Why Are We Hiding Our Struggle with Infertility?
When a friend is facing a cancer diagnosis, support comes pouring in. Meals are delivered. Chemo care packages are presented. Flowers are refreshed almost daily. All of that support happens because the person spoke up about this big obstacle called cancer.
Yet, when a person receives a diagnosis of infertility, our circles are drawn tightly. Only a fewest of our confidantes are clued in. Why do we hide our infertility?
It’s hard to talk about sex.
Infertility is intricately tied to a topic that is still surprisingly awkward for many to talk about. Sex, sexual function, sexual identity – these issues are uncomfortable for us to approach with anyone but our most intimate friends. The discomfort level increases even more, when there's a perception that there is something wrong or “broken” with our bodies.
Infertility can make us feel inadequate.
We also tend to go silent with issues that make us feel inadequate. We don't broadcast to our book club friends that we missed a big promotion because our boss thought we were not quite ready to go to the next level.
Feelings of inadequacy are even more tender and fragile when we are facing the failure of our body’s ability to do “what it was made to do.” Keeping the struggle to ourselves when we are embarrassed or ashamed seems simpler and safer.
We don’t want unsolicited advice.
Keeping our infertility struggle quiet is also a safe way to handle – or not – the myriad of unsolicited advice about getting pregnant. When we are already hurting over our own discomfort about how to talk about it or our feelings of inadequacy or shame, the last thing we want to hear is “just relax.” Or “just adopt, you’ll be sure to get pregnant then!”
There is no home remedy or old wives’ tales that will fix our broken hearts, so hiding the pain keeps things less complicated, right? Well, not exactly.
Hiding Our Infertility Has Its Own Risks
Hiding our infertility struggle from our friends and family might seem like an uncomplicated, safe way to protect ourselves. It might feel like the path to least resistance. But it also can leave us isolated, lonely, depressed, and with some serious damage to our self-esteem. Our male partners feel similar difficulty in sharing their fertility struggles and are also at risk for the shame, fear, and isolation that women face.
What is the Alternative?
Face Our Feelings
One step toward breaking the habit of keeping our infertility under wraps is to face the emotions we are feeling. When we name the feelings and counter them with healthier truth, we are empowering ourselves to fight for ourselves and our dream of a family.
Start By Telling One Person
We can also fight the tendency to hide our struggle by telling just one trustworthy person. When we break down that first obstacle to share our story, the telling gets easier. The slow crafting of a reliable, supportive "village" around us starts with honestly talking about the road we are walking. For a journey this challenging, we do need a village upon whom we can count to inspire, encourage, and care for us.
Finally, we can overcome the urge to keep our infertility to ourselves by seeking professional support. As we’ve acknowledged, infertility touches almost every area of our life. We need coping tools to take care of our whole selves. Seeking the help of a counselor or therapist trained in issues of infertility is an investment in our family.
After all, we are on this journey to become parents. Our future families deserve a healthy mind, body, and spirit that we can offer them if we are willing to speak up and share how we got to them.
Special blog feature provided by Creating a Family. Creating a Family is a national infertility, adoption, & foster care education and support nonprofit with a mission to strengthen families through unbiased education and support for infertility patients, adoptive parents, foster parents, and allied professionals.