It really wasn’t so long ago that the Distracted household was suffering the pains of infertility.
I’d be lying if I told you that it had the same impact on me that it did on my wife. It sucked for me, to be sure, but it was absolutely devastating for her. As with so many men in my position, I had to stand by helplessly as the most important thing in the world to the most important person in my world was kept out of reach.
Due to our mutual physical failings, IVF was deemed our only option for reproduction. We tried and failed, then tried and succeeded. So now here we are with twin boys, telling infertility to suck it.
What I hadn’t prepared for was the reproducer’s guilt. It’s sort of like survivor’s guilt, except that instead of surviving you made babies.
I remember the pain on both our parts of watching other people try to have babies and succeed, whether naturally or with medical technology. Worse was always the couple who didn’t try but got pregnant, whether they wanted a baby or not.
I’ll never know which was more frustrating: those people we knew and liked who got pregnant before us (who we were genuinely happy for), or those people we despised who got pregnant before us (who we genuinely hoped would be cursed with boils). Then there were the people who – as far as we were concerned – had no right to reproduce. “That idiot was allowed to breed?” we might say, or “I can’t believe that bitch is pregnant again when I can’t get pregnant once!”
I know there were people who walked on eggshells around us because of this. It can be awkward to celebrate the success of your reproductive organs when you’re talking to someone who hasn’t had the same good fortune. In fact, I know it is, because I’m now faced with that very problem. Infertile folk were all in solidarity as members of the shittiest club ever, but now Kat and I have joined the ranks of successful parents.
Now I’m the awkward one around people who are suffering from infertility. I can’t help but wonder: did they cry when they heard that we were pregnant? When they ask to see pictures of the boys, even if they genuinely want to see them, do they get hit with pangs of what could be? Worse, are we that couple – or am I that guy – that people think shouldn’t have a baby? No matter how close you are, and no matter how happy someone is for your success, you still go on the list along with everyone else they know who’ve had babies. I am in constant fear of sounding smug or oblivious.
Finally, the infertility community is only sustainable as long as people don’t get pregnant. As soon as someone gets pregnant, she leaves the forums, blogs, and support groups; there’s no need to stay, and she doesn’t want to rub her success in the faces of a bunch of infertile women.
Suddenly you’re reading the pregnancy blogs and chatting on the baby forums. You leave Fertile Thoughts and ASRM’s site and start spending time on The Bump and What to Expect. This is also part of the reason infertility doesn’t get the attention it needs; people with it are often too embarrassed and depressed to talk about it, and people who’ve overcome it move on. For our part, we’re trying to keep involved with the issue by donating to Resolve and by being open about what we went through.
I’ll always feel empathy for people dealing with this crappy problem. I’ll feel it both for having to deal with the condition itself and for that sadness they feel with each pregnancy announcement they receive and baby shower they attend all while wondering when it will be their turn.