Thursday, December 6, 2012

The human condition

Infertility. Miscarriage. Infant loss. Birth defects. Words that are guaranteed conversation stoppers.

As a child, I knew very little about any of these topics. Sure, there was the hushed whispered stories of an aunt who had suffered an ectopic. Or my uncle who struggled with his wife to conceive, but the details were always buried. Like a shameful secret no one wanted to talk about because of how tragic all of it was.

Even years later, when it became clear what Grey and I were living with, few people in our lives remain willing to talk openly about the pain and the doubt. On one end, I understand this. Each and every one of these topics is painful and filled with anxiety, guilt and grief. And there are no easy answers to these nor is there anyway to guarantee a happy ending to each story. Sometimes, there are no happy endings to these chapters of our lives.

I've been thinking about this more and more as Grey and I progress through this cycle. There's been a lot of bad thing that have happened recently, from Shelley's news last week, Trisha's and Tutti's recent miscarriages, news of uncertainty from fellow bloggers. Even S.I.F.'s recent post about evil in the world.  None of it is right; none of it makes sense.

The truth is, there is no guarantee that this cycle will work. Though IVF is an effective treatment for those suffering from infertility, there will always be couples who walk away from this process with empty arms. I know this because I've been there three times. Even if we are able to become pregnant, we still face uncertainties such as miscarriage, birth defects and even infant loss. All scary. All taboo.

Hence, it's natural to want to quietly go through this process alone. To hide from the world while filled with doubt, grief and the belief that nothing will change. It's also natural to want to forget once we are able to expand our families. To not talk about all the pain and grief, to bury the shame. It's part of the human condition.

But there are times when we need to fight this urge. To counter our guilt for speaking out with the resolve for change and a greater purpose. To swallow our fear and share our stories. Not for ourselves, but so that those who are suffering no longer have to live alone because of tragedy.

There's an article that's been circulating on Promptly talking about the rise of birth defects and miscarriages in Iraqi cities. The article, which you can find here, starts with the image of a young mother watching her baby die.
The women’s baby girl was struggling to breathe. Her little tummy heaving up and down too fast. She had complex congenital heart defects, like so many babies born here in Fallujah, a dusty, war-weary city, west of Baghdad currently experiencing a dramatic increase in birth defects and miscarriages.
The woman in the pink dress gazed with loving concentration at her baby, urging her, willing her to live, to take another breath. Her large brown eyes were not angry, more overwhelmed, full of innocence, and questions. I saw the babies eyes as she stared back at her Mother, only innocence there too.
The article goes on to talk about how there's been a rise in birth defects and miscarriage in these war-torn communities. It talks about roles of heavy metals and toxins in causing all of this. But the most powerful part of this piece is the snippets of descriptions of the couples who are losing children.

All of this has struck a chord with me. The knowledge that there is this amount of pain and suffering in the world and that for the most part, it is caused because of the greed and arrogance of others; all of which could be avoided. But there's a deeper purpose that. Having lost two pregnancies, I'm familiar with the pain and grief these couples are facing. The fear of an uncertain future and of being shunned by society.

I'm feeling a need to embrace aspect of the human condition; to step out of the shadows and rally for this cause. For raise my voice and tell these couples half a world away "I'm sorry" and "you're not alone." To let anyone who has been faced with any of this to know that they are not alone. And that there is no shame in having lived through it. In fact, there should be pride.


  1. There is no shame you are right. It is through our blogs that we are opening up the world of infertility to others, creating a voice for the pain and hope we all feel while trying to create a family.

  2. I traveled to Vietnam a few years ago. I was absolutely shocked to learn that the women there are still suffering repercussions from the war. A war that ended, at least for us, 37 years ago. In 2012, babies in Vietnam are still being born with extreme deformities. We don't think about the Vietnam war much in the US anymore. But the people that live there remember every day. They live it every day. I took that knowledge home with me and I haven't forgotten.

    I've thought a lot recently about my journey in relation to the people of that country. And, in fact, any place that suffers this kind of destruction. Pain, grief, and heartache don't stop when the guns fall silent. I will rally with you, my friend.

  3. This was such a beautiful post. And a heartbreaking one as well. You know, during my second cycle there were so many times when I WISHED I had not been so open about my journey. I hated how many people were now involved. How many people now knew. And how many people were now invested. I was scared for them, and felt responsible for their sadness. And then when it didn't work, I HATED how many times I had to explain it to people. But then, there have been the times when someone I went to in high school and haven't talked to in years has reached out to me on Facebook to say they are dealing with infertility and to ask for my advice, and in those moments... I am glad I have been so open. I think of all the times I felt alone too, and the fact that the women in this world sharing their voices were the only ones capable of making me feel like there were others who understood, and... I am eternally grateful for all those who share their voice. If only so that we can ALL know we aren't in this alone.

  4. I wish that you didn't know this pain so well, but you're right, it should not be a pain that is kept hidden. We should be able to talk openly and support each other openly.

  5. So sad about those Iraqi families... and of course this story will barely be covered by mainstream media. I understand what you're saying, too -- we have friends who have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for about 7 months now and I have a feeling they'll be seeking treatment. I REALLY want to open up to them about what we've been going through but my husband still wants to keep our struggles private (only a handful of people know in our immediate circle). It's so hard for me to watch these friends go through this scary, nerve-wracking early stage of IF, but I don't know what to do, really.

  6. This is such an amazing post. I wish I could reach through my computer and hug you and those Iraqi families. I wish it was easier to be open about the pain we're all experiencing.

  7. Very moving friend. I love this post.

  8. The only way to stop all the suffering on the planet is to understand the human condition. For THE explanation of our human condition have a look at this page.


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