Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coming Out of the Closet

I am a closeted infertile. Sort of. Actually, there are a lot of people in our worlds who know: parents, co-workers, and a select-few friends. In moments of necessity or weakness (and sometimes drunkenness), I let the 'dirty' little secret slip, and in most cases, I regret telling. I can intellectualize this and know that I should never be ashamed of the cards dealt to us by fate of which neither of us had any part in choosing (we have both male and female factor). But the simple fact is, I have felt shame, deeply, and have long had the impulse to go to great lengths to conceal it. In fact, to illustrate, this is an anonymous blog. My 'real' blog is floating around friend's and family's screens, a litany of innocuous subjects that tell nothing of what my real life has become. It is more for them now than for me.

Less than a month ago, I attended a drop-in support group for infertility. It was the first time I had ever spoken to other infertiles and this topic came up. They actually referred to it as 'coming out of the closet'. That parallel is spot on. For four years, I have swallowed the biggest focus of my life when I am around others. This swallowing is fueled by a number of dysfunctional self-statements that I figure will be revealed if I spill the beans, the least of which are:

  • My body does not work as it should, therefore, I am different. Perhaps even less than every other person around me.
  • Somehow, God must've thought me unworthy of parenthood.
  • Perhaps I am not actually female after all. Sure, I have the plumbing, body parts, and the overzealous love of the color pink that a female has, but if I can't reproduce, then I must not actually be truly female. So, then, what am I?
I know. Messed up. But these are the echoing, uncensored thoughts of someone tortured by infertility. 'Tortured' might seem a bit melodramatic, but believe me, it's quite fitting. And I considered myself to have fairly stable self-confidence on most days, but I can't deny that it's been chipping away on a daily basis. However disconcerting my own thoughts are, I've namely kept 'in the closet' to avoid the stupid shit I hear from others. Here are some that really take the cake:

  • Upon hearing about my many appointments, a secretary said, "You work in Special Education. Maybe God is trying to tell you something. You don't want to have one of the kids we work with." Yes, this was one of the most disgusting comments I've received, and no, I didn't reply. I was just too stunned.
  • After receiving flowers the Friday before Mother's Day from my husband, the principal at one of my schools (who knew of my IF) kept puzzling over why I received them. She finally said, "Well, I know you couldn't be pregnant." This was also one of the offenders who earlier suggested that maybe I should 'just' adopt (with a big emphasis on the 'just'), as if this were a consolation prize.
  • A friend (who is completely unaware of my IF) posted a long, ranting entry on his blog against IF treatment because of the possibility of multiples and subjecting them to medical issues. This man, who is bright, educated, and very fertile (but clearly lacking a shred of empathy) said, "If you can't have children on your own, then clearly God thinks you don't deserve them." While not religious, he made it a point to state that conception is a miracle that should not be toyed with. I wonder if he would have that idea if he hadn't had two healthy children, both after a month of trying.
So, for now, I am in the closet. I'm aware that I'm not at the point in my journey where I could speak eloquently for the IF cause, although I know how badly we need voices. At any mention of it, I burst into tears and have nothing enlightening to share. The comments that I've heard are met with my concealing raw emotion rather than dispersing information. Right now, I'm more of a poster child of the pain, not of the wisdom that I know will come in time. But one day I will come completely out of the closet. I'll shout it from the rooftops for the women and men who don't yet have the voices to do so. And I'm so grateful for those who have been speaking on my behalf, out loud. I'll have the strength to join them, one day.


MamaSoon said...

I had to laugh when i read about your friend saying that God must think we don't deserve children. I have a SIL who talks like that. I think they secretly think that God thinks they are special, and more special than others.

Once my brother who has everything fall into his lap said to me, "God only gives you what you can handle." And I responded, "Then he must not think you are very strong."

Shelby said...

Lol, great come back to your brother!

Yes, that comment from my 'friend' told me that he must consider himself special in some way. Perhaps that's my envy talking, but it doesn't seem that unlikely.

Karen said...

I've heard the "God must not think you deserve children" from an acquaintance. She is now having trouble getting pregnant. I'm ashamed to admit that I'm secretly feel a little thrill at the irony of her situation.

I have been out of the IF closet for about 6 months now. I actually find it liberating. I don't know when it happened, but the feelings of embarrassment and self-doubt created by my infertility have faded away. For me, I think it became easier to be more open when it became apparent that treatments were probably not going to work for us. Maybe knowing I wasn't ever going to be a part of the pregnancy club made me stop caring so much.

I Believe in Miracles said...

Ditto. I think, unless you walk in my shoes, don't judge!

Mamasoon's comment is great!