How Honest Talk About Infertility Breaks Down Barriers

You want to talk about a loaded topic? There are few disclosures as emotionally charged as admitting that you were unable to conceive children. If you think it’s awkward for a woman, try wading into that discussion as a man.  There are very few who possess the courage or emotional stamina to go there. As Eric writes:

“Boxed in by the same profoundly evolutionary, not to mention social, archetypes, that can make a woman feel like a failure for being unable to get pregnant, what could make one less of ‘a man’ than being unable to ‘get the job done?’

Eric first impressed me with his strength and grace in October 2013. We met at a forum focused on the taboo nature of infertility. The discussion turned to the scars left by failed fertility treatment.  It was my first experience on a stage discussing society’s inability or unwillingness to acknowledge the many little deaths that infertility inflicts over and over in our lives.

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Eric took the microphone and shared that he and his wife were approaching the end of their fertility treatments. Swallowing hard he recounted the toll failed fertility treatments had taken on their lives. He wanted to know what lay ahead and any words of advice for healing. You can read more about that encounter here.

Today he and his wife Cathy (who has since become a dear friend) share a commitment to write about what they experienced. This week Eric wrote movingly about how his willingness to open up to a dock hand at a marina led to a few epiphanies.

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He writes: “So, for whatever it’s worth, I’d like to offer three clear takeaways for the fellas out there:

  1. Infertility is utterly democratized. It hits people of all ages, races, backgrounds and social status. You never know who out there might be sharing your experiences or fears.
  2. The only person who can actually make you feel those emasculating and derisive feelings from sharing or talking about what you’re going through is you. Accept them as normal, understandable and entirely valid, and you completely take away their negative power.
  3. Consider being open about acknowledging this too-often unspoken condition. You might just find that not only are there other men around you who share what you’re going through and can empathize, encourage or acknowledge your feelings, but you might just help someone else who hasn’t crossed that bridge yet.”

Bravo, Eric! Like you, many of us still struggle every day with how to talk to friends, to family, or to “parents who pine for grandchildren we will never be able to give them.”

You’ve done a major service to many out there by setting aside your fear, opening up and encouraging others to do the same. As you stated so well, “trouble shared is trouble halved, and I think it’s true for both sides of the conversation.”

The Talk: Your Story Matters

Now it’s time, dear blog readers, to open up the floor and continue this dialogue. I propose a book giveaway and book tour. It works like this:  write in the comments section about an experience when you initiated ‘the talk’ — in other words opened up about your infertility and what it felt like.  Let’s be clear, I know this topic is fraught with danger. Misinformation or ignorance on this topic can be mind-boggling. That’s why if you’re not there, yet, with opening up but you can imagine what you would say to someone in a future talk/encounter, write about it in the comments. Finally, since dialogue implies a two-way street, I invite compassionate participation from those who have been on the receiving end of the talk. You’re eligible, too.

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avalancheThe book giveaway is AVALANCHE written by Australian filmmaker and author Julia Leigh.

Available for sale this week, Leigh’s book bares her soul. In sharing her quest to conceive she expands the understanding of the gnawing grief and pain of infertility, pain that cuts so deeply it often leaves us without words. Fortunately for us, Leigh has a gift for conveying the depth and breadth of this confounding human experience.

Book giveaway deadline: August 26. I’ll place all the names of those who comment on a slip of paper, drop them into a glass jar and draw one name. Now … how about we choose the week of Sept 18 to share our thoughts on AVALANCHE? I might be able to entreat Julia Leigh to take some of our questions. Just drop me an email (ptsigdinos @ yahoo dot com) if you’d like to participate in the blog book tour.  To guide us we’ll take a page out of Mel’s pioneering blog book tour format.

UPDATES: We have a winner of the book review giveaway. AVALANCHE, the book, is now en route to Cristy. I’m also happy to report that Julia Leigh will indeed take our questions on the blog book tour now scheduled for Wednesday, September 21.

It’s not too late to sign up. Ping me in the comments or via email by Friday, September 16, if you’d like to participate in the AVALANCHE book review blog tour.