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…
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.
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? And 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?
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.
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!
(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.)