The Infertility Secret

“I think I’m pregnant,” I told Ron a few months ago. “My breasts are sore. I’m tired. I haven’t started bleeding.”

It was too early to take a pregnancy test, but I had an extra stick in our bathroom leftover from previous attempts. It would give me an answer in a few days.

Ron was excited, but cautious. “Let’s keep this one on the down low.”

Part of me understood where he was coming from. He didn’t want to have to explain another miscarriage. With our first pregnancy, we had shared the news right away. I blogged about my morning sickness; about my cravings for citrus fruits, graham crackers, and, strangely, hard boiled eggs. I blogged about my urgent and sudden desire to take a nap RIGHT THIS SECOND and the mysterious and amazing growth of the little life inside.

A friend warned, “Keep quiet. It’s not safe to say anything yet.” The expert pregnancy books gave the same admonishment. But I knew if I miscarried, I would want the support of my friends and family. When I lost the baby, I was grateful I didn’t have to go through it completely alone. Phone calls, cards, and hugs meant a lot.

Turns out, a few months ago when I thought I was pregnant again, I wasn’t. Still, my conversation with Ron got me thinking. Early pregnancy and miscarriage aren’t the only two things women keep secret. Infertility is a hush-hush topic, too, despite the fact that according to recent statistics, over 7 million couples in the U.S. (1 in 6 of childbearing age) struggle with it—and those numbers are on the rise. What it is about infertility that makes the topic taboo?

According to this article, here are a few rationales people use for deciding not to talk: fear of feeling vulnerable; not wanting to feel hurt from insensitive comments (your eggs are too old) or unsolicited advice (just adopt); worrying that those you entrust with your personal experience will turn around and spread your struggles to others. All valid reasons. But the article also asks, what is the price we pay for NOT talking? 

I’ve been open about my infertility journey, writing and blogging about it. But at times it’s difficult to discuss—after all, the details of reproduction do involve private body parts. And infertility involves a lot of sadness and grief. Plus, the issue can make others uncomfortable. A few friends have tiptoed around the topic with me, usually starting out by saying: “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but how is the baby-making going?” Oh, gosh. I do want to talk. I fear they don’t want to listen.

Shortly after my false pregnancy alarm, I attended my first Resolve meeting. Resolve is a national infertility organization that offers support groups and information. It took me awhile before I was ready to take this leap. Even though I was open about my troubles conceiving, I had some irrational fears of my own when it came to support groups. Mainly, I was scared to be around too many other infertile couples. Instead, I wanted to surround myself with mothers and pregnant friends, hoping some sort of magical baby dust would rub off on me.

So far, I’ve attended a handful of Resolve meetings. I’ve met some amazing women who not only provide a listening ear, but who know the infertility lingo. It’s nice to be in a place where others can offer insider tips, share similar experiences, and simply be there to talk through thoughts and questions without judging. I plan to keep going and to keep connecting with others who have walked similar shoes. 

How do you discuss difficult and painful personal matters? Do you keep things bottled inside? Or share openly? Have you tried support groups? Did they work for you?

About Jenny Rough

Jenny Rough is a lawyer-turned-writer. Visit her on the web at www.jennyrough.com