I refused to read all the comments on my Washington Post article. This is because the first few seemed so mean and troll-ish that I figured it wasn’t worth getting upset over. Maybe as an internet blogger I need to grow a thinker skin. But regardless, a couple comments that I did read, hurtful though they were, got me thinking: Am I self-centered as a parent? Am I self-centered about my infertility?
The first charge against me: In the opening anecdote, in which three moms including myself did not move our strollers to get out of the way of an approaching jogger, I admitted that I “felt bad for our lack of consideration.” Some commenters apparently thought that this was not enough and decided to berate us and lament that parents think the whole world revolves around them and their children.
OK, I get this. To people who don’t have kids, it seems like everywhere you go kids are ruining your peace and quiet. Their strollers block the way. They bring general chaos in their wake. It can be quiet annoying. But the thing is, kids are like that. They are chaos personified. You never know when they’re going to freak out or have a poop explosion. They’re going to cry on airplanes. Sorry. There is just not much you can do about it, although I agree that some parents are more aware than others of their surroundings and how their kids are affecting people around them. In our instance, though, we were very, very new moms. It was literally the first time I’d been out for a walk with him in the stroller. I was late and couldn’t figure out how to catch up with the other moms. I parked in the wrong place. I was sweating my ass off. I was stressed and hormonal. And I didn’t know what the stroller etiquette was. So to that jogger, wherever she may be, I offer an apology. As a somewhat seasoned mom, now I know better.
The second charge against me: That I complain too much about my infertility. I have read so many comments like this over the years directed at people with infertility, and I fail to see what about this condition causes such a visceral, callous response. Would you say, “Just get over it,” to someone who dealt with mental illness? Losing a limb? The death of a loved one? Cancer? If you think my analogies are extreme, I can assure you they’re not. A study was done that revealed that people going through infertility treatments had the same level of depression as those going through cancer treatments. In most cases (but not all) infertility will not kill you, but it will greatly affect your quality of life. I don’t understand how people can go on and on about how their kids are their world, but then ask people who are having trouble having a child to just forget about it.
I did beat infertility. I now have a child. But just like any trauma, the scars stay with you. And for some reason, the scars of infertility, like infertility itself, are just not talked about. So that’s why I wrote the essay. Am I “over it”? As I said in the piece, I am struggling not to let it define me. And now as I try to figure out how to have a second child, the wounds are opening up again. There is post-traumatic stress – the feeling of being out of control of your own life, the anxiety of fearing you’ll lose everything you love – that may never fully go away. Dealing with the aftershocks of infertility happen every day. It is a valid point of view and one not generally heard by the general public.
I know infertility may not be the worst thing in the world, but unless you’re living in a war zone or extreme poverty, nothing else is either. (But knowing that there are so many other bad things than can happen is something that plagues me. What’s next? I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.) I know that many people have gone through other, different traumatic experiences. Their points of view are valid, too, and I’d love to read essays about their personal struggles. But why does that preclude me writing one about mine?
Sometimes I do feel like I’m a broken record, harping on infertility over and over again. But this is my experience. This is my reality. This is what one in eight couples deal with. This is what’s not been talked about. I am going to be an advocate for myself and my silent sorority. So to those who want to criticize my writing about it, I say: Get over it.
Why do you think infertility is so misunderstood by the general public?