Do You Live A Taboo? I Do, Too!

UPDATE 8/27/2013: For those of you around the world who are unable to join us in person in New York City, we’ve opened up a page on our event website to share your thoughts. Please comment below and we’ll include you as virtual participants.

…when a path wasn’t clear, the natural instinct was to go with the herd. Only trouble was finding the right one. I was slowly separating from the ‘Trying to Conceive Tribe’ and from the looks of it I wasn’t ever going to be part of the ‘Mother Tribe’ – the working mother or the stay-at-home mother set. The schism between the two camps was now so whatever. I didn’t even fit into the ‘Childfree by Choice Tribe.’ I learned a new term. I was ‘involuntarily childless.’ How the hell was I going to locate that motley crew?”

That passage from my Silent Sorority manuscript, written some seven years ago, became something of a sociological and personal challenge. I knew I could not possibly be alone in my infertility experience so I set out on an oftentimes lonely wandering in search of my people.

Little did I know then that my journey would take me to New York City on September 27, 2013 to stand on a stage at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center to take part in an unprecedented public forum called The Cycle: Living A Taboo.

How did this possibly come about? Rewind to 2007 and a time when I began to blog anonymously — anxiously sending out pings. Then, I ventured out, sheepishly, in public gatherings like a BlogHer meetup. Slowly, painfully, I revealed more of myself and my taboo black sheep infertility experience.

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Those who never visited a reproductive endocrinologist usually responded to my truth telling with awkward discomfort, all but pleading for a subject change. Most all who were diagnosed with infertility and actively in search of motherhood (as I once was) feared becoming me.

And, then, almost like stars appearing in the dusk sky, I began to find my people. And soon there were constellations. Beautiful, bright and dazzling heavenly bodies appearing out of the darkness. Soon we became a network — from Australia, Slovenia, Michigan, England, New Zealand, Ireland, San Francisco, Israel, Canada, Rhode Island, South Africa, Ohio, Southern California, Boston, Seattle, New York City and many other places around the world.

There is something indescribably delicious in knowing that you’re among people who simply “get” you. No apologies, no explanations, no etiquette instructions. You can complete each others sentences. There’s healing and peace that comes with knowing you’re not alone as one of the “involuntarily childless” or an infertility survivor.  Best of all, you don’t have those moments of sheer frustration that accompany feeling misunderstood, or worse, pitied or judged.

Many times I’ve been tempted to retreat back into my private world and let society at large live on in blissful ignorance believing the fairy tales that popular media cheerfully, breathlessly share on glowing magazine covers and talk shows: “hey gather ’round y’all for another installment of the tightly controlled fertility industry narrative that treatments will always result in a bouncing, healthy baby.”

And I remember how badly I needed to know that there was more than one ending to the infertility story — that I wasn’t a freak. I know how hard it is to be in the silent majority. That’s what led me, documentary filmmaker Irina Vodar and Dr. Marni Rosner to hatch a grand plan…

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What: The first independent public forum, The Cycle: Living A Taboo, is designed to honor and explore the hidden ramifications and bioethical considerations of infertility, assisted reproductive technologies and childlessness on individuals and society.

Why: While the global fertility industry heralds the birth of millions of babies born via in-vitro fertilization (I.V.F.) since 1978, The Cycle will acknowledge and bear witness to the long-term emotional tolls, traumas and risks associated with the millions more cycles that have resulted in failure over the last 35 years: 77 percent global failure rate in 2012 and nearly 70 percent in the United States in 2010.

Our Forum aims to ensure that future generations of women and men confronting infertility will have the benefit of improved social and emotional supports, and greater access to transparent, accurate information about reproductive technologies and their social impact, and treatment outcomes, risks and costs. We’ve learned that public acknowledgement of the associated loss and trauma is beneficial to processing the grief and healing for those who’ve experienced infertility.

How: Our event will include intentional conversations about stigma, hype vs. hope, and trading losses in for life. This transformative 90-minute program aims to challenge conventional wisdom and foster a new, more open dialogue about infertility. The centerpiece of the Forum will be a remarkable series of personal stories that reflect a gamut of emotions and insights and give voice to what has been a profoundly misunderstood human experience, expressed intellectually and creatively.

Who: You and … this event is open to all particularly those facing a diagnosis of infertility, those who have gone through fertility treatments—whether they succeeded or not and those who have adopted children. We invite friends and family members of people coping with childlessness to attend, and those whose loved ones are not parents after infertility. Also welcome are fertility doctors and nurses, representatives from the mental health community, including social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, and members of the media who want to improve how they report on issues linked to this complex health condition.

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We hope you will both join us and help in promoting this historic event. Tweets and your blog posts about this event are very welcome! The list of those supporting our efforts range from Our Bodies Ourselves to The Seleni Insitute.

Tickets for this all-volunteer effort went on sale last Friday. More details on the speakers, including Tracey Cleantis and Miriam Zoll, in upcoming blog posts.

If you can’t be there in person we welcome donations to help offset the costs of renting the theater (NYC is expensive!). Details on how you can contribute are here and on my sidebar. Contact me if you’d like to learn more ptsigdinos @ yahoo dot com.