I participated in RESOLVE’s first Walk of Hope on Saturday. Along with about 200 other people, I walked through a downtown park and around a peaceful lake on a gorgeous morning. It was a great way to start the weekend. And that’s what seemed so strange.
The whole thing seemed so “normal.”
At 9 a.m., the park was already busy with morning runners, Farmers’ Market vendors setting up tables, and well-tanned athletes preparing for a beach volleyball tournament. Like all of them, we were in the park for a specific purpose… but there was no stigma attached to us.
No one stared at us when we gathered. No one avoided eye contact with us while we walked. No one pitied us, offered inane advice, or asked us painful questions. We were normal people in a normal place on a normal day… raising money and awareness for infertility.
Why can’t it be like this every day?
A feature in the most recent issue of Conceive magazine gave me the answer. The article talked about celebrities’ unwillingness to acknowledge battles with infertility. With rare exceptions, it said, most celebrities prefer to give the impression that they conceived without any outside intervention – no matter how unlikely that may be.
These seemingly-harmless deceptions actually reinforce the stigma of infertility. They set an artificial standard that implies anything less than effortless conception is failure, and cause for shame.
When we buy into this twisted thinking and apply the same standard to ourselves, we pave the way for heartache. We reinforce the experience of infertility as a curse. We also reinforce the desire to struggle in secret, forfeiting community and support in order to maintain the illusion of effortless conception.
Why follow the example of people who invest their energy in promoting false perceptions? Why not value authenticity over deception? Otherwise, when another month goes by without a pregnancy, we find ourselves painted into a psychological corner. They pulled off their illusion… why can’t we? Our failure reinforces our secrecy… again… and again… and again.
We feel so alone. And we’ve brought it on ourselves.
The Walk of Hope was a great reminder that many other couples are also struggling. We can be here for each other! Shattering the silence and ending the secrecy is a huge step forward.
For a few hours on a spectacular, sunny morning, we showed our faces to each other and to the community-at-large. There were numerous photographers present, but no one hid. The loudspeakers blasted words like “infertility” and “struggle” across the park, but no slinked away or looked ashamed. Why? Because infertility is so common, it IS normal.
Somehow, in coming together, we found the strength to say, “It’s true. Infertility has affected me, and I’m here to do something about it.” What an empowering step to take! We stood together in public and showed infertility’s many faces. We hugged our friends, smiled at sympathetic strangers, and joined new acquaintances for The Walk and conversation.
It was wonderful because it was all so “normal.”
This is what every day of infertility should be like. For everyone.
Join us on next year’s walk.
For more inspiration, resources and cause for hope in the midst of infertility, click this link...