When Life is Interrupted By Failed Fertility
Missing from many of life’s conversations where infertility is concerned is the male perspective, which is why I was both pleased and surprised to see that the first questions asked during the Q&A portion of The Cycle: Living A Taboo Forum came from men.
While I don’t remember the exact dialogue that unfolded, I do recall the powerful emotions conveyed as one man took the microphone and shared that he and his wife were approaching the end of their fertility treatments. Swallowing hard he recounted the toll treatments had taken on their lives. He wanted to know what lay ahead and any words of advice for healing.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I heard myself say with a pause to acknowledge their palpable heartbreak.
He dipped his head and grabbed his wife’s hand as I searched for thoughts that might help provide a brighter outlook.
In the months that followed my own search for a path forward in the wake of fertility treatment failures I realized that getting back in touch with the people we were before infertility shattered our sense of normalcy was one way to rediscover, reconnect and re-engage with a life interrupted. It was reassuring, I explained, to know that we had once known joy, once embraced life’s unknowns with enthusiasm, and once harbored hopeful plans that had nothing to do with our reproductive capacity.
It is possible, I said softly, once the hard and necessary work of grieving is under way, to restart a life that brims once again with passion and purpose.
Heads all around me nodded in agreement. On stage and in the audience were potent examples that brought those words to life.
On my flights to and from the east coast, I immersed myself in fellow presenter Miriam Zoll’s brutally honest infertility account, thankful for her poignant and provocative memoir, Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High Tech Babies.
With beautiful language and insights, Miriam makes clear the importance of understanding the limits of Mother Nature and science. She weaves together the complexity of biology, our emotions and our expectations for how life is supposed to unfold. We experience the torment that couples face when moving down the path of treatment and the heaviness of weighing options that even in our most rational states are difficult to navigate.
During waking hours, I was engaged in a constant, conscious exercise of weighing the good with the bad, of striking a balance. I was filled with hate and love, joy and dread, fear and adventure—all at the same time.
Familiar thoughts leaped off the pages. As I read about her pain and heartache her writing triggered a flood of emotions, some still raw for me. It was cathartic to release the tears and I was reminded how validating it can be to be seen and heard — and how much we help ourselves by helping others. She reminded me of our capacity to grow in the wake of tragedy.
Our collective voice is a powerful instrument. By speaking out, we can lift the veil of silence that has kept millions of former patients hidden from view for more than three decades. It is time to share our stories.
It made me appreciate all the more the chance to meet her in person in New York City and hear her read aloud from her book. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, you can meet Miriam during her book tour appearances this week including an event in Santa Cruz.
For more on the stories shared Sept. 27, please read Alizah Salario’s account of the evening on Women’s eNews: Grief is Born When Fertility Drugs Don’t Deliver.
As if I needed to be reminded how unpredictable life can be, wicked thunderstorms delayed my flight home causing me to miss my connection at Chicago O’Hare. An overnight at the airport was made easier to bear when a fellow stranded passenger helped me secure the last hotel room in the airport. There and gone like a guardian angel, I later learned she was award-winning poet and author Ellen Bass.