Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How infertility kills

Like many, I have folders on my computer filled with photos. There's wedding photos that have been digitized, hiking/camping/rock climbing photos from youthful adventures, photos from trips and vacations and family photos, including separate folders specified for the Beats and Jaxson & Daisy.

But there's also a folder I rarely look at; one that contains photos of myself during my time in the trenches. This folder is much thinner than the others, reflecting a period were I avoided the camera at all costs. The photos that are there are an emotional trigger as the version of me looking back is zombie-like: The forced smiles, the glassy eyes, the visible pain. It's clear something is very wrong.

A common theme that echos through society is that infertility, unlike other diseases (cancer being the go-to one for many making this argument) doesn't kill. When looking for support, many who are infertility-naive will immediately point out this "fact" that the infertile should be counting their blessings as they aren't dying and hence should really shut-up. But there are two things that aren't considered by the people making this STFU argument. First is most aren't actively dying and usually have no direct experience with death outside of the pending fear they have on the topic. But the second, which is far more potent, is that there are many forms of death with grief and trauma being a very formidable one.

BnB and Mali had separate posts talking about moving on from infertility as a form of survival, with BnB having a similar observation about self photographs following her infertility diagnosis. The death that comes from a life planned and hoped with expanding one's family for isn't something that can simply be covered up but is instead physically manifested. And hence the conclusion that infertility doesn't kill is actually dead wrong.

The memory of my time in the trenches, where I felt completely detached from the world and was instead living in a gray-toned, muted Elseworlds is still painful. There were moments were I wondered how long I could go on living that way. Hence why Mali's call for choosing to survive, stepping outside the comfort zone to find a way is so important and it's was a choice I remember making even when our path to resolution wasn't clear.

But part of this focus on survivorship that Mali and BnB make a wonderful case for is also changing the conversation about what infertility is. That it actually is death, killing dreams, hopes and promises for a chapter of our lives. That infertility and RPL actually do kill. And that telling an infertile to "get over it" is just as terrible as saying this to a cancer patient.

Because death comes in many forms. All of them terrible and live changing for the survivors.


  1. I've been reading Atul Gawande's book "Being Mortal", which is about end-of-life care in the US. I have so many passages underlined that apply to my experience with infertility. Infertility does end dreams and hopes and forces the creation of a new sort of normal that many people simply don't understand.

  2. I think one of the things that makes IF so hard besides the prospect of death (and is akin to being diagnosed with cancer) is the chronic nature of it. It can go on. And on and on and on and on. It (and other challenges) can drain the life out of you for the duration, even if you ultimately survive it.

    1. I was talking to one of my friends (a doctor) about the bitterness about life I've felt with IF and she made some comment about how that isn't unusual with chronic illnesses. And that's when it clicked for me, IF _is_ a chronic illness.

  3. Oh how I can relate to this post. Especially your ending.

  4. Oh, yes. Death comes in many forms for sure, and I can so relate to the living in the fog of Elseworlds (love that word, by the way), a husk of myself as I tried to make something happen that just wouldn't. Definitely survival is worth celebrating, and the death is worth mourning. It's very real.


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