“You’re so young.” I hear this a lot. A subtle implication treads coyly between each word: “You’re so young so it should be easy for you to get pregnant.” But the truth is, for me and 7.3 million other Americans – it’s just not that easy. There’s nothing easy about infertility.

What doesn’t help are the many assumptions people make: that infertility only affects older women who put their careers first; that if we only “just relax,” we’ll conceive at the drop of a hat; that we’re selfish for pursuing fertility treatments when we should “just adopt”.

It’s no wonder then so many people facing infertility suffer in silence. I was 26 when I found I was infertile. My career was still in its infancy. My husband and I were newlyweds who hadn’t even begun trying to conceive.

Relaxing won’t reverse my disease and there’s nothing selfish about wanting to have my own children. I’m just like any other neighbor, coworker, sister or friend out there: I’m just infertile.

I have good days and I have really awful days. While many of our friends have gone on to have families, my husband and I are still waiting in the wings, still waiting for our turn.

So while I wait, I share my story. I talk about what it means to be infertile: how it aches and how I remain hopeful. I speak out because I’m tired of being silenced by assumptions that undermine the very real, very valid experiences of infertility patients nationwide. I speak out because I want everyone to understand what infertility is really like. I speak out to end the silence, to help erase social stigmas surrounding infertility because stigma breeds shame.

I have no reason to be ashamed: I just have a disease. And if you have infertility, you have no reason to be ashamed, either.

Keiko Zoll is founder and writer of The Infertility Voice, an online empowerment resource for infertility patients. She was named a 2011 BlogHer.com Voice of the Year and received the 2011 Health Impact Award from Wellsphere.com. Read more about her infertility story at TheInfertilityVoice.com. You can follow her on Twitter @KeikoZoll and email her at info@keikozoll.com. Visit Keiko Zoll’s Vimeo site to see inspirational videos about infertility.

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