The Invisibleness of Infertility: To Pass or Not to Pass?

Welcome to Day 4 of the “To Mom or Not to Mom” Open Salon with yours truly and Pamela of Silent Sorority. We created this dialogue to discuss both sides of the motherhood debate from our unique perspectives. Why? To parse out the concerns and vulnerabilities of transition within the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community without tripping over political correctness and delicate sensibilities.

We hope you’ll join us every day this week and will be inspired to add your own responses in the comments here and at Pamela’s blog or by writing your own blog posts. If you do write a post inspired by this salon, please link up in the Linky Tools widget at the bottom of this post!

Today, we’re talking about what it means to “pass” in the infertility community – and whether or not we should, when given the opportunity.

Passing, as defined by Wikipedia, is as follows:

Racial passing refers to a person classified as a member of one racial group attempting to be accepted as a member of a different racial group. The term was used especially in the U.S. to describe a person of mixed-race heritage assimilating into the white majority during times when legal and social conventions of hypodescent classified the person as a minority, subject to racial segregation and discrimination.

As a biracial woman, I have often “passed” for white in my lifetime. I don’t look as Asian as I used to when I was younger (I don’t think so, anyway) but my first name: Keiko – is often the clue to my half-Japanese ethnicity.

And then people get really confused when I tell them I’m Jewish.

Photo via Flickr by johnwilliamsphd.

When I see women with double-strollers, a pair of smiling twins in tow, I always wonder: “Did she do infertility treatments?”

This is what three and a half years of infertility struggles do to your narrative. It makes people watching very interesting, in that sense.

I mean, it’s not any of my business. I could care less how those kids came into the world and I would never ask a stranger on the street that question. But when it’s just me and my inner monologue, I get nosy as hell.

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When I was at BlogHer Entrepreneurs this past March, I went wearing my Infertility Voice hat. As I handed out business cards, I would watch faces light up as they read the word “INFERTILITY” printed in all hot pink capital letters on the front of my card.

We might not have a secret handshake, but the silent sorority of the infertile is but a knowing glance and a sympathetic nod of the head.

“I went through infertility, too,” I heard at the conference. I get that a lot wherever I go now because I can’t seem to shut the hell up about infertility in public. That’s the lot in life I’ve chosen to accept. And honestly, that drive to talk publicly started well before my What IF video. In fact, I was “out” about my infertility a full year before that video.

I’m a big proponent of infertility patients sharing their stories, because I believe all stories matter. Even the extreme ones: be they Michelle Duggar and her pregnancy loss or Jenelle, the opening guest on Ricki Lake’s abomination of a talk show on infertility yesterday. These stories are just as much a part of the community dialogue as mine or yours. They belong, they are worthy and they have a place here, too.

But should infertility disclosure be an obligation for members of this community?

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Infertility amnesia: it happens. And I get it. Like moving beyond any traumatic life experience, I completely understand why, when someone sees two pink lines or welcomes their child into their arms – it’s like shakin’ the Etch-A-Sketch: shka-shka-shka what infertility? For some people, this is how they cope. This is how they move on.

By “forgetting” their infertility, already a silent, invisible scar, can safely remain silent and invisible. But can you really forget this experience? Or do you simply just start hiding it instead?

To answer my question regarding obligatory disclosure, I suppose it depends on how the individual regards their decision not to disclose about infertility struggles: is it a decision to remain private or to keep a secret?

Ellen Glazer, a mental health professional working with the infertility community in the Boston area, has this brilliant quote: “There’s a difference between secrecy and privacy. Secrets imply shame.” I love that quote. It speaks to how we plan to disclose to our children about their donor conceived origins and even how I choose not to identify our egg donor here on this blog, despite her being known to us.

Amnesia aside, if infertility is hidden as a secret, out of shame – then I believe in a gentle prodding to put it out there. To name it. To own it.

Because, as I have always believed: you have nothing to be ashamed of if you have infertility.

But when you’ve got an onslaught of cultural messaging that infertility IS something to be ashamed of, I can understand how hard it can be to make that switch internally.

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Not everyone is cut out to be an advocate. Not everyone is comfortable with airing their bedroom business in public. Quite simply, by sheer circumstance, not everyone is even ABLE to take such verbal liberty with their infertility journey. I understand the need and value of the anonymous infertility blog. I should know: I wrote under the guise of my Hebrew name for over a year and to this day, there are still things that will never be discussed or named here on this blog.

And there are so many bloggers out there, both public and anonymous. The blogs are growing and the chorus of this community grows louder and more diverse. Personally, I think our community is helped when our members choose to put their name and face to their stories. It makes our community more real and less what the media would have you believe about us.

But at the same time, I’m happy to have any and all stories we can, anonymous or otherwise: keep ‘em coming.

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Do you or will you pass? Do you or will you disclose? And what do you think about the idea of “passing,” infertility amnesia and disclosure? Sound off below. And be sure to head over to Pamela’s blog and leave comments on her excellent post today.

Thanks again to Pamela for continuing this necessary and thought-provoking dialogue with me this week. Join us tomorrow at 12:30mp EDT for our #ALIMomSalon Twitter chat. (Join us via that Tweet Chat for all the goodness.) We’ll round out summary posts for the week after the Twitter chat.

And! If you’ve been inspired to write your posts by this salon, please link up in the LinkyTools below and check out the other blogs and bloggers talking about “To Mom or Not to Mom” this week. The conversations are amazing, so go read and chime in over at their blogs, too!



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Comments

  1. Maggie Lukes says

    So- I often (not as often as when they were babies, but enough) get stopped by people admiring my twins. Everyone had lovely things to say, “they’re so cute,” “who’s older,” “are they fraternal,” (that one kills me- they’re boy and girl- it’s amazing how people have no clue as to the genetics of twins and that only same sex can be identical). I am always very nice and patient and appreciative. The there’s the slight hesitation moment- in theater we call it a “beat.” And the inevitable question that always comes next, “Do twins run in your family?” The veiled question hiding the true inquiry of, “Did you go through infertility?” I love this. People don’t want to ask the real question, in an attempt to be polite (which, really, is fine- I get that) But my favorite part of this exchange is when I boldly and cheerfully answer, “No! We did IVF!!” Depending on the person, this usually gets a hysterical reaction: stunned, shocked silence. For a beat. Then, either they are really embarrassed and try to back-pedal their way out of the conversation altogether (I love watching these people squirm- obviously uncomfortable with the whole thing, or with my lack of shame about it), or they are relieved and chime in with their own experiences either directly or indirectly- these are the people who are truly kind and who express their happiness for me, which is awesome. Again, depending on the individual reactions I get, I either then go on to tell them more about my experience (always gauging when or even if to tell them that I didn’t carry them either), or simply say, “thanks alot” and move on. It’s a very interesting study of humanity. By now I’m pretty used to it, and I just love being “out there” and so proud and willing to volunteer whatever information anyone wants to know. Why should I hide or feel shame!? Fuck that. I’m proud of my babies, and of the miracle of how they came out of my body, into someone else’s and then back again into my arms.

    • RK says

      I used to ALWAYS ask women if twins ran in their family, because they run in mine, and I always assumed I”d have them (nope.) When I read on an infertility blog that it is a verrrry thinly veiled way of asking if babies were conceived with ART, I felt awful and stopped asking. I couldn’t believe I”d been so insensitive.

      And THEN. One of my good friends had HER twins via IVF. And she loves to share her story because she feels like maybe it gives people hope, so she likes for people to ask. So then I thought about asking again. But I don’t. It just seems….risky. I feel like she’s the exception. But if I’m wrong, do tell.

      • says

        I’m not sure if she’s the exception, but it really doesn’t bother me either. I know it’s a veiled way of inquiring about infertility, but not always- sometimes it really is an innocent question. And if it IS an inquiry about infertility, then there’s a reason. I’m also always willing to share information and act as advocate as much as I can. There is a strange radar that women who’ve been through infertility develop about people and the sharing of information. You start to get a really good sense of who to share with and who not to. It becomes even sharper after your babies arrive- I can usually always tell who has genuine interest and who is just being nosy. Sometimes I’m wrong, but I’m pretty good about feeling out the situation before I dealve too deeply.

  2. says

    I do feel like this might take a slightly different meaning if you have used a donor to conceive (as we have). I don’t mean that you somehow have a responsibility to tell every person on the street about the circumstances of your child’s conception (!) but also that there are a lot of situations (for example with teachers in elementary school, doctors, perhaps even their friend’s parents) where you may want to err on the side of disclosure because you want to create a supportive atmosphere for your kids to be able to bring up these issues if they want to. I think the distinction between secrecy and privacy is a good one (and one I wrote about on my blog a few times as well) but also I firmly believe that being open with your kids is the best course of action, and while they are young they may need more supportive adults around them to understand the kinds of issues they might bring up. This would sort of dissuade me from trying to ‘pass’ even though I think it’s probably tempting.

  3. Maggie Lukes says

    MY opinion about how to help your kids deal with issues? “Create a culture of normalcy.” We have always been forthright with our kids about how they came to be- their understanding of it is the truth: They came out of my body when they were tiny eggs, they got mixed with “part” of Daddy, (not ready to explain sperm yet), then got put into Aunt Tiffany’s tummy and grew- because Mommy’s tummy broke. We have a beautiful framed tryptic in our upstairs hallway along with many family/ kid pictures of Pete and I with Tiffany and her huge belly a couple of weeks before Sophie and Alex were born. While they know their birth/ gestation was a bit different from most of their friends’, they also know what their own “normal” is.

  4. says

    I’ve said it before but I used to “pass”. During our twin pregnancy we pretended it was surprise to a point. But once the girls were born we fully admitted to everyone that we had been waiting for a while, needed help and were so thrilled with twins. In daily life it depends…mainly because I don’t think everyone who comments on my girls (together or separate) gives a patooey about their making. I don’t disclose the donor aspect as I don’t think it’s my information to share and the community I live in doesn’t seem to “get it”. But I’m proud to admit to being lucky enough to pursue help and be blessed with them. I also have found during those times when openness seems appropriate that I find friends or acquaintances with similar stories or just starting the journey. Personally I love that…being able to make someone who might feel alienated by their infertility feel normal and right at home. I don’t believe in infertility amnesia. I believe in infertility healing and that yes people move on and cover it up or conceal. But I think anyone who has been here will never forget it.

  5. says

    I have a ‘friend’ who suffers from infertility amnesia. After two years of acupuncture, herbal remedies, semen analyses, hiring an actual wizard and finally a surgery to remove a marble sized polyp from her uterus, this person found herself pregnant.

    After throwing any previously learned lessons out the window and belittling MY decisions regarding my labor, delivery and fertility treatments, she eventually gave birth to a baby girl in a manner that her doctor told her would leave her potentially infertile, again. Which it did. What killed me was when someone came to her saying they were struggling with infertility and asked what finally worked for her, she replied “an organic diet and relaxing.”

    She can’t get pregnant again, they’ve been trying for well over a year now.

    We’re not friends anymore.

    I have another friend who has done 8 IUI’s, 9 IVFs and is pregnant. She didn’t share her journey with any of our other friends, just me. She isn’t ashamed of being infertile, she just doesn’t want people in her business, offering her lame advice or making her feel like less of a person.

    Secrecy vs. privacy. “V” I want to slap because she’s trying to deny the very things that resulted in the birth of her child. “M” is trying to protect herself and her already fragile heart. I love her for it.

    I’m waaay open because I implode when I internalize. That and I feel like being flawed and human helps others feel better about themselves. Someday, I’d love to be private about it. Maybe the next one?

  6. Gailcanoe says

    I do disclose my infertility, most of the time. Usually if some moron is stupid enough to start a conversation with “Do you have kids?”, then I’ll tell him/her that I can’t have kids because I’m infertile. There are so many better ways to start a conversation, yet that one still boggles my mind. If the person doesn’t ask or the conversation doesn’t come to that topic, I usually don’t disclose because then it would just be awkward. It’d be like having a conversation about the latest NCIS episode and having my friend suddenly blurt out that she need to get an oil change. Totally not related to the conversation.

    As for infertility amnesia, I hope that I never get it, but I can already feel the cobwebs leaving a film over my memories. I’m in a church-based support group based on “Hannah’s Hope” by Jennifer Saake which deals withe the topic of infertility through Bible stories about Hannah and others. Anyway, I’ve been out of treatments for over a year now and when we are sharing our stories, there are many things that just don’t hit me as hard as they did when I was going through treatments. I can be objective and discuss the different types of treatment options to help women who are still in the trenches and provide information and I don’t get emotional. While I haven’t forgotten what I’ve been through, I definitely feel different and more removed now and I believe that these feelings will continue the longer I am out of the IF game.

  7. says

    We are open and honest about our struggles. When Lucky was born, I called him my lucky star, conceived with the help of a lot of doctors after a lot of years of struggle. And now, whenever someone asks me if I will eventually have more kids, I basically tell them we’d love another baby, but we struggled for Lucky, and it’s not up to us.

    I’ve also tried to reach out to the people in my life who allude to issues trying; Charlie’s single cousin, who just did her first IVF cycle this summer with donor sperm, his other cousin, who confessed to me after a race that “they were having a hard time” getting pregnant (who, of course, fell pregnant the NEXT month. But no matter, at the time, I thought she might need a friend).

    It’s different than advocacy, IMO. I feel like what I do is a grassroots effort to educate people: the ones who are having trouble, their options. The ones who haven’t had really any issues, I try and let them know that not everyone is lucky enough to conceive right away, or again. Because it’s really hard for people to understand how much IF hurts. And if I can get ONE person to think differently, then it’s a win.

    And with Lucky, we already have told him that we loved him a long time before he was born and that sometimes people need to go to doctors to have babies. When he’s a little older and he wants to know how he was conceived, I don’t have any problems telling him exactly how he was conceived.

    I am not ashamed of our IF, not at all. What DOES embarrass me at this point is having to tell the same people over and over that we’ve failed, yet again, at adding to our family. That’s why, over the past year, I’ve tried to keep our treatments much closer to the vest than before. I just can’t bear to tell someone, again, that it didn’t work. Or worked, and THEN didn’t work. Because I know they hurt for us and wish they could do more to help us. It’s just hard, because WE are the ones who keep seeking treatments for another baby, and it feels kind of awful to keep doing that AND disappoint someone else. Even if that disappointment is on our behalf. Just too much negativity, all around, that’s all.

    xoxo

  8. says

    Time does change things (for me, anyway). While IF was responsible for 100% of the fire in my belly for a long time, its intensity was not sustainable. When my children were younger, I was really out there about adoption, always looking for clues that another woman at the playground or supermarket had a story like mine.

    I suppose I’m still advocating with fire in my belly about adoption. But even that is tempered by the other demands of my life — husband, kids, schools, yoga, writing (even though much of it is about adoption; I don’t want to be a one-noter), reading, working.

    That’s a long way of saying that I don’t have IF amnesia, but I don’t disclose with the intensity I once did.

  9. says

    I don’t pass. My blog is anonymous, but I’m “out” as an RPL survivor to pretty much everyone in real life. My experience defined who I am today in important ways that I can’t – and don’t want to – deny. Plus, when you adopt transracially many people tend to make the assumption that you were infertile, so just the mere fact that we made that choice was a way of not passing. I don’t judge others for passing, but I commend those who do because it helps reduce the stigma. I like this topic – maybe I’ll try to get a post up about this tonight if I have time!

  10. says

    Aw yes, infertility amnesia. Always an interesting topic.

    I fully respect someone’s decision to remain anonymous/private about infertility and loss. Both of them are painful topics and the decision to be open is a very personal one. There are very good arguments for the decision to “out” one’s self and it something I would never push someone to do. In addition, I fully understand resolving and moving forward. Not forgetting the experience, but also not dwelling on the time in the trenches. Though I will never forget this experience, I hope one day to resolve and be at peace. And I wish nothing less for anyone on this journey.

    That said, I think infertility amnesia is different. I’ve met people who fall into this category: they actively seek support from others while they are in the trenches, but as soon as they get that BFP, they pretend that they were never infertile. This drives me crazy for 2 reasons:
    1) I feel like I’ve been duped. I’ve invested time into building a relationship only to be dumped when this person is successful with treatments. Being dumped sucks, but add it in with the hell of infertility and it’s extra painful.

    2) The whole point behind this amnesia is shame. Just as you stated, infertility is a disease and loss is not caused by someone’s moral character, karma or a higher power. But when someone actively abandons this community, pretending that they are perfectly fertile, they are sending a very clear message that they believe that’s the case. That they are ashamed of all they’ve been through. And, honestly, that’s pretty sad., because in a way it also means that they are ashamed of the family they’ve created too.

    The reality is, if we want support (financially, emotionally, socially), we have to open up in some way. Everyone does it to one degree or another. I’m not suggesting that everyone announce that they underwent fertility treatments or have lived through pregnancy and/or infant loss. But, just as one gets support, you need to give it. That’s the whole point behind community. To develop amnesia betrays that.

  11. says

    i am pretty quick to disclose that we had troubles conceiving our baby and that when he was conceived there was absolutely no sex involved. But I don’t go into details as I feel that those are private, and since my baby doesn’t have our genes if I say something it will immediately involve disclosing something personal about my husband and our son, so I don’t. Sometimes I envy those who can have infertility amnesia, but most of the times I don’t. And if I spot child free woman I’ll eagerly go talk to them because I am so scarred by years of sitting through a diaper conversation with nothing to contribute that I am still very allergic to young moms and their child obsession.

    Keiko and Pamela, thank you so much for that open salon, it definitely gave me a lot to think and write about!

  12. says

    I wish that I could be more open about infertility but I also have to respect the wishes of my husband. We have told a number of our friends, my sister, and my parents (his parents have probably guessed by now based on the surgery that I had last year). As sad as it is, I do feel a bit ashamed that I have this disease and that is part of the reason that I don’t want to shout it to all of my FB friends. That being said, if we ever get pregnant, I could see myself announcing it by saying something like “After X years of trying, my husband and I can finally announce that we are pregnant”….maybe we will even put something in like “and with medical help.” We absolutely won’t forget that we were infertile.

    It’s weird but I feel like I don’t want to talk about it with strangers until we have a kid in our arms. If I shout about my infertility to the world now, before we are pregnant, then everyone will know that we have failed to make a baby. At least now they may just think that we don’t want kids.

  13. says

    I changed the about on my blog to parenting after infertility and loss, but that doesn’t feel right. My losses happened in the past, but they are still very much a part of me. Infertility is still very much a part of my life, from battling my current reproductive issues with PCOS and failing to control my hormones, to planning an attempt at a second child in the next year while knowing I still have the same infertility issues and miscarriage risks.

    I read a post by *Shelby at “The Great Big IF” the other day where she said, “…I can’t see any sign of a period on the end of my infertility sentence. Now, my profile accurately describes me as someone parenting THROUGH infertility.

    This led me to wonder: will I always be parenting ‘through’, or will the ‘after’ come eventually? Or is the idea of a definitive beginning and end too simplistic here? When I have completed my family building (with whatever path that might be) and when I am not actively thinking about where my next baby will come from, will infertility become an afterthought one day-something that will stab me in the heart only once in a great while as opposed to almost everyday? ”

    And I was struck about how right she was. Where does it end? My struggle certainly doesn’t feel over. I ardently hope to have a second child someday, whether biologically or through adoption. And that is a struggle, and while I’m not fighting through it right now, I am making plans and setting things into motion. Right now, I feel like I’m on a wonderful break- a vacation from infertility. I won a four year battle, but I’m still at war.

    I for one do not suffer from infertility amnesia. I have struggled with how to maintain my blog, what approach I should tackle it from. I still post about it very openly, both on my blog, FB, and Twitter. However, my blog is anonymous. I prefer to keep it that way, as it gives me the freedom to address the comments and situations that arise between family and friends, and talk about how it affects me. Now, I address them face to face when I can, but it always feels like I’m falling on deaf ears. For me by blog is a sacred place. I can come and let it out. Sometimes I need to talk about my losses, and family and friends don’t listen to me anymore- they think I should be over all that. Because having a child cures infertility and any grief over a loss… at least, that’s what they keep telling me. I know better.

    *You can read the rest of Shelby’s post here: http://dochaschronicles.blogspot.com/2012/10/parenting-through-infertility.html

  14. says

    I’m really open IRL… perhaps too open., but on my my blog I’m semi-anonymous, and I no longer have a FB page (partly because I know I’d say something about treatment at some point). My need to be semi-anonymous online is to respect my husband. He doesn’t mind how open I am about it, but he feels more private about it. If I out myself I out him, and I need to respect his privacy.

    I’m amazed at how being open in my regular life has helped me find people with similar stories to share support with. I do also know several people with amnesia and it does make me crazy. On one hand, I can understand the desire to put it all behind you, but on the other, I feel like such a powerful and important life event deserves respect. They don’t owe it to me or any other woman, but they do owe it to themselves and their children on some level.

  15. says

    Being in an adoptive, bi-racial family it is pretty obvious that we were “unable” to have children. Even though I am open about our struggle, I didn’t want strangers coming up and asking questions. Oddly enough it has never happened. But in a few months our family will look even different. Again I don’t mind answering questions, but I don’t want intrusive or rude questions. I fee like after the baby is born we will open to a lot of inquiries. I hope I can handle them with class.

  16. says

    My blog is semi anonymous. Not because of my infertility, but because of some of the other things I write about on my blog. I also like to keep when treatments are occurring private because I hate having to share failures. But I’ll post it on my blog to share with the IF/ALI community. I’m completely out in real life. I’ll tell anyone who’s listening how we struggled to get pregnant and what exactly it took to get our baby. But I do keep when we are going through a treatment cycle pretty private. My mother is horrified about this. She thinks it should be kept as private as possible, but I feel like I owe to others who are struggling to know what it’s like and to know they aren’t alone. My husband plays pretty close to the vest. He doesn’t feel the need to share with everyone, but there are some people with whom he has shared our experiences.

    It amazes me though, the many women I know who struggled who choose to sweep their treatment under the rug and just go on with their lives. I think they do a disservice to the IF diagnosis and the community as a whole. I feel they are missing out on a opportunity to educate the fertile world about a very real and devastating disease.

  17. says

    I love that quote: secrecy does imply shame. That’s why I’m open about infertility and infidelity. The origin of our family isn’t something I could ever be ashamed of. I plan on blogging about this later tonight.

  18. says

    I disclose our IF story any chance I get. I was reading this post and stopped to tell my husband about a couple I met at the vet, of all places, who had just found a kitten and brought it in to be checked out. As they commented on how cute my son was (he was going nuts over the kitten), I asked if they were going to keep it. I could just tell looking at them that they were struggling. In my head, I asked myself, “how do I say it? How do I bring it up?” So I asked the dreaded question – I asked if they had kids YET. The husband said, “no, not yet” with a look and tone of sadness as his wife looked at the ground. I immediately chimed in and said, “oh, we found our kitty while we were trying so hard to have a baby, and our kitten filled a little void for us during the 2 years of trying and IF treatments it took to get this little guy.” The man immediately smiled and said, “thank YOU,” and his wife looked up and smiled at me with a tear in her eye. I always have, and I ALWAYS will, bring it up – because if the couple at the vet with the new tiny kitten is struggling, chances are, many people I run into daily are as well.

    I don’t think we MUST share our stories, but I sure think it helps a lot of people when we do. No one likes to feel alone – and so many people think they’re the only ones out there experiencing this hell. Maybe none of their friends have had trouble, maybe their sisters are fertile myrtles – but one couple out there now knows that the lady with the big fat cat and cute little boy fought hard to get him – and that they’re not alone.

    I appreciate your fight for all of us. I appreciate your fight for those in the community who are still fighting to build our familieis.

  19. says

    I not only blog anonymously, I also hide for the most part in real life. Most of it is because when I told a few close friends I got so many of the standard and frustrating platitudes that I was just done. One more “it will happen in G-d’s time” and I was gonna punch someone. I also think a lot of me hiding has to do with me being an extremely private person and unwilling to share much of anything in my life with everyone. I just don’t do that. I also think that secondary infertility in particular has that bonus set of judgements from society at large that I wasn’t willing to deal with. Plus, for me at least, there’s the “why don’t you just wait until you’re done with school?” baloney to deal with, to which I now would point out that it took me 3 years to get and stay pregnant (so far!), pharmacy school is 4 years; could I afford to wait and would I be able to get and stay pregnant at all after that additional wait?

    I like to think that in a bit more time, when I’m a bit less neurotic about the experience, I’ll be more out there and I won’t pretend that some 5 years between children was AT ALL planned. Although I haven’t actually been asked if we’d planned on 5 years between kids yet, so I’m not sure how that answer will come out. We all need to be advocates when possible, even though it is hard and means putting up with the same baloney comments over and over. Nothing gets better unless we advocate for ourselves.

  20. says

    Thanks for sharing! I am loving this week long event! It inspired me twice this week to update, something I haven’t done in a while! I love reading everything you write, THANK YOU for all that you are doing to not pass! :)

  21. says

    This is a really interesting post… in my experience, it would be very difficult to pass, and not just because I’m very open about the IF and miscarriages in my online world. I can’t pass because somehow, it has come up over and over again, whether I want it to or not, maybe because of the emphasis on family found in the Jewish Orthodox community.

    Although it may not seem like it online, in real life I’m a very private person, quiet and introverted. I don’t just “share” things with people. Yet people being their nosy-selves still make comments, and sometimes, I’ll come out and say, “Yes, we used fertility treatments,” or “Yes, I have dealt with infertility,” but other times I’ll make a less revealing comment (“They do now,” in reference to the question of if twins run in our family, or “Having the older ones does help!” when answer why we have such a huge gap between the big boys and our twins.)

    I honestly don’t know how you can “forget” about your infertility unless it was a very quick sort of ordeal, maybe one year of trying, first try at clomid works, etc. But anyone who goes through this for YEARS or numerous treatments? How do you forget? How do you lose your sensitivity when dealing with your IFers? It’s strange to me.

    ~ Rachel

  22. says

    Disclosure should never be an obligation. I very much admire people like you & Pamela who are “out” & open about what you’ve been through… and I do think that the more we talk about these things, the better — but it’s such an intensely personal thing. I have a few close friends who know our story (or most of it, anyway)… family & friends know we lost a baby & don’t have any other children and I imagine they can guess why, but I have not been very open about the details of our infertility, even (for a long, long time) to my parents. I’m not ashamed; I’ve just always been a very private person, particularly when regarding whether, when & how we were going to have a family. I never felt it was anyone’s business but mine & dh’s. As others have said, it was hard enough coping with our own hopes & expectations — and grief & disappointment — without having others hanging on each cycle along with us.

    In recent years, I have been a little more forthcoming about our loss & infertility, particularly if the subject comes up. in conversation And of course, my blog was inadvertently “outed” earlier this year by a well-meaning relative… I initially panicked, big time, and temporarily took my blog offline while I figured out what I wanted to do next. Ultimately, I decided that, while I’m not about to invite people I’m close to IRL to read my blog, it’s not the end of the world if they find it, either.

    A couple of posts I have written on the subject in the past:

    http://theroadlesstravelledlb.blogspot.ca/2008/02/telling-post.html
    http://theroadlesstravelledlb.blogspot.ca/2011/06/i-let-cat-out-of-bag-today.html
    http://theroadlesstravelledlb.blogspot.ca/2012/04/outed.html

  23. says

    I love that quote about the difference between secrecy and privacy. I have always been pretty open about our secondary infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss and the death of our second child soon after she was born. But I do respect that path is not for everyone. I hope to help others, raise awareness and make ALI seem less taboo with my family and friends IRL. It helps me to feel like all we have been through trying to build and expand our family was in in vain. Thank you for another interesting post this week!

  24. Jane says

    Thanks Keiko & Pamela for raising such as great topic.

    As a lesbian, the question of whether to pass or not is not a new one to me. I am out and happy to tell people that I have a female partner. Of course there are occasions where I choose to be private about my sexuality. As a lesbian couple at an IVF clinic I often wonder how the other couples perceive us, and given the way lesbians are often represented as doing IVF because they have no other options for getting pregnant (which is absolutely not true, few would choose to do IVF if they could do an IUI successfully or if they had a known donor willing to donate for home inseminiations!), With a history of endo and other complex issues and on the advice of my doctor we decided to go straight to IVF after years of discussing and planning to have a baby. I have just had my 4th unsuccessful fresh cycle of IVF. I often feel like my infertility issues must seem invisible (or that I’m perceived as being ‘socially infertile’ – hate that term – rather than medically infertile). I am ‘out’ about my infertility issues with a close circle of friends and family, but I am cautious about talking about my IVF journey with some people, because it has the potential for a double barreled judgment – being judged for using ART AND being judged for wanting to be a lesbian parent! Infertility is hard enough without people telling you they don’t think you should even be trying to make a family (and that is certainly a message that gets circulated all too often amidst all the debates about gay marriage). And I guess I’m cautious because chances are my IVF journey will continue to be an unsuccessful one and that is just painful to talk about..

    Having said that, being out about my sexuality has always felt crucial – there just didn’t seem much point in hiding something which was such an important part of my life. I also know that seeing other out lesbians made my life easier and I wanted to help make it easier for other lesbians to feel they could be open about their sexuality too. And I guess I feel the same about my infertility issues – I would like to err on disclosing rather than hiding – and I think I could definitely be more brave about this. Thanks for making me think!

  25. says

    I would love to share my blog and connect with others and share :-) Please let me know what I need to do to get my blog/story “out there”. Thanks for this! Melanie