It’s a double-edged sword. On one side, your friends and family know your plight, so they (theoretically should) understand why you will not be attending your cousin’s baby shower, without you having to make an excuse. On the other side, people can’t help but give you what they consider helpful advice, like “You just need to relax and stop trying so hard!” or “Why not just adopt?”
I’m a big proponent of being “out” as an infertile. (Disclaimer: I have to admit that I sort of fell into my out status. We were one of the
annoying lucky couples who got pregnant right away, told everyone, then miscarried. So, pretty much everyone knew that we were trying. Still, I don’t like to assume that everyone assumes that we are still trying after 2 years, or even that they think about it at all.) I know it’s a deeply personal choice, and while I encourage infertiles to consider coming out to close friends and family, I do not judge anyone’s decision to keep it to herself. Because there are definitely some not-so-great things about others being privy to how your private parts work (or don’t, in this case). Here are what I see as the pros and cons of being out as an infertile.
- Friends, family, and co-workers have stopped asking when we are going to have kids.
- If anyone makes an assumption about why we are childless, I can correct them. I don’t have to pretend that we don’t want kids, or listen to someone tell me that I’m not getting any younger.
- I can decline invitations to all kinds of social/family events without having to make up an excuse.
- I don’t have to hide my feelings of sadness or jealousy. (I do try to keep them in check, so I don’t come off as constantly sad and bitter.)
- Far fewer people complain directly to me about their kids or being pregnant. I’m free to speak up when they do.
- If anyone gives me a hard time about my weight, I can politely point out that fertility treatments wreak havoc on the ability to lose weight.
- When someone says something insensitive, I can point it out and tell them what they should have said instead, thereby (hopefully) ensuring they don’t repeat the stupid comment to anyone else, especially another infertile.
- Being out makes it easier to connect with other infertiles. Anyone reading this blog knows how isolating infertility can be, and if I can be a beacon for just one other infertile looking to connect with someone who understands, it’s totally worth it.
- Others see my openness as a license to offer up well-meaning “advice” and platitudes, or (even worse) relate the story of their sister’s roommate’s cousin who tried for 10 years and finally got pregnant naturally after she adopted.
- The looks of pity.
- The look of discomfort on someone’s face when I tell them I’m infertile. (Actually, I don’t mind this one too much. Life is messy, and people need to learn to deal with it better. I’m happy to do my part!)
- Because we’re out about our treatments, as well, people feel free to ask us how they are going and what our next steps are. I’m usually willing to talk about it, but sometimes I’m just too exhausted or not in a good place. Sometimes I just don’t know what we’re going to do next. Fortunately, our family and friends respect our privacy, so we don’t get a lot of questions.
- Constantly being told that it WILL happen and to stay positive. I could choke on all the hope that gets dumped on me by well-meaning family, friends, acquaintances, doctors, bank tellers, etc.
For me, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. The biggest pros are educating others about infertility (what to say, what not to say to an infertile), and being there for another infertile who may not be comfortable confiding in her fertile friends and family members.
We are out to absolutely everyone. I mean, I don’t lead with it (no “Nice to meet you. I’m infertile.”), but when a stranger or new friend asks if we have kids, I often say “No. We want kids; we’ve been trying for a long time, but we’re infertile.” Sometimes it pays off and the other person will confide that they, too, had trouble or are currently having trouble. Other times, they say something well-meaning, but uninformed, and I have to correct them. But, it’s all part of the process of giving a louder voice to infertility and educating people about the realities of it.
What about you? Are you out as an infertile? To everyone, or just a few people? What factors influenced your decision to be open (or not open) about your infertility?