A week ago, at my first Tribe de Mama meeting, I outed myself in front of 25 other women. I was the only person who shared that she’d struggled with fertility until the last person spoke. She was sitting almost directly opposite me and look me straight in the eye to say she could relate, but that she was the opposite. She said she had MRKH, and before she could explain what it was, I felt myself sigh as I pursed my lips in recognition.
MRKH is a syndrome in which a girl is born without a uterus. She has ovaries and eggs, but her vagina may be shorter than average. Through IVF and a gestational carrier, she may become a genetic mother. And when the girl learns this, it’s usually at the worst time — in the middle of her teenage years after the doctor runs tests to figure out why she hasn’t started her period yet.
I watched this young woman explain her infertility to the group. Unlike mine, hers affects her most intimate parts, and I was filled with admiration. Something about the way she spoke made me suspect she was new at sharing this side to her, so afterwards I went up to her to say hello.
She had tears in her eyes when I told her I have a friend with MRKH and know how unusual it is (I recall 1/5,000 girls are born with it). I had been right. It was the first time she had shared any of this with the group. She said she was inspired by my openness, and it made me feel good that sharing my story had given someone else the courage to do the same.
In a week’s time, National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) begins, and I’m going to come out on Facebook that DH and I struggled to have our sweet baby.
I don’t want to announce publicly that we used donor eggs. The specifics are deeply personal and that part of the story isn’t ours alone to share.
But I do want to share that we struggled with infertility.
I want to let friends, family, and acquaintances know that if they, too, are struggling and would like to share their burden in confidence, that I will read/listen, because I’ve been there. They are not alone.
I want to let people know that once you’ve been painted with the infertility brush, it doesn’t go away just because you have a baby.
I want to say, Fuck the shame! Why do we feel ashamed that we need medical help to conceive when we wouldn’t feel shame about, say, our thyroid not working, or taking statins, or topical steroid creams?
I want to out myself because in less than two weeks I have a piece of art in the ART of Infertility exhibition that I’ve put my real first and last names to.
If we’re friends on Facebook and you feel comfortable doing so, please show your support by sharing your struggle or Liking my status update. I have a feeling most people will stay silent, either ashamed for me or for themselves.