Canadian Infertility Awareness Week: My dirty little secret

For Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, we asked five incredible, strong women to share their infertility stories.

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Photo: iStockphoto

I have a secret to share. It’s not something I tell a lot of people, so just putting this out there in writing is a pretty big deal for me. I have been struggling with infertility for more than four years now. I was contending with infertility when trying to get pregnant with my now-two-year-old son, and I continue to struggle with infertility as I desperately try for baby number two. It’s a massive part of my life and, in a lot of ways, it defines who I am, what I do, what I think about and, not to be overlooked, what I spend my money on.

Read more: An in-depth look at infertility >

At 36 years old, I was told that I have the eggs of a 39 year old; now that I’m 40, my eggs are that of a 45-year-old. In non-medical terms, my eggs need a walker to get around.

It’s a weird thing to struggle with infertility because, for whatever reason, it feels like something you should keep private. I am not exactly a private person, so withholding something this big from the vast majority of people I know has been strange. It makes me wonder if I’m ashamed of something, or if I feel like I will be judged if I publicize it like it’s no big deal.

I remember when I first learned that I had fertility issues, I became very aware of everyone else who was struggling with infertility as well (I guess it’s like buying a car and noticing that car on the road every day!). At that time, I read that Celine Dion had publicly admitted to undergoing six rounds of IVF. First of all, I thought, “Who on earth would do six rounds of IVF?” and second, I thought, “I can’t believe she’s admitting this to anyone at all, let alone the entire world!” I guess in my IVF-virgin mind, I thought fertility treatments were for freaks and not something you want people to know about you. Well, ten rounds of fertility treatments later, six of which were IVF à la Celine Dion, I definitely don’t think IVF is for freaks but, still, it’s awkward to talk about.

Why is it awkward? Well, I’ve found that when you openly admit it, people feel sorry for you and often don’t know what to say. Then I find myself reassuring them that it’s OK, that everything is fine. It’s uncomfortable for both of us, so I usually don’t mention it and just smile when people comment that our baby is so cute and that we definitely need to have another one, stat (as if it’s as simple as ordering a new one online!).

Read more: The medical side of infertility >

I’ve realized now that the more open people are about their infertility diagnoses, the less of a stigma will be attached to the struggle. Maybe people will learn not to assume that everyone can have babies so easily, and that alternative family planning is a very real and more and more common option for people these days. The more we keep it a dirty little secret, the less accepted it will be that some incredible parents relied on science to create their families, and that some amazing kids resulted from their moms and dads going through very intense treatments and spending every dime they had to have them.

Someone once said to me that if you can’t get pregnant naturally, it was simply not meant to be. That might have been the most hurtful thing that anyone has ever said to me, because, the way I see it, I literally did everything I possibly could to have a baby, and I challenge anyone to meet my child and conclude that this sweet little boy wasn’t meant to be.

Read more: Fertility treatments: Our reader survey >

So, yes, we have a child who was conceived in a lab and, with any luck and a lot of science, we will have another. I’ve decided to stop keeping it a secret because that just attaches shame to creating a family of whom I could not be more proud.

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