At the age of 41, knee deep in dirty diapers and The Wiggles, I began writing about the decade-long battle it took to get to my two young children. Putting my experiences down on paper was for me, a way of processing all that I had been through. Issues of identity, grief, and loss were among my central themes. For a long time those stories lived in my computer, never seeing the light of day and that’s exactly how I wanted it. But then something inside of me shifted. Since writing about my infertility was helpful for me, I began to wonder if it could also be beneficial to someone else.
There were so many women whose infertility stories were very comforting to me while I was going through it. When everyone around me was having children, these stories were my lifeline to a community and a sisterhood.
Even after the worst of days, reading about someone else going through the same thing gave me the strength to begin another day in a very baby-centered world.
So I began reaching out, sending out my stories to editors, both elated and terrified at the thought of someone else reading my words. Getting published and receiving positive feedback from others gave me to courage to keep going.
But it’s not always easy. It’s hard to relive a time filled with so much pain and uncertainty. It’s hard to remember a period in your life when relationships were strained and you were isolated from your peer group. When doing this work, you intentionally put yourself back into the head-space of a patient enduring medical treatments and subsequent failures.
What I could be doing is simply cuddling with my kids or chatting with other parents about soccer practice and picky eaters. I could be going about my day forgetting that that time in my life ever existed.
But I don’t.
The one thing that stands out to me the most is that even today in 2018, there is still shame and stigma around admitting to others that you needed help to create your family. I know people who don’t openly admit that they used Assisted Reproductive Technology to have their children and I don’t necessarily blame them. I used to be the same way.
Infertility involves ideas around masculinity and femininity, health and youth, not to mention culture and religion. I see men slap other men on the back and say “What’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you done your job yet?”, or women who say with pride and a twinkle in their eye, “My husband just looks at me and I get pregnant.” These phrases are not meant to cause pain but they reflect the idea that we are in control of our fertility when the truth of the matter is, infertility is a medical disease. According to the World Health Organization, infertility is “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after twelve months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.”
This doesn’t even include same-sex couples or those who may be fertile but are waiting to start a family until they find the right partner.
I believe every person has a right to privacy when it comes to their personal lives, family-building included. But I do feel that there is a difference between privacy and secrecy because the latter involves shame and that to me is sad and unfortunate. If we all stayed silent under the umbrella of privacy, then the stigma would never be lifted and where would that leave us or our children?
So after I drop my kids off at school and daycare, I fire up my laptop and write about issues that affect me.
I write for the woman who can’t articulate what she’s going through, because she’s right in the thick of it and it’s just too painful. I write to spread awareness for a medical condition that some fluff off with comments like, “If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be” or “Everything happens for a reason.” And then I pick up my kids from school get down on the carpet, and play “zombies” and Lego.
I’m a mom AND an infertility advocate because I think it’s the right thing to do.
I am not broken, unfeminine, or unworthy of life’s blessings. What I am is 1 in 6 and I’m not ashamed.
By Lori Sebastianutti