Friday, September 27, 2013

To speak or not to speak

"A tiny, urgent voice of reason told her to slow down and keep quiet.  That what she was about to do was probably a bad idea.  But since when had she ever listened to reason?Reason was for suckers and Presbyterians."
- Libba Bray, The Diviners

For the first year and change that we were trying to get pregnant, we didn't tell anyone.  Well, almost anyone.  I told Kate and Wendy and Dad.  Jeeves told no one.  We had watched people announce plans to start trying, and then felt the awkwardness as it then took them awhile, or as they ultimately struggled with infertility.  So we figured we wouldn't say anything.  When it became clear we needed help, I confided in G, because if anyone could understand my fears, it would be a fellow infertile who has been through the rigmarole far longer than I have.  She was a huge support for me.  

Last Thanksgiving, after we had gotten our diagnosis from Dr. M but were still digesting it, we spent some time with Jeeves's nephews.  His oldest nephew, J, and I had the following conversation.  For context, J was 7 years old at the time of this convo.

J: When are you and Chacha (that's the Hindi term for father's younger brother) going to have kids?
Me: Well, why would I want kids when I have you?
J: Maybe you want your own kids?
Me: Maybe I can just buy you off your parents.  How much do you think they'd want for you?
J: A lot.  Like, $500.
Me: That's a bargain.  I'm going to talk to your dad about it and then you'll have to come live with us.

J thought this was very funny and because he was 7 it was super easy to distract him from his original question.  But as I pointed out to Jeeves, J didn't come up with this on his own.  He probably heard his parents talking and wondering about it.  So despite our best intentions of keeping people from speculating, people were speculating anyway.

Not long before that happened, Phil had arranged for us to have lunch with another clerk that we had worked with, M.  M showed up at Phil's apartment and she. was. very. pregnant.  I had not known she was pregnant.  Phil knew, but hadn't told me because he thought it would be a fun surprise.  And then, then M started grilling me about when I was going to have kids.  I hemmed and hawed and was like, "Oh, heh heh, ya know, ummm, some day?"  I couldn't be mad at Phil for not telling me about M - he had no idea that Jeeves and I were having problems.  Because we didn't tell him.  Then M went off on a tangent about how women start worrying too early when it takes some time to get pregnant (even though she got pregnant right away) and the reproductive medical industry was a racket, and on and on, and I wanted to climb under the table to eat my lunch.  But I kept my mouth shut.  I just want to add that M is a lovely, caring, funny, smart person and I love her.  But hoo boy, on this day? She was a little tough to take.

We did an IUI and had a chemical pregnancy, but we still didn't tell anyone. We did the second IUI and it failed and we didn't tell anyone.  I just lurked on blogs and forums.  We started the third IUI and I told Jeeves, dude, you need to tell your mom what's going on.  Because if the third IUI was a bust, we were moving on to IVF and I felt strongly that his mom should know about IVF. He finally told her and she was very kind and supportive.  

Then we got pregnant and had the missed miscarriage, and suddenly I didn't care anymore who knew.  People would ask me what I had been up to or how I was and I would be like, "Oh, well, I had a miscarriage.  We had a really hard time getting pregnant.  So it's sucked."  I blogged about it, and some friends who still subscribe to my blog read about it there. Eventually I calmed down in my zeal for dropping the emotional bomb, I started to realize that hey, not everyone needs to be told this information in the middle of a nice dinner.  But that was that.  Infertility treatment and miscarriage have been the major events of my life this year and to hold it back seemed dishonest.  I love my friends, and I think I can trust them to be cool with this information.  And the idea that I was trying to spare myself from people saying dumb stuff like "just adopt" or "just relax" - well, people were saying the dumb stuff without even knowing we were struggling.  And for the record, none of my people have said anything dumb since they found out what's been going on.

I know there are a lot of other reasons to keep this stuff quiet.  I totally understand and respect why some men and women choose not to tell anyone, or only tell one or two people.  But for me, I just didn't feel the need to keep it quiet anymore.   And what's more, opening up about it has made me feel less alone.  I'm not ashamed about infertility and maybe being open and honest about it will help a friend or a friend of a friend some day, just the way G's honesty was a lifesaver for me.  I realize being "out and proud" about infertility isn't for everyone.  And it's not like I walk around wearing a t-shirt.  No one at my job knows.  And there are still some friends we haven't told because the timing wasn't right. But I'm glad I no longer feel like it's something I have to keep secret.


  1. You crack me up at the part where you said, "It's not like I'm wearing a t-shirt." We also told no one when we first started trying. As time went on I have found much comfort in sharing with my very close friends (some read my blog), but also have told no one at work.

    I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! I think you were already nominated, but that just means you are extra cool and loved. If you want to participate you can check out my latest blog post.

    1. Totally agree with you that there's comfort in talking to those you're closest too.

      Ha ha - thanks for nominating me - I nominated you too, even though you've already been nominated! Hugs!

  2. I was having a really hard day after my HSG and was on the phone with my dad crying about something else, and I told him. I don't even know that I made a conscious decision to. But he makes four people, outside the world of blogs, who know. I asked him to keep it private, so at this point even my mom doesn't know, still. I wish sometimes everyone could just know without me saying anything. Actually going through the facts is so emotionally exhausting, and I hate talking about it to people who don't get it.

    1. "I wish sometimes everyone could just know without me saying anything." YES. THIS. I totally know what you mean. It can be especially tough because a lot of people don't know what to say and you just want to end all the discomfort. I hope your dad was supportive when you told him.

  3. Anonymous9:05 PM

    We kept quiet at first, but then decided to tell our parents just so they would stop asking us when we were having kids every other week. And then once our parents knew, we brought it up as it was relevant with other people.

    1. Yeah, nothing ends the "when are you having kids?" question faster than telling people you're infertile.

  4. I'm so glad you've had a mostly positive experience with sharing your news...and you're right - people will say dumb stuff or speculate behind your back anyway.

    I think for us keeping quiet has mostly been about self-preservation. When my son died in my first (and easily achieved) pregnancy, I was far enough along that most people knew. And how badly they handled that loss, their inability to support us through it hurt a LOT and is something we are still healing from three years later. So later, when we had two more early losses in the process of discovering we had secondary infertility...well, we just wanted to keep our hearts protected. Funnily enough, I sometimes find with strangers it's easier to talk, because I don't *expect* anything specific from them, and if they say something idiotic I can easily shrug it off.

    But I'm with you - there is far too much taboo around the issues of IF and loss, and we should be able to talk about it. I only wish the general public created more appropriate and compassionate spaces in which to do so!

    1. Sadie, I'm so sorry you lost your son, and I'm so sorry that people didn't support you. I can totally understand why you'd want to keep it to yourself after that experience. I sometimes think that with miscarriage or the loss of a child, people are at a total loss with what to say or what to do because they simply won't allow themselves to imagine what it could feel like. It just seems too awful, and so it's easier for them to minimize the pain or to distance themselves.