Infertility affects approximately 1 in 10 couples, and 1 in 4 pregnancies result in miscarriage. Fertility rates decline by around 10% per month for women over the age of thirty-five. Recurrent miscarriage (over three losses in a row) affects 1% of the female population.
Nowadays, everywhere I go, it feels as though these infertility statistics are taunting me. Had I been asked a few years back about these, I would have possibly shrugged my shoulders with ambivalence. I hadn’t heard much about such issues and I was not truly aware that it was such a prevalent challenge among women. In fact I may have said that I did not know anyone who had experienced miscarriage or infertility. But that in fact wasn’t true. With those statistics it was all around me, I just wasn’t aware.
The biggest issue, from my perspective about infertility, is that no one actually talks about it. Apart from direct family members or perhaps very close friends, I found that most women avoid sharing their own challenges with infertility. Some won’t even share their experiences beyond their partner.
Having personally experienced four miscarriages, as well as several medical issues throughout my efforts to conceive, I found the situation incredibly lonely and at times overwhelming. There were times I felt unsure of who I could talk to and it felt as if there was this unspoken ‘social norm’ to remain quiet on the subject and avoid sharing my own feelings of loss and grief. Talking about miscarriage or fertility in general seemed to create discomfort as a topic of conversation.
Everyone deals with grief their own way and everyone has their own way of coping through adversity. My preference was to express my emotions, and I was lucky to have an outlet in close family and a select group of friends. Nonetheless, I still found it difficult at times. Occasionally it was hard to articulate how I was feeling, and I found myself getting frustrated when others didn’t understand. All of my ambitions to become a parent were quickly becoming thwarted and I needed to express this in a way that I understood. So I wrote.
I found writing a therapeutic release, and my words became my journal of experiences, each chapter expressing my inner most turmoil, detailing the circumstances and conditions I had never expected to face. This was in essence my own self-help therapy, and it soon became an escape from reality. I was able to intimately convey all of my hopes and fears as I went through each stage, the ups and downs of a seemingly endless conception cycle and the physical and mental turmoil of each pregnancy and its ultimate loss.
Many have asked me why I published my story, wondering why I would want to continually bring so many hard and emotive memories back to the surface. Well firstly, I never assumed that my personal journal would turn into a book, and each time I fell pregnant I truly thought that I would provide a happy ending for myself. My small journal of entries soon became a chronicle, and something I would periodically reopen and continue writing at my greatest hours of need. It became my solace, in a sense my peace of mind as I could translate my feelings into something real on the paper in front of me.
In writing on this subject, I found myself becoming more comfortable opening up to family and friends, expressing fears and doubts through my personal challenges, and even expressing my personal situation with colleagues at work, who clearly hinted to me that they sensed something was amiss.
In so many spheres women are expected to carry on, get back to work and life as normal after losing something so precious, so important to them. I found that concept particularly difficult. When everything I had hoped for was slipping from my fingers, I was still meant to wake each morning, and operate as if nothing had happened? As people understood what I was dealing with, I found them more amiable to my personal ups and downs.
My writing was intended to help me through this turmoil, but my hope is that it also helps others. As I became more transparent about my own situation I found other women who started to also open themselves up to me in return. I have been astounded by the stories and circumstances of these brave, courageous women, and I found it inspiring and hopeful to hear of those who have conquered their infertility through sheer determination and the wonders of new medical routes helping them to start their own families.
Talking about the subject of infertility with candidness is uncomfortable, and it seems to generate an uneasiness or hesitation on how to respond in conversation. Nonetheless, I’m dealing with this ‘illness’ every day, and it can impact my work, my social life and my decisions for the future.
There are so many women like me, in a similar situation, or having experienced challenges far worse. Hence, my quest is to encourage us to get comfortable and break the ‘social norm’ of staying silent on this subject. I want to recognise infertility for what it is, it’s an illness; something people have to deal with, and work through. Like any illness, some find a way through it successfully, others need to reconcile that it is a lifelong condition.
Regardless, opening up the channels of communication and support will be fundamental to helping women understand their own situation, and recognising their choices early.
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