The other day I was scrolling through Facebook while waiting for the night shift to come in at work (valuable use of my time) when I stumbled across a link a former classmate had posted to an article he wrote titled something like “Understanding Infertility”. I opened the article with skepticism…what could this male who is currently not trying to have children understand about infertility? I discovered (via said article) that he works in the infertility field (in what capacity I do not know), but the point of the article was to provide statistics, facts and basically spread awareness; all things I internally cheered him on for. That was until I got to the second to last paragraph of the article where he wrote “and if you’re a couple who has to do in-vitro…so what?” and then went on to talk about the availability of in-vitro services in the United States. SO WHAT? I yelled in my head. SO WHAT? I text my older sister in all CAPS with a screen shot of the paragraph. SO WHAT?
So I did the mature thing…I waited 24 hours, I let the anger subside and I reminded myself this persons goal was clearly aimed at education and awareness. So I decided the best thing I could do was educate him and make him aware that I took offense to (what I felt) was a poor choice of words. I wrote him a private message applauding his decision to publicly address infertility, I thanked him from infertiles everywhere…and then I kindly told him I felt his choice of words (specifically ‘so what’) were both insensitive and inappropriate. I explained that IVF is never an easy decision (as the phrase ‘so what’ implies), IVF is a terribly difficult process and many people do not have success with IVF (myself included). I explained that his language minimized what can only be described as the most emotionally, physically and financially exhausting experience I have had in my entire life. I applauded his efforts, but encouraged him to consider his word choices carefully if he chose to address infertility in the future. My exact quote: “If you’re going to speak on such a personal subject for many I think you must be cognizant of the impact your choice of words carry.”
I received a response from this person. He apologized if I was offended, tried to justify his message and acknowledged how difficult things must be for my husband and I. Truthfully, I felt his response was slightly condescending, but I accepted it for what it was and put it to rest. He tried. I tried. Water under the bridge-I certainly don’t have energy to waste throwing negative vibes regarding this into the universe.
So what’s the point? The point is one year ago I would never have written this person about their article. I would have been disappointed with the language, but I would have let it go. I specifically remember a year ago someone else posted on Facebook about how angry she would get when people asked why her and her husband didn’t have children yet (they opted not to have children by choice) because she knew people who struggled to conceive and she recognized how insensitive it is to constantly question a childless couple. A man wrote back on her post something along the lines of “people need to stop being so sensitive. If you can’t get pregnant just say you can’t get pregnant and people will leave you alone.” I remember being so mad at this stranger on social media, I remember drafting scathing responses in my head…but I never wrote anything. Truthfully, my mindset was ‘not my friend, not my problem, not my fight’.
But, it is my fight. I own infertility now. I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again) infertility is like joining a club you never wanted to be part of… I didn’t sign up for this, but I’ll be damned if I let non-members be this clubs voice. I’m all for any (and EVERY) one discussing infertility, spread awareness, don’t let it be the silent heartbreaker it is. But if you’ve never piled up negative pregnancy tests like Jenga blocks, cleaned the kitchen at 3am because of Follistim induced insomnia, lived through the sheer agony of having your partner inject Progesterone into your butt, requested a band aid instead of tape after a blood draw because you’ve learned from experience it’s easier to pull off, notified the doctor your right ovary is always difficult to see on ultrasound, rejoiced over follicle counts and fertilized embryos, kept your legs up for hours after an embryo transfer, happy-danced in the kitchen over a positive HCG, cried on the stairs after an ultrasound where your babies heart refused to beat or lay on the bathroom floor wrenching in pain as your miscarried your Warrior embryo…you don’t get to be my voice. You can speak for yourself, but you cannot speak for me. I will own this club membership, I will own my story and I will share it with as many (or as few) people as I want to.
Over these past two years, since we were told IVF was our only option of conception, I’ve felt the control being taken away from me. I went from someone who overly planned every aspect of my life, to someone who let the biggest thing in my life be dictated by others. I couldn’t control our infertility, I couldn’t control SMA, I couldn’t control my 9 embryos not maturing or my 3 embryos not being healthy or my 1 precious embryo not beating their tiny Warrior heart. But I can control how I handle all of this. I can control how and when and why I tell my story. And I can speak up if I feel someone else is demeaning my story. Other people can have their own narratives, but this club, my fellow infertiles, we have to own our memberships. Our Club, Our Voices.