27 August, 2019

When telling our stories takes a toll

Going public about infertility or the fact our No Kidding status was not our choice – even if we love it now – is often not easy. Some people are happy to speak openly, even when they are going through it, but many of us find it takes time, and some never actually open up about our losses or difficulties.

I began thinking about this issue (again) when I read Lori’s post noting that she didn’t want to be outed when going through it. Neither did I. At the time, I didn’t tell anyone at work about my first ectopic – I had a week off before Christmas, and by the time we all came back after New Year everyone was swapping summer holiday stories, and had forgotten I had been away. I told family (because travel plans had to be changed) and a few close friends. But then, the infertility began. I say began, because by then we realised we might need help, I started charting my cycle, learning things about my body that I wished I’d learned as a teenager, and reading message boards online. After my second ectopic and cancer scare, I was a little more open, and was very open with a group of people I met on message boards. But I still didn’t want to share in real life, and it took me a while to be able to do so.

But why not?

Because telling our stories takes a toll. When we are already vulnerable and feel like a failure, it opens us up to judgement, condescension, and isolation from "otherness." That can be tough to deal with, especially with people we know. Some people can breeze through this, but so many of us can’t. I can’t always. My husband often tells me not to care  what people think. It’s easier said than done, though I’m better than I once was. And back then, when I was vulnerable, when infertility and loss had already taken such a huge toll, when I was still adjusting to my life, I couldn’t risk further spirit-crushing judgement. It was already hard enough to deal with my own internal dialogue of failure, misconceptions, and negative stereotypes.

As we grow and develop into acceptance of our No Kidding lives, it becomes easier. But we still have to brace ourselves against the reaction of the person who is hearing our story. And it is hard to maintain that level of awareness, of preparedness, steeling ourselves against the possibilities of being misunderstood. Last year, Infertile Phoenix wrote about how exhausting that is in an excellent post here.

As time and distance heals, though, I am pleased to know that telling our stories takes a smaller and smaller toll. In fact, I think that at some stage, it changes, and the greater toll is when we don’t tell our stories, when we don’t acknowledge our reality, when we stay in the shadows. Maybe some of that is because people aren’t ready to hear our stories. But that, I have decided, is their problem, not mine.


  1. One of the things I am enjoying most about being in this decade of life is that boundary setting seems to come easier.

    Your last line is evidence of that. I didn't understand that as well back in my 30s, but now I do.

    On the flip side, I also think time can make people (well, some people) less judgmental in their 50s than in their 20s or 30s. Lots to think about here, and I appreciate your thoughts and those of Lori and Infertile Phoenix.

  2. YES. THIS!!!

    It's still hard for me to share with people outside the loss/infertility world, even with my own family members. I've been becoming a little more open lately, though. I think your point about time & distance is very true.

  3. That is the hard balance -- to be open and honest is also to open yourself up to unwanted convents, suggestions, judgments. Every once in a while something comes along that tips it hard in the "open like a gaping wound" direction, but it is easier now that it's not quite as recent to just say what my life is, own it, and not really leave room for people's comments. It always depends on who said the stupid things and if they should have known better.

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE your last two lines. Everyone's reality deserves to be out of the shadows.

  4. Dear Mali, I agree with you: telling our stories is very painful. And yet, as time goes by and the grieve is less strong, I consider it my responsibility to talk about my experience when the situation requires it. I don't share any details, but I want people to know that there are topics which are much more complex and painful than they think. I'm not doing this for myself but rather for women who will come after me.
    And I agree with your last sentence: if they are not ready to hear about my story, that's not my problem and they shouldn't have brought up the subject in the first place.