Most people in real life have no idea I'm living with infertility.
There is no brand, no scarlet letter. I do things most fertiles do: grocery shop, exercise, go to work, etc. There is no obvious way to identify me out of a crowd.
But for those who are living with infertility, I'm easy to spot. I am the one who gets quiet when someone announces that are pregnant "after only a month of trying." I'm the person who avoids the play area at the mall. I look longingly into strollers as new mothers push their children pass. Not only am I easy to spot, but I have no problem spotting fellow IFers. I've become tuned in to the signs.
When people learn that Grey and I are living with infertility, they usually act surprised. I had one person tell me "but you look so healthy!" when she learned the news. Granted, there's always that moment where advice is offered (and gently rejected), but usually silence follows. Because the idea that a happy couple like Grey and I living with something so terrible is something most people don't want to try to comprehend. The idea that 1 in 8 couples is struggling with this disease makes it all too real that someone they know and love is quietly battling.
Because of this mindset, I've also learned techniques to deflect questions about plans for children from people who really don't know better. I don't have the emotional energy to defend myself from the onslaught of questions that comes with this news every waking hour. And, frankly, there are moments where it's just not worth the announcement. In a way, I've become an illusionist: oohing and awing my audience with the image of a carefree and full life.
As all of you know, though, it's all smoke and mirrors.
So, how does this work? Well, there are a few universal truths.
First: the imagination always makes for a better story than the truth. The last event Grey and I attended was for his work. I spent a good amount of time dressing, doing my hair and even applying some make-up. The goal was that even though I felt awful inside, I was determined to show a happy, healthy me. In addition to this, while we were at the event, I made certain to keep talk about myself to a minimum. I answered basic questions, smiled loving at my husband when people talked about his accomplishments, and then quickly made sure to change the subject. Basically, I keep things vague and present an image of prosperity. This is the smoke.
Which brings me to my next truth: everyone loves to share their story. Whether it be about the vacation they just took, their woes with their teenage children or even telling you about a life-changing event, most can spend quite a bit of time filling in the details of their life. So I use this and have found that it's very easy to keep conversation going without having to touch on my life outside of some superficial details. And when the conversation starts to die, I stoke the flames with another question. This is the mirror.
The problem with being an illusionist is that one becomes paranoid about who knows your secrets. Though many at Grey's work know now about our infertility, I'm cautious about letting them know about the details from the last month. Those memories are painful and a source of weakness. So when asked how I'm doing, I smile and say I'm fine while actively looking for an exit in case I need to break down.
But now I wonder if keeping that facade is hurting everyone involved: me for feeling the need to hide and them from not learning the truth about infertility. I'm not suggesting that I sit each person down and explain the horrors of the D&C, but answering "you know, I'm really not doing well, but today is okay" may not necessarily be a bad thing. After all, the truth is suppose to set you free.
Update on FET: Saline sonogram and mock transfer has been moved to Feb 14th. Honestly, I can't think of a more comical way to spend Valentine's Day. In the meantime, I'm "patiently" waiting for AF to show up.
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