Someone asked me recently why infertility is enveloped in secrecy. Why, if 1 in 6 couples experience something, do we experience shame?
Truthfully, I didn’t know what to say. A few weeks later, I came across an article on the Resolve.org (a secular organization for infertility) about the emotional aspects of infertility. What I read had me completely floored.
“Shame is a searing, painful feeling associated with faltering self-esteem, and a sense of inadequacy, defectiveness and helplessness…As [infertility] becomes more and more evident, one’s self-image is assaulted… Anguish, self-doubt, and chronic sadness converge as couples come to think of themselves as failing, not only in realizing their own dream to reproduce and nurture, but failing their spouse, parents, and siblings as well. Because shame embodies the painful sense of self-defect, it is often hidden and disguised, even from oneself. The tragic story of chronic infertility is that, over a period of time, the sense of failure gradually and imperceptibly spreads like a shadow over a person’s experience, while simultaneously the sense of other competencies gradually becomes obscured.”
Wow. The last 10 years of my life have just been explained.
Within a year of learning I have MRKH, I quit music. I stopped singing, I stopped writing music, I stopped playing in the jazz band. In fact- I experienced what I have always called a “burn out” with music. I would get physically angry when I played my saxophone. After a long talk with my band teacher (who tried to convince me to stay), I quit.
What if it wasn’t a burn out? What if I was subconsciously frustrated with my reality, unable to process my new identity?
It makes perfect sense. It makes absolute. perfect. sense.
It explains why I went from an academically confident kid with big dreams and the world at my feet to an unsure, faltering, career-less young woman with no clue which way to go.
I stopped believing in myself.
I was ashamed over something that was out of my control.
I have been living under the shadow.
As one of my friends put it, “Everything you thought was real was now no longer true. Of course you started to question everything else.”
After all these years, I see it. Thanks be to God for revealing this to me.
The article continues:
“Ultimately what heals is the acceptance of the self with all of its weaknesses and failures. The goal, then, is to reach a point where you can accept what you see as failure and no longer have to conceal these feelings of shame. The process of coming to terms with infertility is long and gradual, but it is possible to transform the sense of failure into an empathy with yourself, an affirmation of your strength, an acceptance of your limits, a pride in your endurance, and maybe most of all, an empathy with others who, as partners in the human condition, also face defeats. In time, the shadow cast upon your life can fade and the light can shine through again.”
In the last year, I know that I have begun to heal. I am coming to accept myself. I am learning to accept my limits. I know that no matter how strong I think I should be, some things are just too much.
I also know that I have a new, unique calling. I know that being a 10 year “veteran” of MRKH and infertility, I have a chance to be a voice for the voiceless. I know that I need to share my insights, because they can help others. I know that even though writing about these things can be painful, it has to be done.
So even though I still don’t have a career, I know that I have a mission. Maybe this is only a sub-plot in the novel of my life. But I know that the time has come to step out of the shadow.
“Look to Him, that you might be radiant with joy, and your faces free from all shame.”
-Marty Haugen, “Taste and See”, adapted from Psalm 34.
To read the original article that inspired this post, click here.