Just after my grandmother’s funeral, I was sitting in her backyard catching up with all my now grown cousins. We were all just at that age — starting our lives. Launching our careers, getting married, starting families. The conversation meandered then paused a moment. Out of the silence, an awkward question that somehow on that day felt like a pair of old jeans: “Your mom mentioned that you had fertility issues, what did you do?” Out came my story. One after another, my cousins admitted to similar issues — 6 of us — How did I not know that before?
Parking lot fender bender. We got out to exchange insurance information. It was a young, single guy. I handed him my business card. He looked at it. Turned it over, then looked at me. “I’m a young, healthy dude, but how would I know if something was up down there?”
Facebook post about National Infertility Awareness Week. A friend I have known for 5 years came out in the comments and posted — “I nearly died going through fertility treatments for 13 years.” 13 years?? So many people live in silence. So many people suffer in silence.
Living in silence
We all have bodies that we have to live with. We have issues and questions and concerns. But somewhere along the way, we learn not to talk about it. This is especially true about our reproductive systems.
We are ashamed.
Ashamed to talk about inappropriate things like lumps in our testicles or cysts on our ovaries.
Ashamed that we might be abnormal. That our parts are too small or too big. Puberty is brutal and words sting even decades later.
Ashamed to speak words that admit that our bodies have betrayed us. That if we speak words, they might come true. So we bottle it up
We are vulnerable. Wounded by fleeting comments. Tender by the failure of our bodies to be what they should be. Afraid of comments that will come if we speak up. Mean-spirited. Good intentioned. They feel like judgement and fall harshly on our tender ears.
So we keep it all in. We just don’t talk about our body.
Finding safety in numbers
Numbers say that infertility is common.
1 in 8 is the official number. 7.4 million couples.
That is more than the population of the entire state of Washington.
Infertility HAS affected someone you know. Their body has failed them in an intimate way. Their heart wounded by endless months of bad news. Most of them don’t say a word about it. Most of them just keep living.
The internet has become a safe haven and a source of strength for men and women who suffer this relentless condition. Shielded by anonymity, they find courage to put their journey into words. Those words are powerful. They create new choices and options. They vent frustrations and pains. They heal the heart and spirit. As voices unite and stories are shared a new kind of hope is born. New perspectives are found. And, though the uncertain future looms heavy, resolve is built and friendships are born. Life is forever changed.
National infertility awareness week was instituted with a single goal — to break the silence — so that people who suffer from infertility can find freedom and healing. Join the movement. Let your voice join with so many others. Because no one should have to do it alone.