One Small Step For Infertility Awareness, One Giant Leap For Society

My expectations for September 27 and The Cycle: Living A Taboo were very high — not only for those of us presenting at the forum, but for those who would join us.

What transpired surpassed my expectations.

As the evening drew near, we speakers assembled in Tribeca from Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Spanish Harlem, Boston, and Manhattan. After we checked the mics, the camera crew took their positions, and the tall theater doors opened.

In came those bringing genuine interest and (later) palpable support. The seats began to fill with people who afterwards came up and told me they had come from Washington D.C., Ohio and the surrounding New York area.

This unprecedented, patient-led public dialogue brought women and men together (both those who had and had not experienced infertility) to open a new dialogue, to candidly express and assess the conflicting emotions that infertility and childlessness raises, and to testify that infertility — and the tidal wave of emotions that result — don’t magically go away when you stop treatment.

The evening began with The Cycle creator and documentary filmmaker Irina Vodar challenging all of us in attendance to help formulate a new norm, new cultural cues and the capacity to discuss what has for too long been kept hidden behind closed doors — particularly when no children result:

We’re struggling to define a language and a protocol by which to live through the experience of childlessness first by circumstance then by science. I recognize that there are many components to it and starting the dialogue helps to define them all.

 

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As we attested during the course of the evening, the infertility diagnosis, failed treatments, lost pregnancies and prevalent cultural myths about the experience lead to sadness, anger, powerlessness and a prolonged set of conflicted feelings. It is critical, we gently advised, not only for those involved directly to find an outlet and a means of expression, but for society to provide space and permission and encouragement to do so (without judgment or suspicion) so that healing can begin.

When the immediate damage dissipates the heavy work of sifting through emotions begins … to fill the dark chasm, the void that sometimes threatens to engulf us whole.

In time, with the benefit of a grieving process, a rebuilding of identity and a new understanding and strength emerges.

Those of us on stage are a testament to that.

The greatest lessons and shifts in understanding originate because someone was willing to speak up and share what they’ve learned and, equally important, there were those willing to listen with open hearts and minds.

~~~

Laughter, tears and stories spilled out in Dr. Marni Rosner’s cozy living room just a day earlier. We had gathered on a warm early autumn Thursday evening for The Cycle: Living A Taboo rehearsal.

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Pamela Tsigdinos Speaking at The Cycle: Living A Taboo in Tribeca NY
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Making a point that the emotions stirred up by infertility don’t magically disappear when treatment ends.

Our task was a mighty one — preparing to stand on stage the next night, alone, baring our souls, sharing confidences and calling up intensely personal details of our lives. We would then gather back on stage as a group and open up the microphones to the audience.

An hour earlier, Irina Vodar, Miriam Zoll and I met face to face for the very first time. With smiles that easily could have lit up New York City, we gazed at each other amazement. Countless phone calls, emails and texts were no replacement for seeing each other in, as Irina described, “our carbon form.”

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The collective release as we took turns standing and speaking and listening seated on Marni’s sofa, chairs, and on the floor was mirrored the next evening as we heard hushed crying within the theater, heavy sighs and murmurs of surprise and grateful understanding.

~~~

Coming in the next post some questions and observations from those in attendance at The Cycle.

Also in an upcoming post, my response to the New York Times op-ed criticism and the surprising mischaracterizations about our motivation in writing it.

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26 thoughts on “One Small Step For Infertility Awareness, One Giant Leap For Society

  1. So glad it went well. I wish I could have been there to support you.

    I’m hoping attendees will blog about it too, and that they’ll link back here so we can find them. (Hint to any attendees reading this!) If there was travel at the speed of light (cheap of course), I’d have been there!

    1. I felt you there, Mali!

      1. Jane

        Was it filmed at all Pamela? If so, where could we find it? Would love to watch the talk! :)

        1. Hi Jane,
          Thanks for checking in. Best to follow up with Irina to see what her plans are for the film footage. You can sign up for her newsletter here:

  2. Ahhhh…I feel so emotional when reading this. :-) I really wished I could be there, but anyway looking forward to reading more updates. CONGRATULATIONSSSSS for the successful event!

    1. Thanks, Amel. It was overwhelming for many us…

  3. I am so sorry that Amtrak trouble stopped me from attending the event. I was a very noisy fly on the wall at the Fertility Planit event two weekends ago, the subject of your team’s NY Times Op-ed. I hope some of those I gave invitations to were in the audience.

    Looking forward to hearing more — will there be a podcast?

    1. Still can’t believe that Amtrak prevented us from seeing each other, Christina. I was so looking forward to see you! Irina has been compiling the footage. This particular Forum is for the film, but we’ve been discussing another…

  4. Dear Pamela,

    I wrote the following comment on Irina’s blog post today but I thought it was equally important to share on your blog with your readers as well.

    Words can hardly express how honored I was to bear witness to the testimony, advice, creativity, and energy put forth Friday night; an event that culminated in what I hope will be the first of many forums.

    I attended the forum (not only as a colleague and friend of Dr. Rosner) but as a psychotherapist specializing in women’s mental health and traumatic stress, as well as a feminist activist. I left, however, as a woman broken-open and more deeply aware of the strength and generativity of the human spirit. I left completely transformed by the power of vulnerability, honesty, compassion, education, and voice.

    You and the panel participants spoke poignantly of your struggles and bravely of the need for awareness, education, and individual, social, and cultural transformation. Please know that your hard work, creativity, and determination was, in every sense of the word, awesome.

    Pamela, I learned so much from you in a relatively short amount of time and am honored to have heard you speak. I look forward to many more opportunities of learning and growth with you and the Silent Sorority community. I will certainly be blogging about the event in the coming days. Thank you, again.

    1. Dear Carly,
      I’m so touched by your response. It was a goal of ours to reach those who help others. Very pleased that you were able to attend and bear witness. We drew strength from the audience. Your kind encouragement and supportive comment, I’m sure, will fuel new ways to amplify our message. I look forward to reading *your* blog post. Many thanks again. Best, Pamela

  5. So glad to hear that everything went so well (not that I had any doubts)!! So looking forward to hearing more. :)

    1. It dawned me on me in the moments before we took the stage that the podcast you invited me to participate in last February was the genesis, Loribeth! Irina heard it and reached out to me …and the rest is history.

      1. And that all began when Jjiraffe & the Bitter Infertiles (Cristy, Mo & Shelley) reached out to invite me, & asked if I could get hold of you. :) You never know the ripples that you might set in motion when you cast one small stone/idea out there…! :)

          1. m.

            wow. I like this string almost as much as I loved hearing about the event!

            Pamela, I know you’ve put so much work into this, and put yourself out there in ways that take such strength and self-awareness. I wish I could have been there, I eagerly anticipate the film and am so proud to know you (at least electronically :-) )

  6. Read your perspective with a feeling like we’re compiling a gospel- one from Mark, one from Luke. :))
    How aresome and surreal to be with you in person for the last 3 days- I so agree with you- a small step for a man and a huge step for mankind!

    Here’s mine: wp.me/p36jbT-5l

    Much love, sistah!!!

    1. Still taking in all that transpired. Love the shot of you opening the program. Much love in return, sistah!

  7. Mrs. McIrish

    I wanted to thank the panel for having the courage and strength to tell their stories on Friday night. I was in the audience but could not speak. My emotions are still too raw and I was staring at the theatre lights trying to dry the tears forming in my eyes and silently clear the lump in my throat all night. While I did not speak, I can see the back of my head and DH’s head in your photo so I know I didn’t dream it. Anyway, DH was really blown away by the program. I’ve always led the charge on our treatment as I imagine most of us did. He doesn’t always know the lingo and definitely doesn’t chat in the online forums. Hearing the panel and audience speak the same things I’ve been telling him really opened his eyes. It reinforced what I’ve been telling him about how I see the future and that you never really “get” over this. I guess you learn to adapt and handle it better in time but infertility will always be a part of me. Others around us forget very quickly what we’ve endured but we never do. We’re still trying to decide if we are going to do a 3rd donor egg cycle. We stopped treatment in February but then I had a meltdown a few weeks ago causing us to revisit the topic. Maybe it is normal to have relapses and return to treatment. Maybe you don’t get off the treadmill and stay off the first time. Maybe it takes a few tries. I am no longer naive to the statistics or think we are “different”. I truly don’t know what to do or why I think this time could be different. The only thing I do know is that I am grateful to the panel for speaking so openly about a topic that people want to pretend does not exist.

    1. Dear Mrs. McIrish,
      I wish I could have reached out to hug you Friday night. I heard the soft crying and wanted so much to provide comfort. It fills my heart with joy that you felt kinship and connection with our words and experiences. Wishing you much strength and peace…

  8. Cathy B

    Hello Pamela!

    Speaking of hugs, thank you for the warm hug that you gave me after the event. (We are the couple from Washington. DC who are considering starting our own he said / she said infertility blog). You are such a kind soul who has been through so much. It was nice to not only connect with you via the event, your blog and your book that I finished reading on Friday, but to actually meet you in person as well. Your strength, courage and kindness gives me so much hope.

    The event was fantastic and we are so glad that we made the effort to attend. It was very therapeutic to be in a roomful of people who knew the struggles that we have had, and the emotions that we are still sifting through, and the decisions that still need to be made. Hearing once again that infertility, even after adoption, is still something that you have to learn to live with is real, true and felt very validating to hear from the panel.

    I would love to stay in touch with you, Pamela, as we feel that we have very few people to talk to about this, and we are at a cross roads with our lives. It’s been quite difficult. May I send you a personal email so that we may connect briefly one on one? I have a question for you if that is OK.

    Also, after “coming out” about our struggles with infertility on Facebook, I found out several of my friends have struggled unbeknownst to me. They are all wondering how they can see the documentary upon completion. One friend is here in the US, but the other is in Scotland. Can you tell me how we can all eventually access the documentary or how to find it please?

    Thanks again so much for your hard work, your dedication and your courage. You are helping so many people, it is truly wonderful.

    Take care!
    Cathy

    1. So glad we had the opportunity to meet and talk — and hug! Even happier that you and your husband found the program validating and worthwhile. Thank you for your kind words and for traveling a long way to join us. I’m in transit and about to board a plane, but will email you directly when I get settled in my next destination.

      1. Cathy B

        Thank you, Pamela! I look forward to hearing from you. And SAFE TRAVELS!
        Cathy

  9. Well done to all, it’s so fantastic to read the positive comments.
    As someone who is has just started to talk about these issues I know what it takes to stand up and I applaud your courage, vulnerability and strength for leading the way.
    I value what you’re doing and I know that I speak for many other women around the world.
    I really do hope that it was one small step around-infertility awareness and one giant leap for society and I look forward to supporting you and walking with you on the journey.
    Lesley x

  10. Reading this post had touched me deeply- since I’d have loved to go, but bad timing at this time (and I wasn’t sure if there’d be an interpreter or not.) And I suspect, most of me wanted to listen, a part of me didn’t. Hard to explain.

    Nevertheless, I’m very glad to hear that the summit came out awesome, hopefully there’d be some more in the future?

  11. So glad you ladies did this, and sorry I could not be there. I look forward to hearing more from the others who attended!

  12. It sounds like an amazing evening, one that met or exceeded your dreams for it.

    And clearly, for your commenters as well!

    Proud to know you, Pamela.

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