I Don't Want to Write About Infertility


    I don’t want to be a person that writes about infertility any more than you want to be a person who reads about it. And yet, here we are. 

    First, I must tell you that I’m amazed that you would open this book. To seek out help, understanding or comfort in any form is brave; it’s something I refused to do for very long time. In my pain, I didn’t want to hear other people’s stories of how things worked out in the end—or the stories of how they didn’t. I was afraid. To ignore infertility, put my head down, and survive it, felt like the best path forward. To lift my head and seek out others who had walked this road, would be to admit that I was on it. 

    And yet, here I am.

    I want to promise you a few things right off the bat.

    First and foremost, I don’t have any answers, remedies or silver linings that are going to end or ameliorate your infertility. I have stories about tests that I’ve taken, cups I’ve peed into, vials of blood that have been taken out of my arm—but I am not a medical professional, and I am not so callous to assume that all of your pain would melt away if only you had heard of this one thing called an HSG. There is nothing worse than when you share with a friend that you’re going through infertility, and they begin the long deluge of questions that all start with the phrase, “Well, have you tried…?” I am not that person. I don’t care what you’ve tried or what you’re considering trying. I just want to be here with you.

    I also don’t have any friends. Okay, that’s not true, I have friends, but what I’m trying to say is that I’m not going to fill this book up with stories about people I know who have “gotten beyond” infertility in one way or another—and that includes me. I’ve noticed that often when people want to offer comfort me, they will tell stories that start with “I have a friend that,” and end with, “got pregnant.” Those stories suck. They offer very little comfort because (1) I am not that person; (2) You can’t promise that I’ll ever get pregnant; and (3) what I’ve just done is bare my soul, and what you’ve just done is force me out of my heart and into the house down the street where everything worked out just fine. 

    Likewise, I’m not writing this story because I’ve gotten beyond infertility myself. I am writing this from my couch, at 5 p.m. on a cold Monday in November. There are no children in my house. My husband, Patrick and I haven’t traveled to another country to adopt. The only thing we’ve done is almost lose each other in an attempt to expand our family by one. So, you can rest assured that I’m not writing from “the other side.” I’m on the same side as you. That may not give you any hope, but we’ll get to that later.

    I also know that I can’t do much to make things better for you. Brené Brown—the famed researcher and storyteller—has this awesome YouTube video about empathy that calls out people for trying to say ‘at least’ to people’s pain. It’s a cute little animated video with a fox and a deer and an bear. The fox falls into a hole, and while the empathetic bear crawls down into the darkness with the fox, the deer simply peeks his head in and goes, ‘ooh, yeah that’s bad. You want a sandwich?’ 

    Here’s how the rest of the video goes:

    “Rarely if ever does an empathic response begin with ‘at least.’ And we do it all the time: someone just shared something with us that’s incredibly painful, and we’re trying to put the silver lining around it. So, ‘I had a miscarriage.’ — ‘Well, at least you know you can get pregnant.’ ‘My marriage is falling apart.’ — ‘At least you have a marriage.’ One of the things we do sometimes in the face of difficult conversations, is we try to make things better. Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

    I hope you will feel connected to me, not because I have wisdom to share or a silver lining to draw, but because, as a dear friend, I can empathize with where you are and the pain you are feeling. I don’t know your pain. I only know mine. But I have an inkling that they might share some things in common. I’ve walked roads that you might be on. I’m happy to call back what’s ahead.

    Here’s what I’ve learned about pain: There are as many versions of pain as there are snowflakes. Snowflakes can land on your eyelashes, make you want to put your hands up to the sky and twirl. Or, snowflakes can fall in force, freezing an entire community in stillness and cold—leaving grocery stores empty of the basic necessities like bread and milk. If you look at pain in the right light, it can be beautiful. It can also turn off all your power.

    If at all possible, I’d like to be a person that twirls. I’d very much like to be the person that twirls. That rarely happens. More often, I’m the person that doesn’t get out of bed because it’s too cold out there and I don’t want to get wet… and this analogy is kind of going off the rails. But you know what I mean. Snow is pretty for a day. But three years? Four? Ten? Lord help me.