05 February, 2015

Ten examples showing why I believe infertility brings out the best in us

Recently, in the context of the twitterstorm, someone in the ALI community commented, "Infertility brings out the worst in all of us ... We’re all guilty."

I beg to differ.

Yes, there might be some people out there who are bitter, ignorant and judgemental, who lash out in hurt or anger. This is often indicative of where they are in their journey. I know there are people who have been unkind to the newly pregnant or mothers. But I know too there are pregnant women and mothers who have been judgemental and unkind and superior towards those who are still in a place of hurt and pain as they battle their infertility, or those who have gone on to live lives without children. At times members of both these groups show little empathy, which is I think very sad given the magnitude of their shared experiences. Ultimately though, I think the proportion of people who react badly to others is very small.

In my experience, infertility brings out the best in the large majority of us. I want to use the word heroic, because I believe that the personal effort required of, and toll taken on, so many women to behave so well is nothing short of heroic.  I’m talking about what I’ve observed other women doing, in person and on-line, over the last decade and more. In fact, I see examples of most of these every day in the blogging community. Just writing this list made me happy, and full of pride.
  1. Women who are still trying to conceive, who have suffered loss, and women who know they will never have children, nonetheless congratulate the newly pregnant, and the new mothers, with enthusiasm and love.

  2. Women who see posts or pictures or hear statements that hurt them choose not to comment or lash out. They choose to suffer in silence, rather than spread the pain.

  3. Newly bereaved women attend baby showers, or buy gifts for a new baby of friends or family, hiding their own grief so as not to spoil the joy of others.

  4. Women who have had multiple ectopic pregnancies forget their own experiences, and repeatedly encourage those who have had their first such loss, reassuring them with statistics that show there is a 90% chance that their next pregnancy will be okay.

  5. Women who knew they could never have children, or could never complete their families after many losses, have (virtually) held the hands of the newly pregnant, daily guiding them through those first scary weeks of a pregnancy before they get confirmation that it is in the right place, and frequently continued to guide them through the next eight months of a very anxious pregnancy, with love, encouragement and support. They put their own emotions to the side, and help these women through a very difficult time, showing nothing but empathy, however painful it is to them.

  6. Women help others get through difficult times, putting aside their own, sometimes much worse experiences, to help and soothe and encourage others on their way, recognising simply that pain is pain.

  7. Newly pregnant women and new mothers show compassion and sensitivity on their own blogs, choosing not to exude smugness or judgement or superiority, avoid triggers or advise in advance of potential triggers in their posts. (I’ve often commented – perhaps on other people’s blogs more so than here – that I think it is sad that they feel they have to do this. However, I applaud their willingness to do so, and their empathy and consideration of those who might find surprise pregnancy announcements or the sometimes shocking visual of scan photos to be upsetting.)

  8. Pregnant women and mothers and childfree-by-choice women reach out in an effort to understand those of us who can’t have children, and to help us feel less like pariahs, in this community at least. The interviews Mo and Cristy did with Pamela and Loribeth, which Pamela is currently highlighting on her blog, are an example of this. Mel's efforts to include No Kidding bloggers as part of her community, and the comments I receive here from Noemi, Mel, Cristy and others are another example.

  9. Women write blogs and books and speak out publicly, bravely, to shine a light on a journey that is still subject to social stigma, in order to help others who come after them.

  10. And women who - through infertility - have suffered pain, or who continue to suffer pain, or who are scarred by that pain, or who remember that pain, extend their empathy to others throughout society who suffer pain too, and implore us to be kind to all. As Savannah said so beautifully, we “… may never know what demons haunt them inside.”
These are just a few examples of the empathy and compassion and courage  shown by those who suffer and have suffered infertility. Infertility brings out the best in so many people, often when they feel at their worst.


  1. Don't know about what happened on Twitter. But for me personally both were true, infertility brought out both the best and the worst in me. I have been mean, angry, cold and jealous towards my partner because of his children from a previous relationship. And I have made some amazing connections both online and in person, being able to understand a shattered dream. (Maybe just as well I wasn't on Twitter back then)

  2. I love this post. And I absolutely agree. My story was always lacking in the struggle and trauma of most and yet there were always so many women willing to hold my hand through troubles that were so dwarfed by their own. I was so incredibly moved by their support in both my times of sorrow and of joy. This community absolutely showed me what true empathy and compassion really are and gave me a renewed sense of what heroic (such a great word you chose) efforts the human heart is capable of.

  3. I have been on both sides of the scale of nice vs. nasty. But its like you said at the beginning of your post, it was because of where I was on my journey. When we first learned we were infertile, I had a lot of anger and hatred, which I mostly took out on pregnant people. At that time in my journey, all I could see was that they were given what I was trying so hard for. But I think that is why its so important we not only seek our dreams of motherhood, but that we also seek peace of our circumstances. Since then, I've been able to do a 180 degree turn and I'm nothing like I used to be around pregnant people. So I guess infertility brings out the worst and the best in most people.

  4. Love this too. I think it's an important reminder that we have a choice; that we can choose to let it bring out our best instead of our worst. We can't control how we feel, but we can control how we act.

  5. Great post and great comments! Infertility definitely shaped me into a more empathetic and compassionate person.

  6. Love this post, Mali. "This is often indicative of where they are in their journey." Very true, very true. And I love what Savannah said about what demons that haunt people.

  7. Mali, you've described how I see things here, too. Thanks for putting it into words.

  8. Buddhists say that even in the world of hell, there is potential for Buddahood.

  9. Maybe it's because of where I'm at in the journey and don't have closure on things yet but I don't think infertility has made me a better person at all. I'm a more on edge person. The positive outlook can accomplish anything approach to life I had has been killed by infertility. It has made me more bitter towards others and severely damaged a lot of my most important personal relationships.

    But that's just me and could be just where I'm at in the journey.

  10. So true. I do no find that many people are bitter and mean, but supportive and loving. If someone finally has a child, or adopts - there is support and love. And I've found #10 to be so so true for me. I think most people, after suffering infertility, get it. Get the ups and downs and want to give the compassion, love and support that they may have wanted to receive.