Dear Fertile People of the World,
Summer is almost here; ’tis the season when I will be seeing family. I have a gut feeling that someone is going to say something stupid (probably on the Klingon side of the family – I tend to be less patient with them) and I’ll want to fly off the handle.
Fertile People of the World, you who take for granted your ability to have reliably have sex and get pregnant, it’s time to check your privilege.
You have no idea what it is like to be unable to procreate. You don’t know what it’s like to be isolated by sorrow, judgement, worry, and lack of common ground, all at the same time. But you can. One of the great tragedies of the infertile experience is how easy it would be for people to empathize if they just tried.
Yes, infertility has rocked my world. Yes, infertility is a crisis. Yes, my views on a lot of things are different because of the hand life has dealt me. Yes, I want children. Sometimes desperately. Yes, I worry. Yes, I agonize over the morality of decisions I never expected I would have to make. Yes, yes, yes.
Infertility is a valid life experience. The lessons I have learned may be different from what you have learned, but they still count.
Sometimes people don’t have babies. Sometimes really good people don’t have babies. It’s a tragedy.
So when I see you this summer, I don’t need you to point out the upside to having no children. Believe me, I see it. I don’t need you to highlight the moral gray areas of building a family in a non-traditional way. Believe me, I know them intimately. I don’t need you to vocalize my worst fears; there’s a reason I bury them. I don’t need you to probe me for guilt or fault or blame; we all have problems. I don’t need you to advise; I pay (a lot!) for a doctor to do that.
I do need you to include me. I need you to make room at the grown-ups’ table for someone who does not want to talk about birth stories, pregnancy cravings, or which baby-carrier is best. I need you to forfeit your right to know and pass judgement on how our family-building efforts are going. I need you to exude confidence in my ability to make good decisions. I need you to hold my hand and laugh about the silly things that happen when we are together. I need you to be more than your parental status. I need you to ask my advice and acknowledge my wisdom. I need you to respect my marriage; we’ve worked so hard on it.
I need you to acquiesce that you don’t fully understand what it is like to be in my shoes – even if you’ve waited months to get pregnant, even if you’ve been there. I need you to be indignant on my behalf while acknowledging the limitations of your understanding. I need you to consider who you would be if your family had never grown, if the babies who haunted your dreams never came.
Your Infertile Friend