(Nov. 30, 2009) BioNews, London – The World Health Organization (WHO), in conjunction with the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), has formally recognized infertility as a disease in its new international glossary of Assistive Reproductive Technologies (ART) terminology.
Why does it matter if experts label infertility “a disease”? What does that change for those of us who are struggling with it?
A disease connotes diagnose-ability. Treat-ability. Even, cure-ability. What if you fall in the 10-20% of couples whose infertility can’t be explained? For whom treatment doesn’t work? For whom there is no apparent cure? Does calling it a disease just rub salt in the wound?
Too often, infertility settles into a couple’s life and spirits like a cancer — with an unnerving sense of permanence. The misery brings with it a profound sense of isolation. There may be millions of others battling the same “disease,” but they are nowhere to be found. Rarely do they choose to self-identify; the social stigma is too powerful. So, even as our spirits crave companionship, we feel increasingly apart, chosen for suffering we do not understand.
Separated from everything “normal,” we seem to be drifting further and further away from anything familiar. Where to? And why is God allowing this to happen?
When life is unfolding according to plan, most of us prefer to side-step the broad philosophical question of why people suffer, as if suffering—like a disease—could be contagious. But infertility propels the question to the forefront with desperate urgency.
The question becomes much more personal—“why me?”—and insistent when the suffering is our own.
In the beginning, all thoughts and feelings about infertility spring from the big, central question: “WHY?” With time, and without conceiving, the “why?” multiplies and metastasizes. Its offshoots begin to spring up everywhere. Why us? Why me? Why now? Why not? Why them?
Anxiety feeds the questions. Doubt does, too. Jealousy poisons many thoughts with toxic envy. The “why?” spreads to cover all aspects of the struggle to get pregnant, sinking its roots deep into the spirit: Why does everyone else…? Why haven’t we…? Why did they…? Why, if we…? Why, if they…? Why not us?!
This state of constant emotional turbulence is a disease. A “dis-ease” that makes it impossible to recover a sense of equilibrium. And this “dis-ease” seems even harder to treat than infertility itself. What can possibly cure it but having our heart’s desire?
What doctor will take this case?
Only the great physician. He alone can diagnose, treat, cure… and bless. He alone.
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