Originally posted March 27th, 2008
There are very few people who know about our fertility struggle, in fact I have only told two of my friends what’s been going on. The fact that other people now know (5 women plus whomever they told), was not my choice, nor of my control. One of those 5 women knew that we wanted kids right away after we got married and said “Don’t you know they’ve been trying since they got married?” when someone asked me about it at dinner four months after we’d started trying. Since I am a terrible, horrible liar, I could do nothing but admit to it.
One of the women there tried to console me by saying “At least your husband is ready to have kids. Mine isn’t even ready yet.” As luck would have it, she must have gone home and conceived that very night because three months later she announced that they were 17 weeks pregnant. My husband and I were on vacation when she and her husband announced it at our work, so they told my husband when we came back because we had missed the news. My husband, God love him, for some reason thought it would be a great idea to send them over to my very-not-private cube to announce it to me. What was he thinking?!?
Her husband came up behind me an announced “We’re preggers!” What?!? I’m sure my face must have been priceless. Here in my little convoluted dream world I was thinking about how I was going to get pregnant any moment now and then I could pass my copy of “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” on to them to aid them in their journey. NOPE. No, as it was explained to me, she had just gone off of her birth control two weeks before our fateful dinner conversation and they weren’t even trying. She didn’t think that her body would be ready to get back to normal that soon off of birth control, so she used the “my husband’s not ready for kids” excuse to cover up for the fact that they were going to start trying soon. Sigh.
I swallowed the painful lump that was quickly rising in my throat and fought back the tears. How embarrassing to me for her to feel like she had to explain her pregnancy to me, and within ear shot of 10 different co-workers, nonetheless. After she and her husband left, I took 5 minutes of sitting at my desk so as not to appear devastated to anyone around me who might know how this would affect me. Then I took off for the bathroom and had a good cry.
I was amazingly embarrassed by the whole situation. Embarrassed by how easy it was for them and how difficult it continued to be for us. Embarrassed that she (and presumably he) knew that we were struggling and frustrated. Embarrassed that now 10 additional people may have figured out that we were trying from the way she explained it all.
I felt shamed.
And really, infertility is nothing to be ashamed of. It really isn’t. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s not a reflection of what kind of person you are. It’s not a reflection of the parent you hope to become. It’s not a reflection of your monetary or social status. It just is what it is.
But my fertility struggle does make me feel ashamed of myself. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough; that I don’t deserve what everyone else gets so easily. I can’t make my body do the one thing that it is supposed to just naturally do. And that makes me self-conscious.
Every time the subject of babies and kids comes up it’s as though there is a big, flashing neon arrow above my head pointing right at me saying “She’s infertile! She wants nothing more than to have kids but she can’t make her body cooperate!” When co-workers bring their babies in to work, I watch them from a safe distance and wish that I could have that, all the while hoping that no one notices that pesky arrow flashing above me telling all of the world that I can’t have the one thing I want most.
It’s hurtful, embarrassing, shameful and frustrating. As I walk the halls at work, I wonder who can see that arrow flashing away above my head. I wonder who feels pity for us and what we’re going through. I like to think that those 7 women who know that we’ve been trying for 16 months now have kept my business, that most of them weren’t even supposed to know in the first place, to themselves. I know that there’s a good chance that they may have told others, but I have to tell myself that they haven’t.
And in order to stay sane, I have to constantly remind myself that the arrow doesn’t exist outside my head.