“Do you guys just not want any kids?”
“What’s taking you so long?”
The emotional response to these questions are different for everyone. Some may hear the former and give an answer like “hell no!” or, “maybe, one day.” Others…are silent.
The important thing to remember is that none of these responses are wrong. An individual has every right to feel a certain way about their own fertility prospects. What is wrong, however, despite every effort not to be malicious, are the questions.
These were real questions, made up of real words, asked of my husband recently. They were spoken out loud. Ears heard them, processed their syllables and tones, and sent their messages to the brain where real emotions were released from their holds. To some, they’re harmless questions, but for 1 in 8 couples, they’re words that hit deep inside an invisible chamber shielded from the outside.
It seems odd to live in a world where the process of childbearing is elevated to a level of simplicity. This is what we are taught. This is what we believe.
This is not true.
Not for 1 in 8 couples, at least. Sometimes there are reasons this “simple” process isn’t quite that simple. Endometriosis. PCOS. Low T. Cancer. Morphology. Blocked tubes. Hormone deficiencies, and a zoo of other diseases and issues that indirectly affect our bodies in different ways. And sometimes, there aren’t any reasons at all. They call this “unexplained infertility.”
I imagine being told you can’t have kids without a reason why is a lot like being told your two, normal looking arms will do just about everything except move. You know, pretty much all they were designed for. They look nice, contain adequate muscle, blood flows to and from the arteries and veins without issue, and you can even feel them from time to time, but try and lift a glass of water and you’re screwed.
I know people with both explained and unexplained infertility. Couples with malfunctioning ovaries and uteri, missing and misshaped sperm, and couples with both hearty swimmers and gorgeous wombs who can’t get pregnant. In all infertile couples, with all the differences in reasons, or lack thereof, one thing is the same. We all mourn.
The grief of infertility is cyclical and dependent on the individual. Just as in death, everyone grieves differently, at different times and in different ways. Many will mourn each failed cycle, some will mourn once and move on. We all handle it the best way we can, because at the end of the day that’s all we can do, handle it. It’s personal. It’s emotional. All the reasons why certain “questions” are painful.
During National Infertility Awareness Week, I hope more people come to understand this one facet of the many that make up the complexity of infertility. With so many circumstances surrounding the issue, and all the different beliefs that carve infertility into its own unique situation for each couple, the idea of simplicity is not a reality, and questions aren’t what we need. It’s hope. It’s love. It’s support and the understanding that we aren’t the only ones.
Silence is telling, but there will come a time when those dealing with infertility will need and want to share their grief and their joy. So don’t ask. Listen.
We are not alone. We are invisible warriors fighting an invisible menace.
– S.A. Dees