The first time I remember infertility in pop culture was on the show Mad About You when Paul and Jamie had a hard time getting pregnant. I cannot remember what their problem ended up being. Then it was on Friends with Chandler and Monica. I remember both of them had a separate issue related to it that made it pretty much impossible for them to have their own. But neither of those story arcs really got at me. And I can’t remember any others.
‘Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour
The better for the embittered hour;
It will do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.
(“Terence, This is Stupid Stuff” by A. E. Housman)
The poem “Terence, This is Stupid Stuff” by A. E. Housman was introduced to me during a poetry unit my senior year of high school. It is a poem about poetry, and how you need to start small with poetry and work your way into it. And you need to realize that a lot of poetry often won’t mean much until your soul is where the poet’s soul has been.
In the last two years two more shows I watch (Parenthood and Grey’s Anatomy) have brought issues of infertility into the mix. This time my soul was there in the dark and cloudy day. This clip in particular ripped me apart. I’ve figuratively stood in that elevator (except without the whole friend through a windshield part) and wondered why drug addicts and stupid teenagers could get pregnant and not me. Brett has held me and let me cry many times.
In March of 2011 I added a small awareness ribbon to the footer on this blog. Because that month I sat in a doctor’s office while he told me we had “unexplained infertility.” We both worked just fine, in fact the doctor used words like “excellent” and “phenomenal” to describe our test results. We just weren’t working well together. Even more tests revealed the problem is with me and it’s something that will make having any children, not altogether impossible, but pretty much impossible to do on our own. There will be no “oops” or “we weren’t planning this” or “we thought we were finished” with us. Any child that comes into our family will be because of a lot of deliberate planning.
We’ve learned a whole new vocabulary of acronyms – BBT (basal body temperature), CM/F (cervical mucus/fluid), OPK (ovulation predictor kit), IUI (intra-uterine insemination), IVF (in vitro fertilization), PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis), ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), HPT (home pregnancy test), ART (assistive reproductive technology). We’ve learned how to give sub-cutaneous and intra-muscular injections at home (you can learn a lot on youtube). We’ve found more questions behind every answer.
And when our souls were in those dark and cloudy days, there were others whose souls had also been there who befriended us. We joined a community. A strong community made strong by the strength of their trials. An often silent community because of the social taboo that infertility still is. A community we wish we were not a part of. But we are.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). The theme this year is “Join the Movement.” While I sincerely hope as few people as possible need to officially join the infertility community, I hope that what I write and share this week will help both infertile community members and honorary members, those who do not struggle with infertility but want to better support and love their friends who do.
One in eight couples struggles with infertility. If you do not know if any of your friends are struggling with infertility, one of them is most likely suffering with it in silence. Be a soft place for their dark and cloudy days.