What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

The other day, I spent about an hour counseling a friend who has just passed the bar and is looking to break into the legal job market.  Of the hour I spent talking to her, only 15 minutes was spent discussing her resume with some ‘move this here’ and ‘change that around’.  The rest was spent trying to get her to stop apologizing for her lack of everything – legal experience, good class rank, etc.  She would never get a job that way.

I thought about this as I was reading the over much-hyped article about infertility in Self magazineResolve has taken up the article as a rallying cry against infertility being ignored. I think this is missing the point.  Being ignored is not the issue here.  Not being able to sell our disease to the public as a crisis and a travesty that needs public support and funding is the issue.

After all, infertility is nothing but fault based, a sort of you-break-it-you-buy-it scenario.   It is our fault that we can’t get pregnant: we waited too long to have children, we were promiscuous in our youths, we drink too much caffeine or alcohol, we were foolish enough not to request a semen analysis before the wedding and married men who shoot blanks, we can’t control our lady parts that have the nerve to grow outside of the uterus, we don’t have a uterus but can’t seem to grow one either, we just happen to be gay and have two of the same parts, our hormones are wonky because, hello, we’re just crazy bitches that way! As if this weren’t enough, infertility isn’t even fatal.

No wonder your average non-infertile person is going to look at infertile people and shake their head in disbelief that we want sympathy and money for treatment.  Or, they offer up one of those famous lines that we should just adopt because there are so many kids out there that need good homes or that we’re being selfish for spending so much money (ours and other people’s) to do something that is supposed to be natural and free.

The thing is for infertility to be taken seriously as a disease that needs to be treated like other diseases with the funding and treatment, we need to change public opinion about infertility.  I think one of the most crucial steps is that we need to stop apologizing for wanting the same experiences as our more fertile brethren.

I will say this again since it bears repeated. We need to stop apologizing.

People who don’t have difficulty conceiving don’t apologize for not having difficulty conceiving (although, frankly, some of them should).  And, on the other end of the spectrum, people with cancer don’t apologize for getting chemo.  So, why do we feel the need to apologize for wanting to have our own kids?  We need to stand up and say, “we have just as much a right to conceive our own children as those who do not have difficulty conceiving .”  We have to answer those who tell us to adopt.  We have to respond when we are accused of being selfish.

Being infertile means never having to say you’re sorry.

10 thoughts on “What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

  1. I think you make a very good point. Infertility is seen as more like plastic surgery than cancer or gall bladder surgery. Although it may be argued that many people are not qualified to be parents, everyone should have the right.

  2. amen to that. I’ve grown so tired of that “your fault” narrative- and as I wrote in my own post recently, I don’t want that sad dog look in response when I talk about my own experience. Because it’s always followed up by blame. “You waited too long. You should be thankful for what you have.”

    As if it’s a crime to ask for the same chance to build a family.

  3. I’m just reading Judith Warner’s book, Perfect Madness (about why motherhood has gotten so insane of late), and she makes an interesting point about the post-feminist debates in the 80s and 90s, and how they were so often centered around controlling women’s bodies (in part due to the perhaps inordinate focus on Roe v Wade and its implications). Infertility is one of those things that really screws up the standard narrative that many women have about themselves: I can control my body through diet, contraception, pharmaceuticals, will, whatever. We IFers suggest that there is no controlling certain things, and that’s deeply disturbing to many.

  4. Speaking as one who is both infertile and has also adopted, adoption cured my childlessness – NOT my infertility. Had we both known what a freaking nightmare it was, we may have attempted to conceive before we were married, but we didn’t. We assumed that with a little effort and perhaps a few pills, we could achieve a pregnancy. You know what happens when you assume, right? And eventually, we did turn to adoption – because of course, that is what we were told to do if things didn’t work out and also because we decided we’d rather be parents of some child, rather than not have any. To be frank, if I had any inkling of how difficult and emotionally taxing the process was, I’m not sure we would have chosen adoption. I had gone through so much, I was just about out of gas on the whole family building idea. I’m very stubborn, however, and I decided to hang in there 5 more minutes.

  5. i don’t know if anyone has a “right” to a child. yeah, we can want one all we want and it sucks not being able to, but since when is it a “right”? who gave us that right?

  6. Excellent post. I surfed over thanks to “anla knits” reference to your post and am so glad that I did. While I really appreciated the SELF article, and think RESOLVE is a great organization, I struggled with the same idea that the “infertile are bring ignored” campaign really misses the point. You articulated the things I was thinking so well!

    Claiming that we are ignored when we don’t speak up just doesn’t make sense. We need to speak up, but we also need to know that we will get the support we need when we do. It is that catch 22 that Resolve needs to build a campaign around.

    Looking forward to reading more of your stuff!

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