After my last post about constantly being asked about my reproductive plans, it occurred to me that perhaps I should take a little more responsibility for all of this. Maybe instead of being part of the Problem I should be part of the Solution.
Statistically, how likely is it that I've made it to my mid-30's without having one friend or acquaintance that I know of who has undergone fertility treatments? Over the past year, I've heard of a few "friend of a friend" stories ("my sister's husband's co-worker's former roommate did IVF twice and now she has triplets!") but I've never actually known anyone personally who has struggled with infertility.
But then I wonder, how many of my friends and acquaintances would say the same thing? Little do they know.
It seems that when I joined the Infertility Club, I actually signed up for a secret society where all the members make up fake names like "longingforbaby35," and gather in underground chat rooms to discuss the intimate details of our cervical mucous and number of times we have sex a month and to lament about another baby shower at work for Fertile Francine in Accounting. Yet, few of us actually tell people in our real lives that we are going through this.
I recently saw an interview with Mariah Carey where she went as far as to tell Barbara Walters about taking progesterone during her pregnancy with twins, and yet, the words "IVF" were never mentioned. At one point, Barbara asked Mariah, in the same "about to dig up some dirt" tone that she might use to ask Lindsy Lohan if she's still snorting coke, "Did you use any....fertility treatments?" Mariah, of course danced around the topic, and who could blame her for not wanting to tell Babs about how she took twice daily shots of hormones derived from a pregnant woman's pee (bet you didn't know that, did you?) and yelled at poor Nick Cannon not get to close to her or he might burst her bulging ovaries, only to see the headline "Mariah Carey Gives Birth to Test Tube Babies" splashed all over the tabloids next time she's in line at the grocery store.
It just seems easier to simply smile and say "we're thinking about it" than to actually tell people the truth about trying to get pregnant. Or, in my case, smile, say "we're thinking about it" and then make a list in my head of all the things I wish I could say, such as:
"Oh, we'd love to have kids! My husband told me that if I swallow the sperm, it will get to my stomach faster, but we've been trying that for months and it's not working."
"Well, if we had kids, I'd have to give up my heroin addiction, and rehab is so expensive."
"We plan to have kids someday, but first my husband needs to get his gun collection out of the closet or there will be no place for the baby to sleep."
It's as if actually saying "we've been trying for months, we can't get pregnant, we're doing IVF" would somehow be more shocking.
I'm sure that for some of us, the questions and discussions that would follow a revelation like that seem more taxing than the questions that we are hearing now. But I wonder if for most of us, the reason that we're not telling is that we are not quite willing to turn "Infertility" into a part of our identity. Suddenly, we're not the childless friends--annoying, but it implies that at least maybe we had a choice. We're the infertile friends.
But when we keep quiet, we turn infertility into Something to Be Ashamed Of, like being an unwed mother or watching porn. And then we start to feel ashamed. Something is wrong with me. Everyone in the entire world can get pregnant except me. I did something to deserve this. It's my fault for not being nice enough/thin enough, for being too selfish and focusing on my career or waiting for the perfect partner while the clock was ticking.
Personally, I'm tired of being ashamed. This is not to say that I will stand up at the next dinner party, clink my fork against my glass and say "We have an announcement! We are infertile!"
But maybe I'll try a little harder to stop blaming myself and to start thinking more along the lines of:
"Thank god I waited for the right man and didn't marry my college boyfriend or I'd have 4 kids and divorce papers right now."
"Thank god I focused on my career so I could afford a nice home for my eventual child."
"Thank god that I did all the wild, fun, selfish things that I wanted to do before having kids or I might resent them and feel like I missed out."
"Thank god I didn't spend my life as a size two, or I might be an unhealthy diet-obsessed person who passes that onto my daughter."
"Thank god I went through this infertility thing because it made me so much clearer on the fact that I am meant to be a mother. I will be such a patient and loving parent when this baby finally arrives."
And maybe the next time someone asks about my reproductive plans, I'll say "we've been trying for months, we can't get pregnant, we're doing IVF." and someone who overhears me will come up after and say "me too."