Health Parenting

I Wish I Weren’t a Liar: On Talking About Infertility

I wish I could be honest with people when they ask me why I don't want another child. It's not that I don't. It's that I can't.

By Ambrosia Brody of Random Aspects of My Life

I wish I weren’t such a liar.

I wish that I could lean in close to my best friend and tell her the truth when she asks if I’d like another baby.

“Actually, there’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you.” I’d lower my voice, look around to make sure no one is within earshot, and say, “I would love another baby, but I just can’t do it.”

“Why?” she’d ask.

“I’m infertile,” I’d share.

The silence — the reaction that follows is what I loathe and is the reason I continue to keep it to myself.

I’m infertile!   

Perhaps if I started conversations with that proclamation, strangers would not dare ask whether or not I’ll be trying for a third baby. After all, “Don’t you want a boy?” is a question I am often asked once people know that I have not one, but two girls.

“No, we are happy with two kids,” is the reply I offer when all I really want to say is, “Do you realize how difficult it was for me to have the two I already have? How would you want to go through the emotional toll of being told over and over again that you cannot have children without medical intervention?”

But I can’t say that. That response would be too honest; the outcome too bleak; a murderer of conversations.

Then again, it may just open the door for another round of questions: “But isn’t it worth it?”

Of course it is. Without modern science, my two little girls would not be here today. But being diagnosed with unexplained infertility and accepting that reality is a wound that has yet to heal.

Close friends who have undergone IVF and fertility treatments often share how their friends responded when they revealed their difficulties conceiving with reactions that run the gamut from sympathy to quiet understanding and stories about others in the same situation. It’s an uncomfortable topic because what is the right response?

“Oh no, that’s terrible!”

“Poor thing!”

“I have a friend who has a friend whose sister-in-law was told they could never have kids but they kept trying and now they have twins! Maybe that will happen to you.”

The reaction I would most appreciate? The truth.

“That’s fucked up!”

Yeah, it is fucked up that the one thing I thought I could always rely on turned on me. For years I practiced safe sex to ensure I would not have a child before I was ready, and then years later, at the age of 28, I was told there was no possible way I was having a baby without some help.

My first round of fertility treatments to prepare for the IUI was similar to an out of body experience. I could see myself going through the actions: signing paperwork, getting blood tests every week, closing my eyes as my husband prepared the powder and liquid that would be injected into my stomach to help jump start my ovaries. I remember the pinching sensation as the doctor inserted the sperm and the nausea that followed two weeks later. But it’s like it wasn’t really happening. How could this be my reality?

That diagnosis shrouded my first pregnancy. I consciously tied the label “infertile” to “unfit.” Because if my body was not doing what it was meant to do, then it was a sign that I was not supposed to be a mom. This was the universe hinting – screaming — that I was not mother material.

But the IUI took. So as my stomach transformed from its semi-flat state to round as a beach ball, I was waiting for the universe to show me another sign. I was waiting for the inevitable: another miscarriage.

Those first months, I ran to the bathroom stall at work so many times, expecting to find blood on my panties. When the Braxton Hicks started, I believed I wouldn’t make it to term.

But nothing happened.

And no one knew about the past miscarriage or the failed attempts to conceive. No one was made privy to the worries that consumed the very pregnant woman before them.

It was not until I was in the throes of motherhood that I stopped focusing on what I believe being infertile meant and instead threw all my attention onto my daughter and being a mom.

When I found myself in the fertility specialist’s office two years later to begin treatments to conceive my second child, I vowed not to allow my second pregnancy to be cloaked in self-doubt brought on by my belief that being unable to conceive naturally meant I was not to be a mom.

But it was difficult. Even the second time around.

Being infertile means no oopsies or pregnancy scares, no commiserating with fellow women about how an unplanned pregnancy would shake up their world. Every pregnancy for someone undergoing fertility treatments is perfectly timed.

What upsets me the most is that being infertile limits the number of children we can have due to the cost. And in all honesty, the procedure evokes so many emotions that I’m a ball of anxiety, frustration, sadness and anger during that time.

How do I convey all these thoughts and feelings when someone asks me if another child will be joining our family of four?

I still haven’t figured out how to do that.

Until I do, all I can do is smile and say, “No, two is the perfect number.”


About the Author

Ambrosia Brody is a working journalist, editor, and mother to two under the age of three. Connect with her on her blog, Random Aspects of My Life,  or on Twitter @AVBrody.