In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, Resolve's suggestion for generating awareness is to Bust a Myth about infertility.
Although I know more about infertility than I care to admit, I couldn't settle on one topic to write about.
I've decided to write about why we kept our infertility struggle a secret.
As you can imagine, infertility is a very personal topic. Admitting that you're infertile is sort of like admitting that you have a wart on your foot. Except multiply that by ten. Who wants to admit that they have it? It's there and you can hide it for a really long time, but eventually you wonder if other people will notice. Then it becomes this thing that needs to be dealt with.
There wasn't ever a defining moment when we decided to not talk openly about our infertility. We had been trying for a while with the anticipation that it would be a big surprise once we revealed that we were expecting a baby. As the months passed it became apparent that it may not happen as quickly as we thought. I was not a stranger to infertility. I had friends who had trouble conceiving, but until we experienced it for ourselves I had no idea what we were in store for.
In school as children we are taught about the reproductive system and that once we (girls) start menstruating that we 'will' get pregnant if we have unprotected sex. We were even told (scared into thinking) that we can get pregnant while we have our period. Which is nearly impossible. We are taught the basics. We were taught what a textbook cycle is - Day 1 you get your period. 14 days later you ovulate. 14 days after that you get your period again. While a textbook cycle is true for many women, it is not uncommon for a women's cycle to be shorter than 28 days or longer than 30 days. I do agree that children should be educated this way, I also think as we become adults there should be more discussion with doctors, friends and family about the things that could complicate getting pregnant. Cycle length is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to infertility. There are many medical conditions that can lead to infertility in a woman. PCOS, endometriosis, luteal phase defect, and recurrent loss to name a few of the common causes. One in five infertility cases are undiagnosable.
Likewise one of the old school misconceptions about infertility is that there is something wrong with the woman. 30% of diagnosed infertility cases are due to male factor infertility. Some of the causes being low hormone levels and sperm production disorders.
We dealt with a couple of the causes I mentioned above. We went from one doctor telling us that we'd only need a little assistance conceiving. While another doctor said our best chance at conceiving would be to go directly to IVF. Imagine for a second being pulled in two completely different directions and being faced with how to attempt to start a family. The time, financial and emotional aspects were exhausting.
Procreation is one of the most natural instincts we have. Men are genetically built to 'spread their seed' and ensure their genetics get passed on. Women have a natural nurturing instinct. While there are those who choose not to have children, many believe that having children is the next natural step.
When that next natural step isn't as natural as we were once taught, it left us feeling like we were doing something wrong or that we were being punished for some reason.
Infertility is a medical condition. It is nothing to be ashamed of, yet is such a personal matter that talking about it openly was not natural for us. Sharing our personal experiences about the invasive procedures I had to endure and the numerous semen analysis' that Christos had to do is not something we wanted to share month after month. The thought of sharing yet another negative cycle with anyone was another reminder that we were still not pregnant. So we continued to keep it to ourselves and seek out comfort and knowledge from others who had experienced it.
After struggling to get pregnant the first time (with CT) and now after the losing Xander, I am more confident and comfortable with talking about our journey. None of it is ever easy to talk about. Don't you ever wonder about public figures who hint that they've had trouble but they never really come out and talk about how truly difficult and heart wrenching it can be to start a family? As role models I wish they would speak up to help raise awareness for the ALI (Adoption/Loss/Infertility) community, however I can totally relate to their wishes to keep it private.
In an effort to Bust a Myth or answer any curiosities, I welcome (urge) you to speak up. Allow me to help you understand a little bit more about infertility and the challenges many want-to-be-parents face. Please leave a question in the comments section here or if you prefer to remain anonymous you can send me an email with your question. When (if) I get any questions, I will write another post with the answers to hopefully inform you even more.
I hope that during this week you keep everyone who is struggling to become a parent in your thoughts and prayers. If you want more information, I encourage you to visit Resolve.
"Parenthood doesn't erase (infertility) - it's a new creation that is built on a blank space on the heart, not a new creation rewriting everything that came before it." ~Melissa Ford