Sitting on the bus back to campus, I finished the last page of Julia Leigh's Avalanche: A Love Story and felt like I had been stunned. The emotions welling up in me, combined with my own memories of fertility treatments, reveal a tangled web that still requires more picking.
In an attempt to make sense of the emotions, I do a web-search looking to see what others have to say about Julia's book. One of the first hits reveals a review from the New York Times by Rachel Cusk. As I read, the numbness is replacing by hot anger.
This week, Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos is hosting a blog book tour for Avalanche. Already some have asked why this is necessary. For those who wonder, I invite you to read Ms. Cusk's review as she illustrates beautifully how much we need to be talking openly about infertility. Ms. Cusk opens her review by drawing a comparison between those who want to be successful writers and those who undergo fertility treatments, stating early on that the chance of success is extremely low and both parties are knowingly setting themselves up for heartache. That somehow we are asking for pain upon pain in the pursuit to grow our families. The utter lack of empathy is clear from the first paragraph.
The sad part is most people share Ms. Cusk's opinion. Most see infertility as something we brought on ourselves. Be if we waited too long or that we aren't deserving or that parenting isn't part of a higher-power's plan for us or maybe that we did something to cause all of this. We absolutely deserve this in their eyes.
Infertility isn't the first disease to face such stigma. 100 yrs ago, the American Cancer Society was founded during a period when a similar mindset was inflicted those diagnosed with cancer. It was through public education and stories, both of survivors and family, that changed how we view cancer today. But this only came because stories were shared, like Julia's memoir, Belle Bogg's recent book The Art of Waiting as well as many other books (Pamela's Silent Sororty, etc), this community of bloggers/tweeters/etc and even those who've chosen to share their journey, no matter the stage. The truth is, we need to talk about infertility and what it does to a person, a couple, a family and even a community.