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There's No Scarlet 'I' for Infertility

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a blog by CGD, March 14, 2011

I have a secret (and I bet that some of you do too). I may look normal on the outside and mostly act normal too, but on the inside my mind and body are consumed with infertility — both emotionally and physically.

I guess this is always true for me, but never more so then when I am mid cycle, as I am now.

Infertility as My Constant Companion

Today as I was walking home from my morning monitoring appointment at the fertility clinic, I thought about how all the people I passed on the street had no idea where I was coming from or what I was going through. That’s so weird. Obviously, this happens all the time for a whole variety of reasons. Life can be complicated, and we all have stuff going on. I am sure half of those people whom I passed this morning were worried about something. I am a psychologist, so believe me, I get that.

But, what feels different about infertility is that this has been going on for me for four full years. I, personally, have never had something this big that didn’t eventually work itself out somehow. Job losses, financial concerns, relationship issues — all eventually settle in one way or another. But, not this. Infertility has become my constant companion. Sometimes my companion is louder than others, but it is always there. What feels most tiring to me is that my life has not stopped during these four years. It has kept going and been busy and hectic, causing me to just find a way to keep going right along with it, all the while pretending that I was fine, even when I wasn’t. And that is just exhausting!!!

If you passed me on the street this morning you would have not even taken a second glance at me, I looked pretty normal. I worry a lot about looking “fine,” not wanting other people to think that something is wrong or that I am not managing things well. I keep my secret well hidden.

Letting the Secret Out

We are open in our personal lives about our infertility, so I guess my secret is kind of out, but not really. They know, but they don’t really know. They get the basics, and we keep the details to ourselves — a half secret I guess.

Often, I wonder what people are thinking of me. I know I shouldn’t really care, but I just can’t seem to help myself. Do they know my secret? Can they see that something is wrong just by looking at me? Infertility often makes me feel so alien and different from my usual self that it feels impossible to me that others cannot notice this.

I feel transparent, like I am branded with the scarlet letter of infertility that lets the world know my secret. So as a result, I work harder to keep things together and hide my secret. As I said before, it’s exhausting!!

This weekend, I had an interesting experience. I was with my girlfriends from college and since I am mid IVF cycle, my meds came with me. Now, these friends do know about my infertility, but I tend to say generic things and use words like treatment, which clearly can mean anything (they get the half secret version). Not this time. This time, I gave them the whole story with all the details. As I was telling them, I waited for the fallout, the world ending at the revelation of my secret or something like that. I know I am a bit dramatic, but when you spend four years trying to keep your secret concealed, it kind of feels like a big deal when you speak the words out loud in front of other people.

But you know what? Instead of the world ending, I actually felt kind of better. I guess I knew that the burden of my secret felt heavy, but I had no idea I would feel so relieved when I just gave up and started talking.

Now, this does not mean that I am going to start telling everyone and let my doorman know “hey, by the way, we are in the middle of our sixth in vitro fertilization (IVF cycle),” but it may mean that I can let my guard down a little and not act like I am fine all the time, especially when I feel far from it….

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Comments (4)

thank you for this post. You write so eloquently. I can relate. fmily and friends have been keeping me out of any issues in our family..acting kind of like I am a dying dog. I guess this is why we don't tell everyone...we don't like to see pity is their eyes.

thank you so much. I struggle with this too, wanting attention vs. hating pity. I have not yet been able to find that balance and wonder if there is really is one. Wishing you the best of luck on your journey. Thanks for your support.

The challenges of daily life. I often think about what other people are going through but like you said for most life situations - relationships, finances, work - work themselves out. Don't worry, this life challenge will work itself out as well.

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