As more people speak up about their infertility, it’s helpful to hear their stories—and not just the success stories that we see in the movies or on Instagram. We want to expose the barriers that hold people back from speaking up about it by offering real and raw perspectives—from mentally draining IVF treatments to coming to terms with not having children.
Infertility affects roughly 1 in 6 Canadian couples, a number that has doubled since the 1980s. The term generally refers to individuals who are unable to get pregnant after trying for more than a year.
In honour of Infertility Awareness Week, we’ve gathered a variety of perspectives to show what infertility is really like and how different the experience is for each individual.
IVF takes a mental, physical and financial toll.
“After several years of pumping my body full of hormones for monitored cycles and treatments, my husband and I had spent nearly $50,000 without the joy of having a child. Unlike the pictures of smiling parents and their new babies posted on clinic websites and social media feeds, I came away from IVF at 40 with a battered heart and bloated body, a biohazard container full of spent syringes, and a folder containing fuzzy black and white images of embryos that were never to blossom into children.”
Read the whole piece in Stat.
Shame, lies and disappointment.
“I kept it absolutely away from my colleagues and I would go and have egg collection very early in the morning and be back at my desk by 10 am. My ectopic pregnancy was discovered at three months and even though I was rushed to hospital, no one knew the full story. I also had a miscarriage at nine weeks and several biochemical pregnancies, which are very early miscarriages, and then of course a few unsuccessful rounds of IVF as well. Because we always felt so close, I couldn't give up...I think shame is a massive factor in not being able to have a child — feeling just so desperately that you want to be like everybody else, but somehow you're not, and feeling ashamed that you can't do what everybody else does. You're hiding the fact that you're disappointed that your life hasn't worked out how you hoped.”
Read the whole piece in the BBC.
Being more aware of other people’s struggles.
“Listening to the misconceptions of people who have never been through infertility has changed me. It has changed my relationship to social media — never a close one, I’ll admit — because before I post anything about my child, I think about the friends I have who are still waiting, testing, hoping, in treatment. It has changed the questions I ask when I meet someone. I try to wait for the person I’ve met — older or younger, man or woman, single or partnered, queer or straight — to bring up children...the unfulfilled longing for children, I’ve learned, is a complex, often hidden, and common experience.”
Read the whole piece in Refinery29.
Pregnancy announcements everywhere you look.
“Surrounded by all of these pregnant women, those long dormant emotions of envy and jealousy have found their way back into my life. I call it IPE — ‘Irrational Pregnancy Envy’ — because it's easier to give something that makes you feel uncomfortable a name, like FOMO or FUBAR or Tupperware. I wonder, why not me?”
Read the whole piece in Redbook.
Regrets from past decisions.
“I had an abortion about five years ago when I was 26. I was only four-to-five weeks along and the decision was made between my partner and I based on the fact that we didn't feel ready for a child. We were living in a rented flat, had little savings and worked full-time to pay the bills...Looking back, I think we do regret it now. A lot of our friends are having children and I do not seem to be able to conceive.”
Read the entire article in the BBC.
Infertility can strike at any time.
“At times I thought to myself I would rather tell someone I had a terminal illness than tell them I had a miscarriage. At least that wouldn’t be my fault. My failure. Almost five years ago we were blessed to have our first son, Shaan. He was everything we had been dreaming of. At the same time, as we struggled just as hard to have a second child, it became even more difficult to talk about. Now we were just being spoiled, right? Why didn’t we just quit while we were ahead?”
Read the entire piece in Vogue.
Life is fulfilling, with or without children.
“As I’ve made peace with my decision to stop trying to have a baby, I’ve built a strong network of women who are also living child-free—by choice or otherwise. Together, we fill our evenings, weekends and vacations with shared experiences and adventures. Of course, I also spend time with my siblings and friends who are parents; I love their kids and am grateful to have them in my life. But having a circle of friends who can go for dinner without booking a babysitter, travel at off-peak season and lead similar lives is invaluable. In the same way that mommy groups are critical for many new parents, I’ve found my people and surrounded myself with them.”
Read the entire piece in Chatelaine.
We know that a person’s worth is not defined by their ability to conceive, but that should not undermine the devastation and battle experienced by people suffering from infertility. Whether you are experiencing infertility firsthand, supporting a friend or a loved one who is struggling with infertility or looking to learn more about it, the most important thing to remember is to be gentle. Be gentle with yourself, be gentle with your friends and be gentle with your words when it comes to discussing children.
For more first-person stories about infertility and to learn more about Infertility Awareness Week, check out InfertilityAwareness.org. If you’re looking for more information, organizations like Fertility Matters, Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society, and the Infertility Awareness Community offer support, guidance and education.