We didn’t plan on lying to our friends and family. It just sort of happened one day. Then that lie turned into a good coverup story. Soon, the words rolled off our tongues with ease every time someone asked us when we were going to have kids. The lie was so much better than the truth about what was really going on in our bedroom, which was a fair amount of sex, but not much in the way of baby-making.
You see, people have this bad habit of asking couples when they will be procreating before the wedding dress even comes off. And I know their intentions are good. It’s become as much a part of casual conversation as the weather. Supposed to snow today. Hopefully, we’ll be warming up here soon. So when are you two going to have kids?
In the short period of time following our vows and before I started peeing on ovulation sticks like they were going to disappear tomorrow, we told the truth: “I don’t know! Maybe soon?”
Later, all the careful testing and tracking of my cycles made it a bit more awkward to field questions about growing our family. The painful truth was we were trying, but it just wasn’t happening for us.
It was almost a relief when my husband started his master’s program. We could continue the ruse, shrugging our shoulders and telling not-really-a-lie: He was in school. He was busy. We were waiting until he graduated.
Eventually, the truth came out because I chose to go the very public route of putting my vagina on display (metaphorically, of course) by creating a blog and inviting my friends, family, and half my graduating class to read about our infertility struggles for the next three years as we underwent countless (read: eight) state-of-the-art fertility treatments that wreaked havoc on my body, mind, and bank account.
When we finally opened up about our journey, it was liberating. But those years spent in the fertility closet helped me understand why some couples never tell a soul about their own struggles. I know why I kept the truth from my family and friends.
Because the truth was emotionally draining. Trying to get pregnant and not being able to is nothing short of exhausting. It took over my whole life and was singlehandedly the biggest source of stress I’ve ever experienced—and I survived nursing school! Telling a little fib of “being too busy right now” was so much better than exposing all my insecurities.
Because I was tired of the unwanted advice. You all mean well, but the few times I disclosed my troubles I was met with:
“Did you try ___?”
“My friend’s sister tried ___“
“It will happen! Just relax!”
After hearing piece after piece of generic advice, I realized it was easier for everyone if I just shut up and made up an excuse. People just don’t know what to say to someone who can’t get pregnant, so I think doling out tips and tricks helps ease the tension.
Because of the awkwardness. We don’t normally ask others about their sex lives. We don’t ask how often they’re doing it, or what techniques they’re using, but somehow it’s okay to ask if someone’s sex is leading to conceiving a baby. And when it’s not, it makes everyone all sorts of uncomfortable. After all, it seems like most people get pregnant with candlelight, a giggle, and a bottle of “Two Buck Chuck.”
Because I was ashamed (as much as I hate to admit that). Society teaches us that our value as women is contingent upon our ability to procreate. But the secrecy of covering up my fertility struggles only was adding to the stigma. The truth is, I hated feeling inadequate—even if it was just all in my head.
The truth is infertility is really freaking hard to deal with. It’s difficult to understand unless you’ve been through it. I had my reasons for what I chose to tell people back then. And I’m so glad I’m not in that place anymore because my infertility has made me stronger, fiercer, and more compassionate for going through it.
The next time you innocently ask about another couple’s choices to have a baby or not, I urge you to think about this. About my own reasons for being so hesitant to share.
And that the next time you see a woman putting on a brave face and too-cheerfully telling everyone that she’s too busy right now to have a baby, you’ll come to her rescue and for goodness sake, change the subject. Do it for me and for all the women out there who don’t quite fit the rule that sex=baby.