I attended a group session with our fertility clinic a couple of years ago to provide feedback on their service and what improvements could be made.
I shared a view on how I felt clinic appointments were scheduled for staff convenience, rather than patient focused. I gave an example of how I had a very flexible job but for certain appointments the clinic insisted they only took place at times where I had to be at work and therefore required permission from my manager to attend. My preference would have been to avoid sharing the details of my personal life with my colleagues, which would have been necessary to secure the time off to attend the clinic.
The facilitator paused and then in response to my comments addressed the group as a whole and asked:
“why is fertility treatment such a taboo subject? What are you all afraid of? They may be very supportive”
She misunderstood. Because she hadn’t been there. She thought I was being secretive because I was embarrassed and ashamed that we were going through IVF.
But the other people in the room understood. Another woman immediately jumped to my defence and said:
“I completely agree with that. It means you then have to manage other people’s expectations and emotions, and its hard enough already”
And this is just one aspect of it.
One of the big health insurance companies is currently heavily promoting their new fertility programme. My social media feed is regularly flooded with sponsored articles and promoted stories. Often they make reference to an infertility taboo.
I hate this. It is false and misrepresentative.
I am not ashamed of my fertility treatment. I know plenty of people who have had some element of fertility assistance. In fact, more people than I’d care to know, to be honest, because every time I hear a new story, my heart goes out to them because even when there is success at the end, I know how difficult it is.
What I do have a problem with is people who are not my immediate friends and family believing that they have an entitlement to be given entry to the most intimate, raw, painful and challenging experiences of my and my husband’s lives. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, not even the people closest to us have had that kind of access.
I do not want to talk to you about my fertility treatment. I do not want to open my heart to you – someone who probably doesn’t know my son’s name or what my hobbies are – with the details of my private and very emotional experience. Even after nearly a year and a half since we finished our final treatment, I still can’t discuss it with anyone without, at a minimum, my voice shaking and, more frequently, weeping uncontrollably and eventually giving up because the overwhelming emotion has not manifested itself into an adequate vocabulary to communicate my feelings.
I am entitled to be in control of this. To decide who I let in and who I don’t. I am allowed to be the decision maker about how much information I share with my manager, their manager, the HR department, my colleagues, acquaintances, people on social media and any old punter who believes its water cooler conversation. I do not need to make you feel better about removing the “infertility taboo” because while there may be some element of a taboo, in my experience the gigantic elephant in the room is the emotion. You can’t have a piece of that. That’s all mine.
People who are going through, or have been through fertility treatment are free to discuss their experiences with anybody and everybody they are comfortable to do so. The key is that it is on their terms, not yours.
If you’d like to read more articles in my IVF Diary series, you’ll find them here.