Infertility effects far more people than most of us think it does. When I first found out I couldn’t fall (or stay) pregnant at the drop of a hat – which is pretty much the assumption we all work under while we spend years wasting time and money on contraception that we don’t need – it hit me, not like a tonne of bricks, but rather more like a wet haddock upside the head… a seemingly minor setback. There was no major ‘OMG I can’t have kids’ crying into my teacups moment. No, ‘Oh why me? Life is so unfair!’ bullshit (but some of that did come later*). Just a ‘Well this fucking sucks… what can we do to fix it’ kind of head space kicked in.
No one expects that they won’t be able to have kids when they are ready to, but it happens, and to significantly more couples than most people realize. When you discover you’re infertile, one of the completely inexplicable things a lot of women tend to do, is expend an awful lot of energy keeping it to themselves. My family knew about it when I started on IVF… but none of them have any real idea of exactly what I went through. Some of my friends knew I was on IVF. but it was usually only disclosed to stop the semi-frequent questions asking when we were going to have kids! I rarely discussed it with anyone if I could in any way avoid doing so. And when I absolutely couldn’t avoid a discussion, I would talk predominantly about the medical procedures, the prohibitive expense of it, the time, energy and resources that went into it, the way the whole thing felt like gambling… anything and everything but never talked about the emotional toll.
Because it was just too hard. Too hard to describe the enormous physical strain it puts you under (my God the hormones!). Too hard to define the emotional turmoil that came with every failed cycle (the constant disappointments!). Too hard to acknowledge how much the entire endeavour made me feel like a complete and utter failure as a woman. Just too hard to talk to people about it in general, and I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone… family, friends or professionals. I was disinclined towards discussing my feelings about IVF because I didn’t want to be repeatedly getting emotionally upset and I really didn’t want to share my intimate health problems with all and sundry and find myself constantly recounting my personal failures. Those were my reasons for trying to keep it to myself, but from what I understand the tendency to be silent is pretty common for people in this situation for a multitude of emotionally charged reasons.
I saw the other day that there is a documentary currently being made at the moment called ‘On Infertile Ground’, which focuses on the ‘silence’ that surrounds infertility. They have just started a fund raising appeal to gather support and monies to pay for their documentary – one which I will be very interested to see once it’s made and one which will no doubt feel all too familiar to me. I kinda want to donate money to their fundraising efforts myself… but being part of the 1 in 6 couples who have spent TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS on fertility treatments over the years, I feel like I’ve spent more than my fair share of $$$ on infertility, thank you very much!!!
Maybe some of ‘the lucky ones’ who managed to get pregnant for FREE (fuck, how that concept does my head in) will throw the cost of a box of Clomid (approx $30.69) towards their fund raising, and offer up a little thanks for fact that they never had to know what the bloody hell Clomid is.
*I didn’t talk about it much, but I did end up blogging about how infertility and IVF made me feel (back when NO ONE read this thing). I wouldn’t recommend it, because it’s mostly pretty angsty and downright depressing, but if anyone wanted to know how IVF effected me over the years, you can click on the ‘IVF’ in the tag cloud my front page and go look back on how bitter and twisted infertility can make you. Strangely enough, I don’t think I’ve ever really managed to entirely shake off all that bitter cynicism…