15 May, 2011

Was it IVF?

A friend, in response to my Let Me Be post, wrote an interesting collection of thoughts on having children.  She noted that when she learned her cousin was pregnant with twins, her first thought was whether it was IVF.  Then she asked herself, “why do I care?”

That’s a really good question, and I don’t know the answer.  But it does seem to be the kind of question we all ask.  At the same time as I fiercely protected my own privacy (you may laugh about this given the intimate details I now willingly divulge here online, albeit under a pseudonym), I remember discussing with my husband whether his brother’s twins were conceived via IVF.  The twins are now 11 years old, and we still don’t know.  We have an opinion on it, but what business is it of ours?  None, I know, and that is why we have never asked, and never will.  I was not prepared to be open about our own IVF efforts, and we never told my husband’s parents or brothers (although we probably would now if the subject came up).  So I have to respect their right to privacy too.

I’ve seen a variety of opinions on this, though.  Some people find it appalling not to tell.  “There’s nothing to be ashamed of!” they cry.  (And they are right.)  They share details with their families, friends, colleagues at work, people at the bus-stop, as if they are on an awareness raising crusade – and maybe they are.  If it works for them, that’s good.  They are horrified that some of us make a different decision. 

But just because we’re not ashamed of something, doesn’t mean that we want everyone to know.  I’m not ashamed of spending all morning in bed this morning (just because I can), but it doesn’t mean I wanted my next door neighbour to know when he knocked on the door at about 11 am.  I’m not ashamed of the way I vote, but it isn’t something I ever really discuss with anyone.  So IVF, a process that is so intimate, that brings up so many emotions, and can be such a stressful experience, is hardly something I was ever going to shout about from the rooftops.  Many of us who go through this don’t want to expose ourselves to judgement, or insensitive questions, or simply the knowledge that other people know what we’re going through.  Let’s face it, many people will not understand – either the decision, or the mechanics themselves of IVF.  People think it’s an instant fix, guaranteed to work.  Others have very strong views on it based on religious beliefs. 

Besides, who goes around telling everyone exactly how their children were conceived (or not conceived as the case may be)?  Why should we expect couples who go through IVF to be any different?


  1. I find myself having the same reaction to news of multiple births or pregnancies in 40+ year old women. But, like you, would never ask, or expect to have the information volunteered. As you say - why should IF couples be any different.

  2. I tend to be bluntly honest when asked about things, and then later i rater regret it. I think it is human nature to be curious, but our culture doesn't put any boundaries on what is appropriate in that curiosity, and so people think they have the right to ask and even demand answers to things that are none of their business. I always regret when i give in to such pressure.

    I waver with the "that's none of your business and i really don't want to discuss it" and "well, maybe this is a teachable moment." It has been a hard path for us to reach the point that children - naturally born or conceived with assistance, adopted at any age or foster children - are not an option for us. We have talked many many hours about this and our options and how it would play out. We are limited because i have some fairly serious health issues.

    So, how do i distill those hours of discussion into a simple conversation with a well-meaning person (not just a nosey person, but someone i know really cares about me) who says, "Well, why don't you adopt?" or "Have you considered adoption?" The second question is basically asking "Have you considered all the options?" Because this person cares, i want to answer, but the answer is painful and needs a lot of explaining and that is more talking than i want to do.

    Maybe i should carry a form-letter. "Dear friend who cares" - explaining all the details of this very complicated decision. At least, then, i wouldn't have to explain it yet again.

    It isn't that i'm unwilling to discuss this, but that to discuss it yet again -i'm tired of it. Beating a dead horse.

    How do i explain that we have come to the decision that makes the most sense for us and our reality, but i still ache that this has to be my reality?

    Keeping silent feels the best and the worst.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

  3. There is a lot of IVF in my family, a lot of infertility (I am the only female second cousin on my mom's side who did not have a problem conceiving, and we're talking about 8 women who either went through IVF, adopted, or remained childless).

    The cousin in question is actually on my dad's (quite fertile) side of my family, and I think my immediate thoughts were due to surprise--her sister had two children quite accidentally (as a teenager, I mean) and none of her female cousins have had trouble having too many kids.

    I was glad that I didn't say it to her. Our aunt let me know, in an aside at my parents' christmas party, that she was completely torn up by the decision to go ahead with IVF and under no circumstances wished for anyone in her (Catholic, liberal but still Catholic) family to know. So we all "know" but don't know. Sigh.

  4. Wow, I'm one of those awareness crusaders (atm, that could all change). I know its totally completely personal how you choose to go about it, if it was private for you, fine, your call.

    My perspective is that I HATE people making assumptions about me, when they look at me, see a reasonably intelligent 34 year old and think its ok to ask if I have kids. And I think if people want to ask a personal question, then they should be prepared for a personal answer. Maybe a tad on the defensive side, but I'm ok to talk about it matter-of-fact and if they want to try and pick the scab off, they better have some tissues handy!

    Infertility is more common than people think and right now I see it as my role to put a face on it. I'd rather people know why I'm a mood-swinging psycho than be asking people behind my back.
    Then again, I emigrated here, so it doesn't really affect the 'whanau'!

  5. The key is that we should all be comfortable with how we deal with it.

    Kathryn - I totally understand being tired of explaining. I don't. There are some people I explain my situation to, there are others I don't - I shrug, or I joke it off, or change the subject. I decide who I want to know my private stuff, or who deserves to have me open my heart to them.

    Stinky (I feel rude calling you that!) - I'm glad talking about it works for you. I'm 48, with no kids, married forever. I think people have figured it out!

    And B, I think it's perfectly normal to wonder "is it IVF?" especially if we've been around people with infertility, who've done IVF, or have tried it ourselves. I'm sorry your cousin feels so awkward about her decision - I know from personal experience she'd probably feel good talking to you about it.

  6. BTW, i mentioned/linked both you and Bridgett in my most recent post, but it is rather long. Don't feel obligated to read!

  7. This is a great post... in my early 20s, before infertility, i can remember talking about people who had twins and immediately everyone assuming they had IVF (which is dumb b/c I have known none IVF twins). I can remember being judgmental of these people like they were inferior for having to use IVF.

    Well, I forgive myself now, because I was young, didn't really know anyone with infertility yet. But I see how people who are fertile and healthy can judge this, and it is wrong. I can only imagine it is so emotional to go through something like IVF, and who cares if you thats how the twins came to be. Definitely no ones business but the parents. Its amazing how a few years and a bit of knowledge changes perspective. People have the right to share or not share, if they feel like it.

    This was a really informative post and really reminds me that knowledge changes everything.

  8. I don't ask, because I agree that a person has a right to stay private about this matters. At the same time, I wish the general public were more informed. Many people assume that anyone can easily get pregnant these days thanks to IVF or other procedures, and they don't understand the expense, pain, trouble, or the statistics. Maybe if we did not keep so quiet about it we would not have to deal with so much ignorance.