A house. A car. A career. A spouse and 2.5 kids. Should you choose to live conventionally, you probably spend your days in pursuit of all of the above. Most are within your control. If you want a car, you save and buy one. If you want a spouse, you have a drink, and then meet friends of friends. But the 2.5 kids — what happens if your body can’t produce a child?
Infertility is something you don’t hear a lot about among people in their 20s, but experts are aiming to get more people accepting of the issue.
Barbara Collura, Executive Director of RESOLVE: The U.S. National Infertility Association, says there’s a stigma and shame attached to infertility that’s prevented it from being discussed properly.
“Anyone in the AIDS world will tell you how 25 years ago people thought it was contagious — now, everyone speaks about it,” she says. “But with infertility, we haven’t gotten to the point where people are ready to open up.”
Until society normalizes infertility, don’t expect to see people running marathons shouting ‘Woo hoo! I’m infertile!’
So why is infertility such a sensitive subject? One reason is because it revolves around sex.
“The moment someone finds out they can’t reproduce, they feel let down by their body. The way they see it is that it’s not performing the way it ‘should’ be,” explains Collura, who also believes that getting people talking about their reproductive system the way they do about sex is the only way to increase public awareness.
Giuliana Rancic, the 37-year-old E! News presenter and reality star, is one of the rare celebrities to have opened up about her battle with infertility. Rancic and husband Bill’s journey into parenthood and attempt at IVF (in vitro fertilization) was aired on their reality TV show Giuliana and Bill and watched by millions of people worldwide.
The show took a dramatic twist when Rancic was diagnosed with breast cancer, further jeopardizing her chances of becoming a mother.
“For some of the women in their twenties and thirties watching Rancic’s show, it was the first they had ever heard about infertility—and the only place they had heard about it,” says Collura. “This is not where we want people to be getting this sort of information, but at least they’re getting something.”
So where else should those afflicted go for information? Facebook, Twitter, blogs like The Infertility Voice, whose founder, Keiko Zoll, wrote the column on this page. Social media often allows you to be anonymous.
“You could be in the place where you are willing to share your story but not your name,” says Collura.
Either way, it’s the conversation that’s important.