The Shame and Redemption of Infertility (Or Why We Kept Infertility a Secret Until We Wrote a Book About It)

October 22, 2014

For a long time, my wife and I kept our secret.PlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9

We kept it from friends. We kept it from family. It seemed like the only thing we could do.

Our friends had their babies and we would say, “Congratuations!” We would go home and say “We are happy for our friends.” People would ask if we were going to have kids, and we would stammer out some kind of answer about “timing.”

Months and years passed like that. If you have ever kept a secret, you know how it is too.

But I have to say that I am truly amazed, surprised even. Plus or Minus will be released in just a few short months. And when we first discussed writing a book about infertility, it felt like we were going to be exposing all of these dark, terrible secrets. The opposite has in fact been true.

In the process of being vulnerable, we have been given a great gift: redemption from our secrets.

Secrets All Tell Us the Same Thing

The thing about secrets is they make us all believe the same thing:

They make us believe that no one should find out. The secret needs to be kept at all costs. Secrets tell us that they are shameful things, and we really are alone in this thing.

And so for years, we avoided answering family and friends directly when questions about our family planning came up. Really, up until the day we announced that Cheri was pregnant, very few people knew what had been going on for the better part of five years.

Secrets make us ashamed. They isolate. So rather than bringing people in, we kept people out. We insisted that no one would understand, that it was no one’s business.

A Funny Thing Happens When You Share a Secret…

Even today, for some reason, I have a hard time spitting out the word “infertility.” Like when people ask what the new book is about, I kind of stammer and try to explain infertility in some kind of roundabout way. Then, when I see the puzzled looks on their faces, I just say “infertility.”

You know what? Something amazing happens when I just have the guts to say that word.

People will listen for a minute or two while I give the basics of our story. Their eyes will kind of glaze over as the pieces of the last five years finally fall into place. They take on a knowing look.

And then…

Suddenly we are in some kind of public therapy session. All at once, people cannot seem to wait to share their secrets. They want to talk about the years spent and the miscarriages and the heartache. I have had multiple conversations over the last few weeks, even strangers  letting me into their bedrooms, so to speak, sharing personal details, eager to share something that used to be a source of shame.

The Gift of Vulnerability

That is the truly amazing thing about being vulnerable, about giving everyone the gift of your secrets.

When we share our secrets, our shame, it lets everyone else know that it’s safe to come out. People realize that all of us have something that has brought us pain, that we did not think anyone would understand.

Over the weekend, we got together with all of the couples from the book. It was the first time everyone had met in one place. And how validating it was for everyone in the room to know that we have all been broken, and we all have lived.

What if we all tried this experiment, where we just started telling our secrets, airing our dirty laundry? I bet something amazing would happen. I bed we would discover that our secrets are not so shameful, that our laundry is not so dirty after all.

If you want to be a part of the conversation, if you want to discover the truth, that our secrets are not so shameful, then would you join us on this journey? You can start by joining our mailing list to keep up with all of the Plus or Minus news.

 

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