In the beginning, it was only Husband, Co-worker, my colleague who removed my IUD and I who knew our intentions. As I tend to be a rather quiet and private person, it was fitting with my nature. Only out of necessity, I brought my colleague's medical assistant into the loop. I needed her as an ally in order to maintain my discretion. Husband and I met with a genetic counsellor and did carrier screening before we started trying (oh, we had all the gear and no idea...) and I had her scan and then shred my results. However, she became a little too involved. She would often ask when my cycle was due and would try to figure out "when we should test" and then suggested a date that was way too early. I had to politely inform her that I appreciated her interest, but not her participation.
I've been trying to limit my disclosures to those who are on a need to know basis, as well as a few close friends and fellow infertility sisters. I had my first opportunity to try coming out when I attended an annual meeting for a professional association earlier this year. One of my former clinical instructors also attends and each year I get asked the same question:
"So Jane, ... any kids yet?"
This year I had an answer he wasn't expecting.
"No. We're infertile and I miscarried about six months ago."
"Aww Jane ... Jeeez!" Just in case I had missed the irony, he added, "and you're in OB aren't you?
...and I don't think he'll ask that question again next year! Being out and proud has some rewards.
Husband has also taken steps to create his support next work. He informed his parents, his best (local) mate, and a few hockey umpire friends. I had almost forgotten that he had disclosed to his best English mate, until Raj approached me at a quiet moment during the Arkansas weekend to ask how things were going. I don't remember too much of the conversation, as I was a bit tipsy; but I recall he was really supportive and wished us well without issuing any empty promises. Actually, as we later ended up doing cartwheels in the bar; 'a bit tipsy' is probably an understatement.
We had nearly made it through that weekend without anyone asking about our procreation intentions, until Robin approached the subject on the morning when we were all departing. I thought about giving the short and simple answers, "maybe" or "not just yet". I'm not that close with Robin as we've only met a few times and we don't have that much in common. So I'm not sure quite why, but I decided to share our entire story. I finished by informing her that we would be starting IVF next month. "Well, sometimes it can take up to a year. Sometimes you just have to stop thinking about it so much..." she offered.
Hand-slap to forehead. Ah yes, this is the reason why you don't discuss your infertility with others. The unsolicited opinions and advice. Had I not learned my lesson from dealing with Myrtle? It was astonishing to me that after informing her of the issues encountered during our two year plight, she thinks more time is all we need. Why are some in denial of infertility? It seems akin to describing that a gay relative "just hasn't met the right girl yet". There isn't anything wrong; conception just hasn't happened for you yet. Depending on the time frame, that is the definition of infertility. Even when you have an identifiable factor, others are still convinced there is a magic formula yet to be employed that will lead to a spontaneous pregnancy. I can only imagine how difficult it is for couples with unexplained infertility to describe their situation.
Sigh. This is the disadvantage of being out and proud. The burden of educating others. I dispelled the notions about needing to 'relax' and 'stop trying so hard', which she may actually accept because of my professional credentials. I decided to take things one step further, and I pulled up my post that was inspired by the father-daughter dance at her wedding. I'm not sure if I violated any rule by sharing the IF blogging world with a non-TTCer, but when she handed my phone back to me with tears in her eyes, I felt that I had succeeded in enlightening her about infertility.
A week and a half later, it was Husband's birthday. In addition to the calls, texts and facebook posts, he received this email from his friend Leonard: 'Happy birthday. You're nearing 40 mate, time to think about decorating the nursery'. Oh, a double Bozinga! Referencing his advancing age and worth less child-free status! Such is the argument for being out and proud. It may avoid insensitive comments from unsuspecting friends. His message was especially annoying as it took Leonard and his wife Penny over a year to conceive their first son. I used to send her copies of the quarterly publication Conceive, as almost none of the patients in the waiting room in my clinic seemed to be having any difficulties. Leonard later noted that Penny was irritated each time she received a copy in the post, not that she didn't appreciate them or find some helpful information. It just always reminded her why I was sending them to her. I can really appreciate that now. Unlike Leonard, who can no longer appreciate being in that situation. I guess, like my cousin, they figure that having a surprise spontaneous conception revokes their infertile status and induces an amnesia for their experience.
I've not thought about how I would reveal our infertility struggles if I were to become pregnant; as I'm not allowing myself to entertain such thoughts. If we come up empty, I've considered creating an infertility announcement card. Perhaps the front would have a picture of the two of us and the inscription would read:
We've been through all the procedures and tests,
and can truly say we've tried our best
Alas, a family of three,
Was not meant to be...
Recently, Co-worker came in to the office for her 6 week postpartum check, twins in tow. After fawning over the babies, Michael Scott asked her, "So, did you get cleared so you and [her husband] can start doing it again?" I should mention here that Michael Scott has a very inappropriate crush on Co-worker's husband and she was disgustingly flirtatious with him when he accompanied Co-worker for her visits. Co-worker just pointed to her double pram and replied "Um, that's how we got into this mess in the first place!"
I turned back to my computer screen and carried on typing. I don't want to judge any fellow infertile and I would never begrudge her for hiding something so private from such a nosy busybody like Michael Scott. Yet, my mind flashed back to one of the final scenes from the movie Flight where Denzel Washington was telling his story to fellow inmates at a prison Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
"That was it. I was finished. I was done. It was as if I had reached my lifelong limit of lies. I could not tell one more lie. And maybe I'm a sucker. Because if I had told just one more lie, I could've walked away from all that mess and kept my wings, kept my false sense of pride. "
Someday I will be out, and I will always be proud.