Many people know little about the emotional, spiritual, ethical, medical and financial difficulties of infertility. I learned the hard way through my own personal experience. Fertility is not something we’re comfortable discussing. When we or someone we know is suffering, we tend to keep silent. Silence creates barriers for authentic communication about what we’re experiencing and can cause feelings of isolation. We need to learn how to talk about infertility. Doing this well requires tenderness from families, friends, doctors and communities.
Being tender means being educated about how to respond. Sometimes when people share their experience, the response is either hurtful or unhelpful. Learn how to be sensitive so you can ease someone’s burden instead of making it harder. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association has some excellent resources for family and friends, including a section on infertility etiquette.
Being tender means being empathetic about individual experiences, listening and respecting our decisions. Each person is unique. For some, the risks of certain options are too high. Others will analyze their risks differently. Some families are comfortable with treatments, adoption or other options that are not acceptable to others. Some of us who could possibly conceive will decide not to because the options offered are unacceptable to us for whatever reason. The emotional, physical, spiritual and or financial burden we would have to endure may be too great. This is still a form of infertility.
Trust us to make the decision best for us. Be supportive of our desires even if you don’t agree. Getting educated and then making these life-altering decisions doesn’t make our situation any easier. No matter the outcome, we need your tenderness as we navigate this challenging emotional path. Your tenderness is a gift which could give someone the bravery to speak about their experience. This is helpful for them and for the community because infertility is something we need to talk about.
I wrote the following poem about my emotions regarding not having biological children. It’s my way of speaking up. It’s dedicated to all those who are affected by infertility.
Through all the tears that I have shed
And all the dreams I’ve made
I can hear your little voice in songs
Sweet child I did not have
You would’ve had your father’s eyes
And probably his smile
Perhaps I would have named you Nora
Or you might have been Eli
I will not see you learn to walk
There will be no wedding cake
You will not waltz in daddy’s arms
Or keep us up at night
They’ll be no picnics on the lawn
No fairytales to weave
You will not read my childhood books
Or play with my old toys
Not only all romantic things
Of childhood treasured dreams
I also grieve to miss your tears
Your little hand in mine
As I’d comfort all your pain
Or tend your fevered frame
No one will ever break your heart
As you would have broken mine
Someday, I will stop saying “if” and “yet”
And start to say “don’t” and “won’t”
And if someday you might find
Another gateway to this earth
Through someone else’s womb
And someone else’s arms
Love from me who gave you birth
Though only birth in dreams