
Why wouldn’t we? Those who have been in committed relationships or marriages for some time, and have not had a baby or two, are viewed by society as different. They are not quite understood. Same with those who have not found a partner to have a baby with, and want to do it on their own.
Why put our real selves out there only to be shamed even more?
Because we need to normalize infertility and loss. We need to allow others to be able to relate to our stories so they do not feel as alone and helpless. We need to encourage others to share their stories.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is exposing ourselves as real people with real challenges.
It is understandable to want to be anonymous, but what does that say to those who are experiencing infertility and loss? It signifies that this epidemic needs to be kept a secret because it is not acceptable to be infertile, or to have had losses. If it was acceptable, there would be no reason to remain anonymous.
It is not easy to be vulnerable. No one ever said it was. But perhaps, maybe just maybe…
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost
This National Infertility Awareness Week, let’s encourage people to listen up so we can be heard.
So we can be understood.
So we can embrace the empathy we’ve been longing for.