Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hiding in Plain Sight Revisited - NIAW

National Infertility Awareness Week is coming up and it has been on my mind a lot. NIAW is an opportunity to do exactly what I want most: to help educate those who don't understand the experience of infertility, and to support other women who know that experience all too well. I am feeling more and more of a call to get involved with IF advocacy and I have made some small steps in that direction lately. (More on this in coming weeks.)

Then there is the but...

But, this would require me to be more public with my infertility. Between reading Keiko's posts on the subject, some soul searching, and several conversations with KG, I am feeling some urgency to finally be 100% "out" with my infertile status. A while back, I wrote a BlogHer post on this topic, and it is once again in the forefront of my mind. However, this time it isn't my blog that I am thinking of publicizing. I am considering coming out on BookFace.

I have been right on the precipice of doing this for quite some time. I would say I am 90/10 out.

Even though I still blog anonymously, almost all of my friends (at least the close ones) and my immediate family know I am in IF treatment and many read this blog. I also told my boss and a few select co-workers (most of whom are IFers as well.) Little by little, I have been honest with more and more people. I even came out to a few friends of friends, because they were also IFers and I wanted to reach out. It's almost like I am trying to swim in the ocean. I started by dipping my toes in. Then I waded to my knees, then my thighs, then my waist. But I can't quite seem to dive into a wave.

This is the deal: I have not gotten to the point where I am comfortable having all my co-workers finding out. The biggest factor holding me back is that I am a teacher. One thing you should know about teachers is that they are chatty and love to gossip. I hope I'm not throwing my fellow teachers under the bus here, but if you have ever been in a teacher's lounge, you know how it goes. They also tend to let things slip to parents on occasion. I am not friends with any parents on FB, but you know the way the internet is: you have to be ready for everything to become public, even without your consent. You just have to own it. Am I really ready for the families or students at my school finding out? Not so much.

But maybe taking the risk is worth it. Maybe this would mean people at school would finally stop asking me that dreaded question: "So when are you going to have kids?"

Additionally, I have mixed feelings about personal information being put out there on social media. On one hand, I feel like people overshare. I don't need to know every single thought that every single person I knew from elementary school has. (Although I am probably a complete hypocrite because I also share inane musings pretty often.) However, no one can deny that social media is a powerful tool. It reaches a lot of people in an instant and can spark amazing social change. Think of the recent movements related to Trayvon Martin, Personhood legislation, and Rush Limbaugh's disgusting rant. The more people that show support for NIAW and RESOLVE on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ the more it will become seen as a legitimate and respected cause.

So, the question is: is supporting NIAW publicly on my FB page, and acknowledging my place in the IF community in that forum, worth it? Does it do enough good to outweigh the risk? Should I do it but set the privacy on the post to exclude my coworkers? Is that wussing out?

While stuffing our faces with sushi last night (that's right - infertility has some perks) KG reminded me that being honest about our fertility issues is a powerful thing. Specifically, in the last several months, I have been chatting with one of those friends of friends that I mentioned above. Although we don't know each other very well, she confided in me about her own battle with IF. She chose not to tell anyone close to her about her journey, even her mother. But, because I was open with her about my experience, she decided to share. During one of our many conversations, she told me how much of a difference having my support makes for her. She said she feels so much better, because she feels less isolated. Less alone.

Sound familiar? Isn't this exactly what we all say about the blogging community? Isn't that why we are all here? What if we could all have that in a bigger arena, the way cancer survivors do?

Helping other IFers by sharing my experience makes me feel like I have purpose. I can only imagine that feeling with increase tenfold if I supported them in a more public way. I really want to do this, but as always, I am standing in my own way.

What would you do?


  1. Seems like a topic that is out there for quite a few of us at the moment. I'm in the process of figuring this out for myself as well. I'm not so sure if I was a teacher or such but as my situation at the moment I could. The question is, does everyone need to know? or is it enough with a selected few? I'm leaning toward the latter and then post links and such from time to time on FB. I wouldn't panick if somone found it by accident but I don't use my real name so.. It's tricky! maybe take small steps towards it to begin with and feel the water (though it seems like you have waded a while already).
    Best of luck whatever you decide :)

  2. I'm struggling with this, too. I've come out to a lot of people lately and it's been wonderful. However, I don't really want coworkers knowing. And I don't necessarily want the entire neighborhood knowing. But if I tell half the neighborhood, everyone will eventually find out.

    I admire your advocacy efforts!

  3. I don't have as much to risk as you since I'm not working. However when I was working my employers still knew about my infertility issues.

  4. Honestly, there's no one right answer. For me, outting myself has been the best decision I've made in this process. Both Grey and I talk openly about infertility and how it affects our lives with co-workers, friends, family and even strangers. Yes, some people are uncomfortable (always fun to watch that situation), but through sharing our experience we've met so many along the way who have also been touched by infertility and our story gives them the opportunity to share their story.

    The thing is, being open hasn't been without cost. My family is no longer in the picture because of how they viewed our situation. There are also those who have tried to use this against us as a way to feel superior. But, in the end, it's been one of the best decisions I've made during this process.

    My advice: follow your heart. If you need to open up slowly, then open up slowly. But if you feel the need to completely out yourself, then do that. In the meantime, I'm here with many other amazing women, cheering for you and sending you so much love.

  5. I have outed myself to friends and family, but that's it. I will probably never do it on facebook, probably getting rid of it soon anyway. If you want to open up do it slowly. Find a person that you are very comfortable with. For me even before I told my Mom I confided in a friend of the family.

  6. These are all valid questions and concerns, that maybe only you can answer. We were very private about our first IVF, but heading into IVF #2 we shared with a few more people. The more people we shared with the more support we've received.

    That being said, we still haven't come out to our entire circle. I'm to a place that I'm ok with sharing our struggles publicly but hubby is not. I think the fact that our known issue is MFI has made us more private with our journey and makes hubby more hesitant to share.

    So... if you share I think you will find support and love. But be sure that you are "ready" as you can be.

  7. These are all very valid questions. I'm 100% open with everyone. It took me a while to get to this point. But I'm so glad that I did. I too have a huge pull towards advocacy and believe that IF needs to be destigmatized. In my opinion, that can't be done if we're all hiding this part of our lives. IF occupies a huge space in my life and it felt like too much to bare alone. I've only experienced understanding and support from my co workers and friends. By putting it all out there, I've been able to help others feel less isolated and connect with so many people. It's a personal choice but the biggest fear I heard from you was that people would gossip. And so what if they do? I hope you find what's right for you!

  8. I ask myself these questions everyday. We have told a lot of people. Most all of our close friends and immediate family and even a couple of coworkers, but can't seem to come out formally with it.
    I am in the same place with it as you. Are the risks worth it? Really the next step for us would be and I have no idea how I would feel about it.
    I had planned on coming out of the closet completely after M & A were born (had they lived), but that blew up. So now, I am unsure if I can take the extra risk right now.
    If you are able to do this, I think it would be amazing. I wish I had the guts right now.

  9. I say go for it. And if that means excluding your co-workers on FB with that right now, that is fine. It is really hard to throw yourself out there and let everyone know your private business, so one step at a time. It will be nerve wracking and you'll be wondering what kind of response you'll get, but from what I've seen, you'll receive all kinds of support you didn't see coming. Good luck!

  10. I am deciding this also. I wish this weren't the case, but... I think if I weren't pregnant I would be too nervous to post about it on facebook or anywhere publicly. I feel somehow more empowered now, and so I am actually considering it, but if it were last year I would for sure not have done it. So if you do it, I'm saying, you are way braver than me!!!

  11. From your post it sounds like you're ready. I'm just imagining what it would feel like if among the many pregnancy and newborn announcements on FB, I saw one about IF. I think I'd feel less alone.

    That said...I'm totally not ready. I'm not sure I'd be ready to face going public if I had another health issue either. For me, it's a fear of having to answer a million questions and hear a million opinions. I'm just not certain that would be helpful. But that's just me.

  12. There are some really good thoughts on here.

    My issue with going public with ANYTHING is "do I want the advice I KNOW I'm going to get?" Usually, I don't. It's one thing to be prepared to answer questions, but are you ready to hear "when we were trying to conceive our seventh child, my husband and I tried..."? (Because you won't be able to punch them in the face through bookface.) I know you have GREAT friends, but what about the people who you aren't friends with IRL? Some of them could be inconsiderate morons.

    The flip side to that is that if you make ONE person feel less alone, less scared, more empowered, it may all be worth it.

    (I'm sorry I'm absolutely NO help.)

  13. Hi,
    I came out in January after 2 and a half years of trying. I had had enough. I was sick of answering 15 texts to my close friends after each failure and prentending every thing was hunky dory on FB. I have told nearly everyone except my DH's Ex I have friended on FB. I block her when I post in regards to IF. I accepted her friending on FB only to keep an eye on her. She still had a thing for my ex. But everyone else knows. I work at the Boy Scouts of America as a Receptionist. So if it comes up to a coworker where did you go yesterday you weren't here I tell them. The plus side is most of my coworkers are male and drop it like a hot potato. As far as FB the very religious tell me to just relax and let it happen. Well I put an end to that by posting how many times in a month I had to think about IF. Between dr's visits, shots, ultrasounds, etc, I asked please tell me if you are so smart which day I am suppose to stop thinking about it?! It has made it easier on me to update everyone in a blanket post. Mostly I have met support. I even came out at my Weight Watchers meeting. We had members share our stories so I shared mine. One of the questions we had to answer was why did we join. My answer was losing weight was recommended by my dr besides our other treatment. As a result of this I met a woman at my weight watchers meeting whose daughter had dealt with IF. It just makes it easier to be honest. But that is just me, I think if I had any other disease I would be honest to bring more focus to the issue and to help heal myself internally. But I have also made other big steps in my IF journey I never thought I would make, like going to a Resolve peer support group and other events.

  14. Just this week I posted on my FB page about the great support and Dr's I have through IF and ANOTHER friend has messaged me wanting to know my protocals ect. because they are about to go through IF treatments. I have "met" so many people that are now my support group though going public, at work, my WHOLE church knows and has it in their announcements as a prayer request, my family knows along with their friends and they are praying for us and my coworkers know as I am gone or late alot for appointments. I have found MANY supports who have gone through the process by being open and my goal is to help educate people on IF and to help them to be more compassionate of people going through it. I am just letting you know as this has actually been a great thing for me to be open.

  15. I began this journey with nearly complete anonymity, letting a few trusted friends and family know about our struggles. However, as time wears on, I find myself simply being honest when someone asks, "So...when are you having kids?" I tell them: "We're trying, but we're having some real problems in that department." Something like that. Sometimes, they get very awkward and give the dreaded "just relax" advice. It disappoints me when they do this, but hell, at least I've made them aware that IF exists. Sometimes, I'll be honest with someone and they'll share their own personal experience with IF, and seemed relieved that I brought it up. I've had a few amazing conversations with women I would never have known struggled had I not been honest. It's interesting to me that these women who have also struggled for so long still ask, "when are you having kids?" I'm sure that they didn't like being asked this question when they were struggling, but what I think it really points to is how alone we all feel going through this--like we're the only ones, and no one else could possibly be having IF issues. The one place (for now, although I could change my mind at some point down the road!)I will never share my IF journey is on FB. I have too many random "friends" on there who I am not comfortable sharing this with unless they asked, including some ex boyfriends and work colleagues. It's not that I don't want to draw attention to this issue, it's just that I don't want the "advice" that my friends with kids will inevitably give. I have a good friend who posts every single one of her failed IUI results on Facebook status updates, and the "consolation" she gets from her fertile friends is so brutal. On the flip side, I can see how FB would be a good outlet for making more people aware about NIAW. I'm sure there is a happy medium there somewhere. Honestly, if I'm so fortunate to get pregnant, I may only post a FB announcement after the baby is born, and I will not hesitate to let everyone know that our baby was the result of a lot of trying.

  16. You're awesome. I have too many moronic "friends", both on FB and IRL who don't know the first thing about ALI and I just don't feel like educating them right now. Maybe during NIAW I'll post something with a link. I mainly don't want to get a bunch of stupid, thoughtless comments that remind me that I associate with (and am related to) a shit ton of morons. It's terribly selfish of me, but damn.

  17. I am struggling too. I have been going back and forth about supporting Infertility Awareness Week on FB. While most of my close friends and family know about our issues this past year, I worry that supporting it on FB will make me look like I am expecting sympathy or something. That would not be my intent at all. My hope would be that someone who knows me might feel comfortable sharing and the net of support would widen. I struggle so much with the idea that this is a medical condition yet there continues to be so much stigma around discussing fertility openly. I guess I'm not sure where I am in all of this, just wanted to let you know that I am waivering as well.

  18. Heya, you know how vocal I've been about this, and how I'm TMI Queen. However, while I was in the thick of it, only a few people IRL knew. Two coworkers. A handful of friends. My sister. My parents still do not know what a large role science and strangers and needles had in the making of their new grandchild. Once I was pregnant, I found I couldn't STOP telling people about the IF and IVF and how long it took to conceive and what it took--I just didn't want people thinking it was EASY or an accident or something they could make snide jokes about "something in the water." It made me livid.

    Before, however ... I remember Infertility Awareness Week. I posted something about it, but I kept it vague, just mentioning that it was IAW, that a lot of people have trouble conceiving, etc. I didn't quite out myself then. As I went through ART, a small circle of people on FB knew what was going on--I have several layers of privacy set up. But again, once I was pregnant and getting pissed off at the comments from super-fertile people about "you'd better stay away from me because I do not want another baby," I got VERY vocal on FB about it. That's when I came out. And because of that, a few people (you included) reached out to me and told me about their struggles. I'm glad I could be a source of support and information for people who had previously felt so isolated. There's still such shame about IF, and no one ever talks about it. You'd have no idea how freaking common it is--the same way I had no idea how common M/Cs were until one of my friends went public with hers. And then more and more people came out and said, "Yes, this happened to me, too."

    As to what you should do--do what's comfortable. I was not ready to come out to people at work all in one go, and there were definitely people I didn't ever tell, even when they were saying completely insensitive things to me (e.g. "You like babies so much? You should really just have your own"). So I don't think it's chickening out to hide this from your coworkers on FB. You'll still reach other people and give comfort to someone out there who might be feeling quite alone.

    ANYHOODLE, I love you and think of you often.


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