Shame is an icky word. While many of us quietly, in the depth of our hearts, feel the ache of infertility, few of us will acknowledge it out loud. Because acknowledgement of the pain often leads to the feelings of inadequacy and shame.
We need to let go of this shame and start speaking out.
When I first starting speaking out about my fertility struggles, I had no idea how many couples around me were silently walking through the same battle. Friends walked up to me with tears in their eyes saying they hadn’t told anyone, but they were in the same situation of wanting a baby but fearing that door was closed. I received an outpouring of Facebook messages of people, men and women, thanking me for giving a voice to their struggle. People all around me are looking for a voice, wanting to know they are not alone, but continuing to keep their struggle silent.
I am not here to guilt those who keep their stories close to their chest. Misunderstandings and unsolicited advice are all too common. Unintentionally hurtful comments about starting a family, complaints about sleepless nights, and groaning about pregnancy symptoms, they cut deeply and are not necessary. I cringe when I remember all of the comments made by dear friends, friends who would have supported me if I had been more open, that felt like a kick in the gut.
Ladies, it’s time we release ourselves from the stigma of infertility by refusing to treat infertility as if it is shameful. Tell your friends you’re going through treatments. Ask them to pray for you. Let them support you emotionally. Stop crying behind closed doors and start crying in the arms of loved ones. Draw on their strength and utilize the people our heavenly Father had placed in your life. He has not just equipped you with medical technologies, He has provided you with a community.
The community around you is there to support you and to be supported by you.
One in eight couples struggles with infertility. One in eight. That means you are not alone. Your neighbors, the woman at the grocery store, the couple sitting next to you in church, they feel silenced by their pain as well.
Your story can strengthen them. You are in the unique situation of having gone through similar trials. While this road is often isolating, you don’t have to walk it alone. Be the friend who shares and walks alongside others. Stigmas are shed when we speak out and equip others to do the same.
It is vulnerable and it is scary.
No one likes to be the first one to open up. It’s hard to keep your heart open to misunderstandings. But we are stronger when we stand together in love.
So if you are struggling, open up. If you are a friend to someone who is hurting, let them speak. Walk alongside them in their pain and weep with the weeping. Church is one of the few places where children are the assumed normal and we are separated by our stage of family. If someone doesn’t fit their assumed stage of life, don’t assume. Don’t offer advice. Just listen with open arms and let them know that they, with or without a child, are enough.