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a blog by Gina Paoletti-Falcone, RN, BSN, August 27, 2010

Infertility is finally getting some coverage in women’s magazines and I do mean reputable women’s magazines. In the August 2010 issue of SELF, “This woman has a secret” highlights the private struggle that one in eight American couples face when trying to start their family, often alone and in silence. A recent survey showed that 61percent of couples hide their struggle from family and friends and find it easier to tell people they don’t intend to have children than to share their troubles.

Lindsay Beck, founder of Fertile Hope, a program that supports cancer patients whose treatment threatens their fertility, sums it up this way:

“In my experience, it’s a much lighter atmosphere in the cancer waiting room than in the IVF waiting room. Cancer patients talk about anti-nausea drugs and what worked for them. They look at each other as a means of support. For some reason fertility patients tend to ignore each other in the waiting room. Infertility is where breast cancer was in the 1970s — completely in the closet.”

For someone who has experienced cancer twice and infertility, that’s a very profound observation. So why don’t we talk about our infertility with friends and family the way we would talk to them about a cancer diagnosis? Is it because conception usually involves sex? Or is there more to it? The article’s author, Jennifer Wolff Perrine, got these answers from some of her interviews.

  • “We have so much invested that we can’t deal with other people being emotionally invested. We can’t deal with other people being upset if it doesn’t work when we are already so upset ourselves.”
  • “Patients slink around and sit in corners because they don’t want to see anyone they know from their work or social circle, even if it would mean they would know someone going through the same thing.”
  • “I was afraid of people judging me because I was older. They ask, ‘Why did you wait?’ But they didn’t live my past.”
  • “Isolation is a defense mechanism against overload. It isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it’s what infertility patients do to protect themselves.”

So my challenge to you today is to consider sharing your struggle with at least one person. Talk about it to someone you think will listen. That may be your sister, your mother, your best friend or a woman you see in the waiting room at your doctor’s office. I know that’s putting yourself out there, and that can make you feel vulnerable and exposed. But what if that person reaches out to you, just takes your hand and listens. Infertility is a disease. You need support and love as you fight the battle.

Don’t suffer in silence, talk about it.

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