Why Do We Pretend Away Infertility?
Humans don’t do well with emotional discomfort of any kind. This has been proven time and time again, but no more so than with infertility. It can be traumatizing on many levels, but I guess I didn’t realize how difficult an infertility diagnosis can be on other people.
They just do not want to see it, hear it or talk about it. They prefer to pretend it away.
Are you cured? Boy, I sure hope so because that means I can finally relax.
This universal sigh of relief was made abundantly evident in a recent post called The Magical Cure by Cristy (one of the most eloquent and sensitive infertility bloggers I know). She gave me insight into an experience I never had: sharing news of a pregnancy.
The responses she encountered made me shake my head in disbelief (as did a few of the comments). Cristy writes:
All the sudden, those who were distant are actively trying to enter our lives, wanting to share in the excitement. Yet too often, this excitement is prefaced with people wanting to ignore the past, ignoring the scars that are still very visible. Worse yet are those who are quick to offer the ‘see, you just needed to do X’ or ‘it all worked out for the best.’
Don’t even get me started on the ‘G_d’s will/plan” explanations.
Avoidance or denial seems to be society’s preferred way of coping with infertility. You can just hear the thought bubbles forming overhead…
What? Use the experience of watching a friend, family member or colleague confront a difficult diagnosis to reflect on how someone else might wanted to be treated? Instead of my perfected duck and run move you want me to try to understand this prolonged period of infertility uncertainty and loss? You mean you want me to be an adult about it?
Well, yes actually, that would be a nice change of pace.
It made me wonder how emotionally-stunted people manage with other hard-to-process diseases or unpleasant realities. Apparently, this “pretend the infertility away” syndrome doesn’t just happen when pregnancy occurs, the pattern repeats itself as evidenced by S.I.F. who commented about the radical behavior change she witnessed following her recent adoption.
Since bringing Cheeks home, I have been AMAZED at the people who have suddenly warmed up to me in major ways, after being cold or distant for a long time. It honestly shocked me, but then one of my close friends (who was there for me all along) finally said ‘Those are the people who just didn’t know how to handle your infertility, or how vocal you were about it. Now that you have a baby, they feel like they can be friends with you again.’
To use one my favorite Irish expressions, it’s time to give out — and I’m not just aiming this at the fertile world. Some of the worst offenders in perpetuating the myth that babies (or extended travel or therapy or a new outlook) cure infertility reside in the infertility community. If I could assemble all the “curists” in one room, here’s what I’d say:
Life is not a Disney movie, people. Infertility stays with you, always. You survive it. It changes who you are, how you see the world and where you fit in, among other things.
Contrary to conventional wisdom there is no magic formula that delivers TV-talk show closure. There is no tapping our heels together three times and, voilà, cured! The truth is it takes time for the many wounds to heal — and sometimes they re-open. Each of us comes to terms with infertility in our own way, but even that can be complicated by the weird way society expects us to pretend away something that has shaken us to the core. It’s only when we can give voice to our infertility experience and be heard that we can find our north star and move forward.
One more thing (and this may be a particularly hard concept to accept): children are not the elixir for happiness. Beyond being massively unfair to expect any child to shoulder that burden — making you happy — it’s important to remember that happiness comes from within, as does finding peace with all the messiness of life.
Now back to living and relishing my life (infertility scars and all) — grateful for women like Cristy and others who aren’t afraid to tell it like it us.