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Let's Start Talking More About Infertility
A blog by Amira Posner, Healing Infertility, April 8, 2015
"The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: me too." Brene Brown
At my last Mind Body Fertility Support Group, two women recognized each other from their workplace. At first, they looked at each other with eyes of dismay. Not for one second had it occurred to either of them that somebody else in their workplace was experiencing the same problems as each had encountered. But, by the sixth week of group the two women were coming together from work, sitting beside each other and supporting one another like best friends. Their initial dismay turned into compassion when they were able to bond through the common experience of struggling to conceive. This story should not be so surprising. When you think about the fact that 1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility, you likely know someone that it is affected.
But why is it such a secret and why does infertility feel so shaming? I remember when I was on my own journey, I was so scared of people finding out. I felt defective, like I wasn't working properly, and I was worried that is also how others would see me. One of the major reasons we were dealing with secondary infertility was related to male factor infertility. I was quite alright with giving the diagnosis over to my dear hubby. He seemed to carry it way better than me. Here honey take the shame!
What is shame?
Shame is defined as a negative, painful, social emotion that can be seen as resulting "...from comparison of the self satisfaction with the self's standards...". but which may equally stem from comparison of the self's state of being with the ideal standard as established by society’s so-called norms.
When you complete the initial marriage stage of life, the next natural progression is having babies. In society today, there is a social standard driven by women's biological clocks. This standard says if you are in your early thirties you should be pregnant or at least thinking about it. If you do not fit into that mold, you are somehow considered an outcast and something is wrong. This is called social stigma and one of the biggest reasons we don't talk about infertility. It's an unseen condition. It's invisible. It's private.
We may feel embarrassed, ashamed, angry, or depressed, any or all of which can which make us feel separate too. We are the other. To overcome the stigma of infertility, we really do need to start opening up, start naming the feeling of shame. We need to start embracing it. Opening up and sharing our journey with those around us can improve our emotional, mental, and physical health. There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to infertility, and the more we talk about it, the less shameful the experience is. This experience of sharing our private problems is contrary to the way North American society functions. But, it has been my experience, both from my own personal journey through infertility and also from observation of other couples, that the sharing of these intimate personal issues ultimately is of great benefit to the both husband and wife. The quotation above at the top of the article sums it up well. Comfort can come from openness. Let's start talking more.