Saturday, May 16, 2009

Opening the Doors: Coming out of the Infertility Closet

I've long dreamed of what my 'coming out' would look like. Coming out of the infertility closet, that is. I have always known it would happen sooner or later as I feel a real responsibility to the IF community and future couples who will face IF to share at least part of my story. I mean, it's ridiculous that IF is still such a taboo or rather now a sensationalized subject when 1 in 8 couples have REAL stories to share (that do not involve 8 offspring at once). But I've run into some obstacles in conceiving of such a plan.

First, how could I possibly convey the depth and breadth of the IF experience, the pain and the ups and downs to someone who has never stepped near it? How could my descriptions not sound over-dramatic and yet under-dramatic at the same time? Then there's the issue with how much to tell. Now that we will hopefully be welcoming our IVF/ICSI baby into the world this November, how much of this story belongs to him? Should I respect his privacy and allow him the choice to share the story of his conception? I wonder whether those who remain ignorant despite my best attempts will think of him first as a product of IVF and second as a child. So many variables to consider, and yet still I feel a driving force to throw open the closet doors.

While some of my closest friends and family members know of our IF, most of them do not. I can easily count those in the know on less than two hands. While in the process of treatment, I didn't think it would be very helpful to have any more noses poking where they didn't need to be and quite frankly I never trusted that ignorant comments wouldn't change my relationship with them. I only told those who I knew would respond with tactful and supportive comments or rather, those who I was close enough to know that a silly comment here and there would not destroy our relationship. Now that I'm not actively involved in treatment, I feel the day is nearing when more will hear about our struggles and the fact that we are not alone.

I'm still in the planning stages, but I've considered several different formats for the 'outing'. First, I have another personal blog (where I rarely write, my last entry was in January), that I know some of my friends and acquaintances do read from time to time. There is no way to go.ogle me and find it so I know that the only ones on it have been through invitation only. I've thought about a post briefly describing our journey (no exact treatment details, just length of time and alluding to an 'involved' journey) with links to a few informative Resolve articles, an anonymously written excerpt, and the infertility awareness project video that illustrates the experience much better than I ever could. On the other hand, I've also thought of doing the same only through email in order to 'contain' and have more control over who my viewing audience would be, but then that would defeat the purpose of disseminating information to the general public.

I once approached 'coming out' in an even more public way. You see, L.ifetime was recruiting couples undergoing IVF at my clinic for a documentary and I readily signed up for it. The purpose was to illustrate the 'real' story of infertility. I thought, hey if I'm going to come out, it might as well be on national TV, right? (ha, I'll take my 15 minutes any way you slice them!) I was fully prepared to have a camera follow me into my retrieval and transfer and through the aftermath of a possible BFN because I thought that if I knew I would fail in describing the experience to others, I thought that showing would be far more effective. Despite being in a series of lengthy talks with the documentary makers, they informed me that the project was on hold indefinitely, although personally I find it suspicious that they said this after I sent them my picture, ha!

So, yes I'm torn, but one day, when I feel the time is right, I'll come out. I'll come out for my infertile sisters and brothers who are still walking the path to parenthood, for those who have walked in the past and most importantly, for those who will find themselves on it in the future. I'm realizing very clearly one of the reasons why I was made to walk it myself and soon it'll be time to fulfill that.


M said...

it is a huge thing, and yet, at the same time, when i decided to 'come out' it changed very little. for me, i just couldn't take the question 'do twins run in your family?' so i started answering 'no, but they run in my ivf cycle'. this answer effectively outed us. from time to time i was asked questions, but i was ok with that as i had told everyone i was ok with discussing and would love to help inform.

of course, had i been able to look into the future, i might not have been so cavilier about sharing... as first with the loss of our girls and now trying again, it's been an interesting road to walk when people know you are an infertile.

that being said, i would love to be able to share the story openly again... someday.

Michelle said...

I know it definitely is tough to "come out" but I found it better then staying "in". 1st I really wanted to educate people. I openly talk about it and probably most of that is because I am a very open person. I am not the type to hide my emotions. 2nd I really want and need the support. I have been through so many miscarriages that I think people would start to think I was nuts when about once a year or so I am down and out for a good couple months. The result of this, while I do open myself up for some judgments and sometimes open rudeness, for the most part people really are interested and want to know about the process. There is so much they do not understand.

Again I do know it is a personal decision and is a tough one. One that I never judge whether someone does or does not talk about. After all there is a lot of personal info but you never know people might react differently then you think.

Anyway I hope whatever you decide that it works out for you. I am behind you no matter what.

Nikki said...

Very well written post Shelby. I have always imagined that I would be totally out of the closet when I do get pregnant, and basically announce to the world how it took a team of experts to get me pregnant! But what you say is so true - how much of this story belongs to the baby. It is after all his / her conception and life we are talking about.

It's sort of like the debate between an open adoption and a closed one. Who needs to know and how much do they need to know.

I still do think I'll probably shout it from the rooftops :-)

Good luck with whatever you decide.

courtney said...

I understand your questions about how much of this story is 'yours' and how much belongs to your child. I had some friends adopt a child from Turkmenistan a few years ago and they chose not to tell all of us (they're friends) about Joshua's family story because they thought that would be invading his privacy. I have wondered the same about IVF. I want to be open about it, but I don't want to take anything away from my future children as well. I appriciate you being so proactive about how to 'come out' with IVF.

Cassandra said...

Good luck when you do finally share your story. I hope that the reactions are good and that you end up helping many people.

banditgirl said...

I totally hear you. I also have the issue of translating into another language and cultural context, where IVF is only very vaguely in the public consciousness is really known, not speaking of IUI at all. I hope to feel secure, certian and comfortable enough to do my activist duty when I get a chance to raise awareness, to educate, and to make it easier for other IF couples struggling in that other cultural context. At the same time, one think I've learned in this process is the inability to predict how I'm gonna be or feel in a particular situation. So while I have all these aspirations, I don't know how it all is going to play out once I'm in the actual situation. But I hope I can do my work to give back what I've received along this difficult journey.

Sarang said...

Coming out of that closet is scary...I've only cracked the door to it myself, letting most friends and family know about our difficulty in TTC and telling some that "IVF may be happening at some point". For me, it was a big release letting go.

Only my IF sisters and 2 of my closest friends know about my IVF.

One day, I do hope to sport a huge belly and when strangers comment, I do want to say something like, yes, I do feel blessed to finally be pregnant through IVF.

Only you will know when the time is right (or not) for you. And whatever you decide, will be the prefect decision for you!

Hope2morrow said...

Yes, I thought about possible next children too and that's another reason I opted to keep the "old blog" too. Thanks for your input!