Silence or Openness - Does one share about their struggle with infertility?

Today I was corresponding with a fellow cyster on this journey about how sometimes I wonder if I were able to go back would I choose to be less open about our struggle.  She and many, many others have chosen not to tell their family, friends, or co-workers about their diagnosis or their attempts to become pregnant or adopt. In many ways I felt like it was part of my calling to be open, to embody the struggle for women everywhere, and to be a teacher or coach for the fertile.  When I "came out of the closet" Christmas 2013, I didn't realize how hard it would really be.  I wanted people who were struggling at Christmas with grief to know that they were not alone and that I as a pastor understood.  I did not expect all of the unsolicited advice and direction which has made the journey much more painful.  Had I not chosen to be open, people would have continued to treat me the same (or at least somewhat), but I would have had the burden of silence.  Or at least would have had that burden until I found my fertility support group.

Some of the most hurtful comments have come from fellow clergy and mentors.  They want to "solve" my "problem," but they don't understand that it isn't just about giving of myself to care for others children or adopting a child. It is about identity, womanhood, a couples place in society, marriage, broken dreams, faith, inadequacy, and grief.  It is about identifying with the countless women in the Bible who were not able to have children, yet walked close with God - while watching the "Church" focus on the "saintliness" of motherhood.  It is about becoming a feminist in ways you never expected and having your bioethics tested and re-evaluated. It is about facing choices as a married couple and either growing closer or further apart.  It is about facing one's own humanity.

The comments that have been the most helpful have been the actions of support by friends.  One of my best friends responded by sending me a link to an article she read about how to respond to a friend struggling with infertility. It meant a lot because she took the time to learn before responding and then showed up with flowers at my door on a Sunday morning when I needed it.  On another low day she also took me out to play in an arcade.  And I suspect she has been attentive to my body rhythm because she has known just when to call and say "let's go out for dinner."  Another friend gave me the words I most needed to hear when she said "You are courageous."  I will never forget that moment or the power and meaning behind those words.  It takes a lot of courage to have to make decisions about medical treatments and to stand in front of people who know your secret.  Courage to have conversations as a couple and to face a future that is less known than you once thought it was.  Courage to live in a society that adores and idolizes childhood.  Courage to love through a broken heart.  Those were the most powerful words that I needed to hear and I know there are a lot more women who are much more courageous than me. 

Now I've decided that I'll be open about the reality that we are struggling with infertility, but I will be private about our decision-making process. I will protect myself and my husband from others judging the decisions we make or the reasons that we make them.  I also want to protect our future child in this way.  I will embody the struggle publicly, but I will be private about the intimate details - as those are sacred to us.

So to be silent or open?  Each woman, man, and couple need to decide for themselves where their strength and trust will be placed.  And whatever their decision I respect them for it.

Please continue to keep in prayer all those who struggle with the grief of being childless, if even temporarily.

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