This blog was written for RESOLVE – The National Infertility Association to support National Infertility Awareness Week 2022. This article can also be accessed here: https://infertilityawareness.org/stories/personal-stories/wecanall-break-down-the-walls-of-silence/
Breaking down the walls of silence that isolate our experiences during infertility is something we can all do, no matter what part of the journey we find ourselves in now.
Infertility is the defining event of my entire adult life. My infertility story has a marked beginning and a marked ending, lasting twenty-three years in total. It’s a story that weaves through the stages of denial, fear, and crushing disappointment, the early days of in-vitro and making babies in a lab, and finally through the complexities of international adoption. What started with a declaration to begin our family on our first wedding anniversary in August of 1986 finally concluded in October 2009. Infertility treatment eventually gave me three children, including a set of twins; international adoption blessed me with two children from Guatemala.
Early into my journey, I read a statement that disturbed me: “My infertility resides in my heart as an old friend. I do not hear from it for weeks at a time, and then, a moment, a thought, a baby announcement or some such thing, and I will feel the tug – maybe even be sad or shed a few tears. And I think, ‘There’s my old friend.’ It will always be a part of me.”At the time, I rejected this idea entirely. Today, I understand what the author meant. From my current viewpoint, infertility is both my enemy and my friend. The truth of this statement is why I can’t simply discard my IVF paperwork. Although I now have very full arms as a mama to five, I remain infertile. It has never really gone away; it’s grown with me and just become part of who I am.
As my “miracle children” have started launching into their own lives, I’ve found myself unprepared for the next phase of life – seemingly more so than many of my peers. In this new reality, I keep finding myself viewing parenting through the lens of loss. I’m becoming aware that “my old friend of infertility” is likely still informing my emotions and perspective. As children are not an eraser to the condition or trauma of infertility, I recognize how infertility has likely skewed my parenting.
In some ways, even after a decade of being “officially” resolved, my infertility continues today. Over twenty years after my seventh IVF, five children, and some four household moves later, I can’t bring myself to get rid of my IVF paperwork. It is also hard to reduce this part of my story into a few sentences, as it always seems shallow and a disservice to the lifelong process to try and sum it all up. Today I write, speak, and help support other women as they walk this path that is entrenched deeply into my soul. Helping others also helps me continue to heal. We cannot help it if infertility becomes part of our story, but we can all share our infertility stories to help others.
 Barbara Eck Menning, Infertility, A Guide for the Childless Couple (New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1988), p. 177.