You see, we had some trouble trying to have our first baby. A couple of years and miscarriages later, our gorgeous, brilliant, amazing daughter was born, and filled a giant hole in our hearts. But our family doesn't feel complete, and we'd like another child. We're two years older now, and have no idea what to expect this time around. Because, infertility isn't something that happens once in a blue moon. It's not something that happens to bad people. It's not something that happens to fat people. It's not something that happens because of something you eat, or don't. It's not something that happens to old people. It's not something that happens to white people. It's not something that happens to poor people. It's not something that happens to women. It's something, quite simply, that happens to all people, of every gender, every race, every religion, every country, every socioeconomic group. It's something that happens to people just like me. It's something that happens to people just like YOU.
In fact, there is no question but that you know someone who is suffering from infertility, even if you are not yourself. One in six couples will struggle with it. Think of how many people you know with children. Think of how many you know that don't. Now, reconsider everything you think you know about how their children came to be, or why it is they don't have children. It is one of the world's biggest secrets, and millions suffer in silence.
Infertility is technically defined as the inability to get pregnant. Quite simply, the woman or the man has something physical that isn't working--could be ovaries, or tubes, or male or female hormone levels, or testicles, or many, many other things. There are myriad things that can go wrong, and it can be sometimes difficult or even impossible to pinpoint the problem.
If you have a malfunctioning heart, or lungs, or kidneys, or liver, no one questions that you have diseased organs. Such problems can be life-threatening, and of course they are treated as serious infirmities. You are taken seriously. You are given treatment. Perhaps most importantly, you are given acknowledgement and societal affirmation that you have a medical problem, and you are supported. Sadly, that doesn't happen to couples who are suffering from infertility. They are invisible, unsupported, mute.
Infertility is about sexual health, and we still have Puritanical attitudes about all things related to sexual health. But it's time to break the silence. It's time to shed the shame. It's time, quite simply, to bring infertility out of the shadows. It's time to support millions of men and women around the world, because infertility is no different from any other disease. It's about body parts not functioning. It's about a sexual organ disease. It's time it was not a shameful secret, but rather a rightfully acknowledged and supported, very common medical problem.
I don't know what is in store for me in terms of family building, but I hope that what is in store for men and women everywhere is transparency, acknowledgement, acceptance and support. In the end, that is what makes the tough bits bearable. Because while this isn't a disease that will kill you, it is certainly one which can steal your soul.
Looking for more information about infertility? Look here: http://www.resolve.org/infertility101
For more information about National Infertility Awareness Month, look here: http://www.resolve.org/takecharge .