There are many stigma’s attached to admitting that you’re infertile. But for me I think the worst stigma is the one where people think that you’re contagious and they avoid you for fear of catching it from you.
Initially we were very quiet about the fact that we were trying to conceive. We only told those closest to us – that being my Mom and sister and my two closest friends. But as the time went by and we realised just how big a challenge conceiving was becoming, we started being more open about our journey. We started trying before any of our friends did, in fact we started about a year ahead of everyone else. And now we’re the only couple in our circle of “fertile” friends to still be trying for baby # 1. Of all the couples we hung out with at the beginning of our journey, we’re the only childless ones.
As we’ve graduated from clomid, to AI’s to IUI’s to IVF we’ve told these people about our journey. We’ve shared what we’ve been through and when people ask we like to think that through us they’re learning about something that they would never have imagined. This openess definitley has a downside. I’ve seen many a pitiful look in their eyes when we talk about it. I’ve seen them take (sometimes physical) small almost imperceptible steps back from us – just in case they catch it. Just in case by hanging out with us they also battle for their next baby.
I’ve seen this in the cyber world too. You reconnect with someone on Facebook. They ask if you have kids. You say no and add glibly “unless you count my dogs of coursem, they’re my kids for now” (Word for the non wise – this is code for I’m battling to have human kids… at least it is 9 times out of 10, trust me). They comment on how long you’ve been married and ask why not. You tell them the truth. And poof just like that, the reconnecting becomes a quick disconnection again. Cos they do not want to be tarnished with the anguish of infertility.
How sometimes people actually state how they’re so happy that they aren’t like you. That it was easy for them to have their two children. How they would hate to not be able to have kids (with a look of abject disgust pity on their faces at the thought). How they look at each other and think secretly “Thank God its them and not us”. How when you talk about child rearing you get told “what do you know, you don’t have any kids anyway”.
And while I know that many of these people do not know how to deal with the reality of infertility, while I know that they say glib things to hide how uncomfortable we make them feel, while I know that they mean well when they offer platitudes cos it’s all they know how, I have to wonder if just a teeny part of them wonders if we could infect them with our “disease”.
And if it’s this fear that keeps them from having us over to their homes as often as they used to. If it’s this fear that makes them ask other friends about our journey behind our backs. As if asking us directly could make them like us.
Sometimes I just wonder if it’s me that’s pulled back from them cos we are in different places in our lives? Or if it *is* as my mind see’s it and that its them who have pulled back cos they pity us and see us as contagious.
I wonder. All the time.