My inner grammar-marm is not happy with this post title. She keeps telling me “No.. the CORRECT way to say it is ‘I AM infertile’. We’ve had a ‘discussion’ and currently she’s in the corner with her mouth taped shut.
Here’s my argument: ‘I am infertile’ is definite. It’s personal. It claims to encompass everything about me. It is a liar. I am not infertile. I have challenges with fertility. I also have a wicked sense of humour and a rather twisted way of thinking sometimes. I have an awareness of things around me, and I have trouble keeping a child to term. ‘I have infertility’ sounds to me like it is something I can overcome. Something that is not my fault and that I will try to work around.
‘I am infertile’ becomes part of us. We repeat it to ourselves, to our partners, to our close friends, to our medical team. As a coach, this goes against the grain, because it feels like constantly accepting defeat, constantly beating ourselves up. We end up internalising infertility until it becomes part of who we are, rather than simply being something we are struggling with.
The ability to conceive and carry a child successfully to term is important to many of us in defining our feminine identity. Infertility and miscarriage changes us as people (as does any trauma) – we have to deal with reexamining our assumptions of health, our ideas about family structure, and come to terms with a desire that may never be met. Imagine if people started saying “I am cancer” or “I am AIDS”. It’s just wrong.
So what is the alternative? ‘I suffer from infertility’? Sure, it’s not untrue, we suffer because of infertility, but it seems like such a separating statement. Does this put us in the category of victims and sufferers? Does it mean that while we continue in our daily lives, we shouldn’t be living in case we aren’t suffering from infertility? What about “I am struggling to have children?”. I like that a bit better. It’s in the present, so it doesn’t feel like a final declaration, it may describe my current condition, but even that is isolating the problem to you alone, and infertility is not just the problem of one partner. “We are having difficulties with conception”. That puts it in its place, it doesn’t isolate the challenge to you alone (infertility is a couples disease), it doesn’t make you a victim, and it isolates the difficulties with conception, rather than letting it define your entire state of being. This phrase works for me, and I invite you to find something that works for you, rather than just accepting what seems to make others comfortable. You can of course just say “It’s none of your business” if you’re called on to say anything at all.
I have had recurrent miscarriages. It’s not about who I am, it’s not about what I am, it doesn’t define me, and it wasn’t because of anything I did. My grandmother had recurrent miscarriages too, and her brother wasn’t able to have children either, so it is not something that I did or didn’t do – it was something that was passed down to me, and something I hope can be treated with an ever-advancing medical science, as I continue to live healthily, eating organically, and respecting my environment. I didn’t do this, I don’t deserve it, and I refuse to own it, because if I own it, I have to feed it..