Hello Lovelies,

Let’s be honest. Most people don’t talk about infertility. This was made painfully clear to me a few weekends back. Here in Canada it was Thanksgiving. Good food, catching up with family, lot of chatting going on. Inevitably the conversation turned to infertility. “How is your blog going?” “What’s next for treatment?” Yadda Yadda. I was happily yapping away about everything. Frankly I was glad to have an outlet and I wanted support, when… from the other room… My mother’s voice rings out “You know, maybe the men can be excused from this conversation? Why don’t you boys head downstairs and leave us women to chat?” (paraphrasing here… but that’s the jist). I was surprised and more than a little hurt. My mother has been very supportive up to this point and it’s not like her to curb a juicy conversation. I mean it’s not like I was being indecent! I wasn’t talking about mucous… I was definitely aware that I was in mixed company. I was about to stand up for myself when hubby says “Yeah, no one really needs to hear about this.” Cue all the men heading downstairs. Ouch. Turns out I can really clear a room! The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt embarrassment and ashamed. It was very clear from my mother’s admonishment that infertility was not acceptable, polite conversation. Apparently this part of my life is not appropriate for mixed company, it makes other people uncomfortable. But I couldn’t help but wonder…

Why?!

This got me to thinking, isn’t infertility incredibly common? … research says, yes… Then why is it so taboo?! Are people just not ready to face facts? I think it’s incredibly important to talk about it! I think it’s way past time for this to change! So, let’s look at the facts!

One in six couples struggle when trying to conceive a child… 1 in 6. That’s staggering! If you were on a train with 100 other couples 16 of you would struggle to complete your family. If you’re still shaking your head, after all you may be one of the 86 couples on that train that fares just fine… consider that there are 7 billion people on the planet. Of those people 1 billion 120 million are classed as infertile. Holy Shit!! That’s a lot! And yet we don’t discuss it. Seems strange, no?

In case you still think it doesn’t need to be discussed consider this, 1 in 5 people in North America are at risk of stroke or heart attack due to coronary heart disease… and we talk about that all the time. It’s on the news, we discuss it with our children, it is one of the leading reasons behind our obsession with combating the obesity epidemic.

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We have even developed the “Heart-Smart” logo and “Health-Check” marks that go onto food labels for crying out loud! This way you know the instant you pick out your food stuffs if you’re keeping the health of your ticker in mind.

 

 

Heart health is one of the big players where collecting money for research is concerned. In Canada alone, the Heart and Stroke Foundation raises money each year with the “Jump rope for heart” campaign. In 2013, they raised over 38 million dollars in research money from jump rope for heart and their lottery. Keep in mind that’s the amount that went to research alone!! It doesn’t include the other millions of dollars that went towards overhead costs and prizes! Now, I am not saying that the Heart and Stroke Foundation isn’t a good charity, or that we shouldn’t be funding research for better health and treatment plans! Obviously it affects a lot of people and so we should definitely be researching into it!

My point is, if strokes and heart attacks are about as common as infertility where is our fundraiser? Why do we not discuss it more with our kids and on the news and in general public conversation?! Where’s our awareness packaging? aieBoonKTAnd as I am already talking about research dollars let’s tackle cancer. Cancer is a major concern in this day and age. So it’s no surprise that we are pouring literally billions of dollars annually into cancer research projects. Yet the rate of breast cancer sits at 1 in 8 women… which is lower than the current rate of infertility. And skin cancer comes in at 1 in 6…which, as you will recall, is the exact same rate as infertility. So we push mammograms and yearly breast exams. We have races and tournaments and entire clothing lines devoted to raising money and awareness for breast cancer. We slather on sunscreen, put UV protected clothes on our children and talk to anyone who will listen about how tanning is bad for you! Again, I am not contesting these practices… they are good practices!

Please, please help fund research. 1 in 6 people is a lot! But that’s kinda the point isn’t it? Infertility affects a lot of people! Where are our research dollars?! Where is the public concern and outcry? Never-mind emotional support from an understanding society!

Now, to be sure, cancer is a horrible diagnosis to face. The toll it takes on the family and that person are well known and accepted. And that’s why we as a society are expected to help take care of people diagnosed with it. When someone is diagnosed with cancer we send them gift baskets, cook meals for them, watch their children… we allow them time to heal and feel supported while they come to grips with this horrifying diagnosis. But here’s an interesting fact, did you know that being diagnosed with infertility is as devastating emotionally as a diagnosis of cancer? I have been living it and it has been almost unbearably painful… But don’t take my word for it! In a study conducted by Harvard med researchers found that couples dealing with infertility underwent the same psychological trauma as patients facing treatment for cancer. CANCER!! This isn’t even a new study! It was conducted in 1993!! Why, then are we still silent? Why then are we still unable to talk!? If infertility is just as psychologically traumatic as cancer then we should at least be willing to have frank conversations about it. Within society and certainly with the people we know that are going through it!

If a friend with cancer came up to you and said “I’m so depressed right now because the life I thought I would live seems impossible at this moment and I am so scared.” What would you do?

Hug them?
Let them cry big, sloppy tears all over you?
Cry with them?

Maybe all three? No doubt! Because you’re all decent human beings and, for god’s sake, they have CANCER! Now, what if it was a friend with infertility? Would you be as understanding of their pain? Would you be as willing to sit and cry with them about how it is shitty and horrific and tell them you’ll walk through this with them? Maybe. But notice that there is reservation.

I mean… they aren’t DYING! It’s not like it’s… CANCER!

No. Its’ not. But I’m suggesting that it feels strikingly similar.

It is similar in the way that it sucks the hope from your world. It is similar in the way that it drastically alters the vision you had for your life going forward. It is similar in the fact that you will have to undergo numerous tests and treatments, taking time and money away from other parts of your life. It is similar because once you undergo treatment all you can do is hope and pray that it worked. It is similar in the way that you hold your breath every time you visit your doctor, hoping for a shred of good news to light your world.

 

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No, I am not dying.

But my world has been irrevocably changed.

 

 

 

And it’s hard to say, and it’s painful to talk about. And you know what? It’s even harder when you are met with blank stares and unfeeling responses and chastisement to just “get on with your life”. Please realize that asking me to just “get on with my life” is as callous as telling a friend with cancer to “get over it”. It may not be possible for me, yet.

So please, hold my hand. Please, understand that I am hurting. I can’t see the possibilities for my future yet and I am not being selfish or unrealistic. This is a real medical condition. Please, treat it like one!

Love,
Unpregnant Chicken

(P.S: Let’s keep the conversation going. Share this on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, EVERYWHERE. Comment to me in the comments section. Let’s discuss this and bring infertility out of the shadows! Enough is enough!)
(P.P.S: For links to that Harvard study, click here.)

14 thoughts on “Infertility Taboos… It’s Time To Stop It

  • October 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm
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    Dear unpregnant chicken,
    I just want to remind you of how much I admire you for being vocal about your experiences. I can imagine what you’re going through is filled with overwhelming emotions and I really do admire your strength for sharing your experiences with all of us. If i may, looking at the situation from a different angle, other people may not know what to say or approach the matter because they might not understand. People appear uncomfortable with things they don’t necessarily understand. I don’t know if that’s the case in this situation. However, i do agree with you that this condition is pretty difficult and honestly, this blog has been really informative for me. However, I think people’s responses could be a bit harsh because unlike cancer or heart diseases, and other known disease, it is possible that they are not well-informed or just have no idea how to respond in an appropriate way that would ease your pain. I think that by educating people and sharing your stories just like you’re doing now is really good for us who care about you to understand your situation a bit more.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2014 at 4:57 pm
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      Kris,
      Hello lovie! First, thank you for the compliment. It isn’t always easy sharing about infertility but I do think it is very important and hopefully helps people better understand it and it’s implications to a persons life. Second, I think you are right. People are made uncomfortable by infertility because they don’t know much about it. But that’s my point! Why aren’t they more informed?! Hopefully the tides will start to change.
      XOXXO Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
      • November 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm
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        Hello from across the pond…
        I found your wonderful, powerful blog via Twitter.
        Last week a new client told me she heard about me during a dinner party.
        Had to do some Googling to find me, because she and her female companion were whispering together, there being men present.
        One women is a lawyer, the other a CEO.

        I was so deflated to hear that the F-word is still unmentionable in educated company.

        Helena

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        • November 2, 2014 at 9:58 pm
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          Thank you Helena!
          It is unbelievable how secretive infertility still is. In this day and age, where help is becoming more available and commonplace, it boggles the mind that people still feel the need to hide. Then again, when you don’t you risk being told off for indecency. It is tricky to navigate but very important that those of us who feel comfortable sharing… do so! That’s how things become less taboo, exposure. Tell these ladies that there is a great blogging community that can support them even if they don’t feel comfortable opening up in their personal lives. Good luck with your clients and thank you, again, for the praise!
          XOXXO Unpregnant Chicken

          Reply
  • October 20, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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    I definitely agree. It’s hurtful that your mother asked the men to leave and even more so that your husband agreed. I’m sure they didn’t mean to hurt you, but I actually gasped out loud when I read it (twice!) because a fellow struggler I know that I would be devastated if that happened to me. And it could, because, as you point out, people just don’t know how to deal with this.

    Thanks for the statistics and the study! They will be helpful to share in my own life.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm
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      Second Voice,
      Oh they definitely didn’t mean anything bad by it. They were just not sure what do say and put their foots in their mouths. Which is a problem because they SHOULD understand it better. You’re welcome for the knowledge… I love walking around disseminating useful information 🙂
      XOXXO Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • October 20, 2014 at 7:13 pm
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    I never knew that infertility was so high! I really enjoy your writting. You are such a bubbling, positive person. I am liking getting to know more about you and your journey. All the best for the future sweets! We will have to catch up when I am close to you. xoxo

    Reply
    • October 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm
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      Chantelle,
      Yes, infertility rates are staggeringly high! Hard to believe with all the talk we get about trying to not get pregnant! I am glad you are enjoying the blog and are learning more about “grown-up” Kaeleigh 🙂 Definitely coffee when I’m in town next!
      XOXXO Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • October 20, 2014 at 10:39 pm
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    As always, your words are informative, powerful, and inspiring. Thank you for speaking up not only yourself, but for the many of us struggling with infertility who haven’t summed up the courage to speak up for ourselves as much as we’d like to. Keep writing, please!

    Reply
    • October 21, 2014 at 4:17 pm
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      Renuka,
      Thank you for your continued support! I am thrilled that this post resonated with you!
      XOXXO Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • October 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm
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    Ahhh, my sweet little Chick-lette;

    I am going to play devils advocate here if I may. The reason there is so much more attention to other diseases and things like cancer is because do not CHOOSE to get them. It is not a choice that they make. Oh sure, people can make very bad health choices (like smoking) but cancers, heart disease, etc strike millions of innocent people. If they are lucky enough to live in a developed Country they might even have a decent chance of survival.

    Society believes that having a child is a choice, which it is. That is why there is not the same compassion, money, time and advertisement campaigns in regards to anything to do with it.

    It is definitely heart breaking for those who desperately want children to go through what you and many others are going through. The pain, anguish and anger over something that seems so natural, is to you, one of life’s biggest challenges. It is not fair.

    There is money spent on infertility, development and research. We would not have the programs we have now if there wouldn’t have been.
    No, sadly this isn’t a topic that is front and center because it is a choice to have children.
    Yes, it is something that can make people feel uncomfortable. It’s like talking about women’s periods in front of mixed company, sure it’s natural, but who wants to hear about the latest tampons, or panty liners or clotting.

    There will always be subjects that make people feel uncomfortable, women or men, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Prostate cancer is very serious, but I don’t want to hear the men at thanksgiving talking about a finger up their asses at their latest check up!!!!

    Some things are meant to be semi-private, and what you find comfortable talking about will make others very uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean that they don’t support you sweetie, it just means they are uncomfortable. Your mom was being a polite hostess, making sure all her guests feel comfortable and the fact that you know how much she supports you says it all.

    (steps down off her soapbox)

    I am proud of you and your ability to share your experience and you know I wish you all the best!

    Love Momma Leslie

    Reply
    • October 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm
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      Leslie,
      *Deep breath* Ok. While I completely agree that my mom was only trying to be a great host I very strongly disagree that infertility is overlooked because having children is a choice. The decision to want kids is in fact a choice, however, not being able to conceive after making that choice isn’t a choice… it’s a medical condition. So the ability to have kids is the issue here, not your choice on if you want them. See the difference? While there has been money focused on furthering infertility research I don’t believe it is enough. It is unlikely to grow to be enough without more public outcry. The point is it wasn’t my choice to try for 2 years, have multiple procedures and tests. It was my choice to decide I wanted children. After that choice was made it became part of my medical history… not my choice history… because I have infertility. As a medical condition I should get the same respect and support as the dude with prostate cancer. Even if you don’t want to hear about fingers up his butt.
      XOXXO Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
      • December 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm
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        You tell it, sister!! I didn’t choose infertility either – it chose me. And if the people I spend my time with are too uncomfortable to hear about it…well, then, sorry ’bout it. If some man with prostate cancer wants to talk about his prostate exam at the dinner table because that’s what he’s struggling with, then don’t we owe it to him to listen? Because he’s another human being and sometimes we need other people just to be there and we’re all just trying to get through life and the hand we’ve been dealt? When I find out people are “too uncomfortable” to hear about my infertility, you know what I say? TOO BAD. Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

        Reply
        • December 18, 2014 at 10:35 am
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          Jen,
          Right?! Big girl panties! People need other people to cope with hard issues. It’s time we all acknowledge that and stop being so selfish!
          XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

          Reply

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