Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fertility Shaming

When I was deep in the trenches of infertility, there was nothing I hated more than Mother's Day. I dreaded that holiday more than any other. Partly because it was a reminder that I was not a mother, so I had no reason to celebrate. But also because I hated how I would be treated on that day. If I went to church, they would hand me a flower and say it was because I was a women who had the potential to be a good mother. But after the first time that happened, I avoided church like the plague on that Sunday each year.

Each year, it was hard to honor my own mother and mother in-law because the pain was too much. Because not only was it Mother's Day, but also seemed to be a day to honor grandparents also. So not only was I reminded I wasn't a mother, but also that because of me, they weren't grandmother's. (Realistically, I knew that wasn't my fault. But as the oldest child of each family, I had put that extra pressure on myself.)

With all of that being said, this post may come as a shock to most. But I'm noticing a growing trend, fertility shaming. Maybe this is only my opinion, but I feel like I must speak out.

Maybe its because I'm in such a healthy place now. But I don't remember ever being so hateful to motherhood in general. I would find myself trying to justify some mother's over others and I would baffled at how some could be mother's when I couldn't. But I never felt like I was at war with all mothers in general.

I noticed this trend slowly. Someone would post a meme about being a grandmother. Or about how the greatest gems around a neck were those of your child. (You know the ones that make you think, blah, blah, blah. Big deal) Sure, it would sting a little bit, but I would just scroll by. And I don't think I ever saw a person attacked publicly over it. But I've seen rants on private groups and they make me sad.

But now that Mother's Day is approaching, I feel like the haters are coming out. I almost feel like they want the day cancelled in honor of their grief. I no longer hate Mother's Day, but still have very mixed feelings over it. I wish there was a way it could be a day to honor mom's, and yet those in the infertile community could have no idea it was that day and therefore it would be just another day to them. But I know that's not even possible in our over commercialized world we live in.

At first, I just tried to ignore this fertility shaming. I remember the pain. It feels like it will never end. But yesterday, I found myself trying to leave a comment on a blog post a mother had written. It was your basic, "the house is filthy; its mac n cheese for dinner. But I wouldn't change it for anything." I wrote a long comment about how I used to wish that was my life. I would trade my clean house for not clean. But I wasn't given that opportunity. Then I realized I couldn't comment as anonymous, so I didn't want to post the comment.

I'm not against anonymous comments; I allow them on my blog. But I also feel like if you can't say something and attach your name to it, maybe you shouldn't say it at all. I allow anonymous comments because I want someone to feel like they can freely express themselves without reviling too much about themselves. But if its a rude comment, I delete it. Anonymous should be for someone scared, not angry.

I keep going back and forth on my feelings here. In reality, most of these hateful things I have seen are on private groups; groups for childless people only. So mom's and grandma's probably have no idea. Which is the way it should be. As an infertile, we need a safe place to vent and cry and curse.

Still, I can't help but wonder if these feelings help a person find peace and healing, or if they actually slow down the process. I believe its the latter reason. If you cling to hate and bitterness, it becomes a part of you.

That's the point I'm trying to get to. Infertility sucks. It hurts. Sometimes you think you are going to die from the pain. Sometimes you wish you would. But don't stay in that moment. I believe, that if all you do is curse mother's and grandmother's for their happiness, you will never find your own happiness. Its not their fault they aren't living in the same nightmare you are; don't hold it against them. I can't walk around and always expect my family and friends to pretend they don't have kids & grand kids. I wouldn't want my misery to rain on their parade.

Could they be more supportive? I think that is a mixed question. Honestly, most people are pretty sensitive to my situation. Its only every now and then when I want to choke someone until they understand. But I can't be that way to everyone, because not everyone is that way to me.

I think there can be a better balance. Don't ignore your feelings. Doing so will only let them pressure and build up until they explode in an ugly fashion. But don't stew on them forever. Acknowledge the pain, but then count your other blessing. I hate not being a mother. But right now, I'm extremely grateful that I'm able to go back to school. I wouldn't have done it if I had kids. I hate that I'm not a mother, but I'm not going to lie, I love sleeping in on the weekends and having a quite house.

If you are still pursing treatment or adoption, my prayers are with you. I hope it works out. But whether it works out or not, I wish you happiness. Don't wait around waiting for it to happen. Find those moments now.


  1. This is a lovely post, Savannah. I haven't been in the groups (or seen them) that you are talking about. Are they childless or childfree? I think sometimes that is a difference.

    I also think that it is reasonably healthy to let loose in those early healing days. Simply by venting about mothers in general, we're starting to let go of our dreams of motherhood too, I think. And as long as it is in private, then that's okay. Healthy even.

    But you're right - we can't do that all the time. Ultimately, too letting our bitterness go means that we can enjoy being aunts, we can enjoy the children of our friends who are mothers (or grandmothers), and we can get pleasure out of other people's children, which is not the same as being parents ourselves, but we can still have fun with it and enjoy it.

    I have a post brewing based on a conversation with a friend yesterday - sort of along the same lines, though from a slightly different perspective. It's the issue of when to say something and when not to say it. And as you say, if we can't be polite, then we shouldn't say something at all.

  2. I try not to engage in fertility shaming unless it directly affects me. Like if a person wants to rant about how difficult their life is because they chose to have three kids in five years that's their right to do so and I will always stay out of it. But if this person goes on to tell me how lucky I am to not have kids I go off on them. They don't have the right to make assumptions about my life. I do have friends who I consider safe that I can let it out to.

  3. I'm with you, and this mother's day will be different for me as I'm preparing for it now, I've purchased gifts and made travel plans to be with my mom and celebrate it as a daughter instead of a woman yearning to be a mom herself. I'm not sure how I'll feel on the actual day yet, but I'm also on depression medicine this year so I'm hoping things stay upbeat, as they should be.

    I'm all for infertile women being able to blow off steam, I know I've had some super ugly moments! I believe it's all part of the healing process. My bitterness ebbs and flows, and sometimes threatens to swallow me whole, but I eventually work myself out of those feelings with exactly what you ended your blog with: Gratitude. <3 Happy impending Savannah day!!