Tuesday, April 26, 2011

just relax- it's not really a disease!

Myth 1: Infertility isn't a disease.

Myth 2: If you just relax, you will get pregnant.

Did you know it was National Infertility Awareness Week? If not, you can thank me later for letting you in on it. I think it's funny that there are so many "awareness weeks" for different diseases/causes. Funny slash sad. I have a hunch that if you are the person affected by whatever disease/cause people are having a "week" for...you don't really need reminding. You never really forget.
Welcome to my world, where it's always Infertility Awareness Week Month Year Life! It's not the kind of thing that slips my mind. But I guess if you're lucky enough to not be in my club, maybe you need some reminding. Just like I need reminding about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, National Work Zone Awareness Week, National Sleep Awareness Week, and National Asbestos Awareness Week. Strangely, I did not make up any of those weeks. Thank you, Google, for making my day a little bit more magical.

So this week the idea is to Bust a Myth relating to infertility. This naturally appeals to me, since I am a) a fan of Mythbusters, b) pretty knowledgeable about many things related to infertility, c) pretty irritated about most of the "myths" out there surrounding infertility, and d) always looking for someone to tell me what to blog about. However, being the indecisive person I am, I couldn't choose just one myth. I went with two, since they seem to go pretty well hand-in-hand.

Myth 1: Infertility isn't a disease.

Actually, it is. Infertility is directly caused by a malfunctioning hormonal or structural system in the body, thus meeting the dictionary criteria of disease. Infertility is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), amongst other organizations, as a disease. About two thirds of couples dealing with infertility will be able to pinpoint the specific cause (or causes) of their infertility. Matt and I are amongst those "lucky" 2/3s. We know exactly why we can't conceive. For that, I am often thankful. It was horrible, all those months of trying and hoping and not knowing why we couldn't get pregnant while everyone we knew popped out baby after baby. Finding out the cause of our infertility, while extremely disappointing (and incurable, by the way), at least gave us the sense that it wasn't just something we were doing wrong. It wasn't just bad timing...for fifteen months. We have a disease, and it has a name, and it has no cure. Except-- wait!! What's this?? You...you average, fertile, non-reproductive endocrinologist acquaintance of mine...YOU know something doctors don't know?? You know the cure?? I should....relax?

Myth 2: If you just relax, you will get pregnant.

"Hey, Sally. I'm really sorry to hear about your cancer/heart disease/diabetes/arthritis/pneumonia/hangnail/athlete's foot (pick your favorite malady here) diagnosis. That really sucks. But hey-- one time, my sister's cousin was diagnosed with that, and she just went on vacation to Hawaii for a week and BAM! her cancer went away. It was crazy. So why don't you just relax? I'm sure you will get better in no time."

Sound ridiculous? Yeah, I thought so too. Does it sound just that ridiculous when I hear people suggesting that my husband and I just relax and we'll probably get pregnant, too? Yup. Sure does.

There's nothing wrong with relaxation. If you've known me for any amount of time, you'd know I'm a pretty huge fan of all things relaxing. And relaxing (or rather, not being wound up in stress) is bound to be beneficial for your health, whether you are battling infertility, the flu, or testicular cancer. It is not, however, a cure for any of those things. 

To me, Myths 1 and 2 go hand-in-hand. Infertility is a disease. So unless you are a doctor (or a fellow infertile, or someone I am specifically asking advice from), please do not offer unsolicited 'cures.' When you got diagnosed with liver disease, something I know nothing about, I did not attempt to minimize your pain, give you some hear-say 'medical advice,' or console you by reminding you that "you're young! You'll get well someday!"...because that would have been ridiculous. And I'm anything but ridiculous. Well, about this stuff, anyway.

So...did I bust the myths? I feel like I could have blabbed on for longer, but I don't want to feel like I'm lecturing, because...we're friends here. And to be honest, I rarely encounter any of the above scenarios anymore. You guys are awesome. My real life friends and family are awesome. It's usually only the occasional random acquaintance that commits any of these faux pas, and I am usually quick to forgive them (after I burst into tears) because they are totally clueless...but just in case any Totally Clueless People dropped by my blog today, I figured this could be my Public Service Announcement.

But just in case you're wondering...what can you do/say when you meet an infertile person/couple? Because I hate to write a whole long thing about what NOT to do and then you're all lost without any idea of what to do.

You can/should:
-Tell them you're sorry, that you can't imagine what they're going through, and that you're praying for them (and do it).
-Ask if they have any new funny/ridiculous/awkward stories from one of their many doctor's appointments...they probably do.
-Ask what their favorite side effects from fertility drugs are
-Avoid announcing your own pregnancy (unless you have been TTC for over a year yourself) (or, strangely, if it is completely unplanned/"oops"...for some reason, that also comforts me, to know I'm not the ONLY one not in control of her body!)
 -Follow their lead: if they're talking baby-making (or lack thereof), you talk baby-making. If they're avoiding the topic, you should avoid it, too, in order to avoid awkward cry-fests or fits of anger.
-Avoid talking exclusively about your own child/children/pregnancy. Mix it up with something they can happily relate to.
-Get excited about whatever good things are going on in their lives. I can tell you from experience that it takes some effort to think about/do ANYTHING but obsess about my plight. I have to make a concerted effort to find hobbies and activities to pull me out of myself. Let's talk about that instead.
-Pray. I may have already said it, but genuine prayer is always appreciated. Infertility is a disease like so many others, and like so many others, God CAN AND DOES HEAL IT!!!! I absolutely believe in that, cling to that, and place all my hope in that fact. 

And finally, I feel obligated to say on behalf of all infertile women/couples everywhere (bold, but I'm willing to go there):
If you are still of the mindset that relaxation will cure me, then by all means...help us relax. Donate us your frequent flier miles so we can go on vacation! Treat me to a day at the spa! How about an in-house couple's massage?  Perhaps a weekly maid service. The sky's the limit!! Never feel like you should hold back on your generous offers of relaxation! You just never know which one might cure us, right?...

Want more information about National Infertility Awareness Week and/or infertility in general? Check out:
or go here to read other Myth-Busting Blogs.


  1. Love it :) And how ironic that after my own irritating (though thankfully fairly brief) struggle with infertility, I am due to give birth this very week! Hoping and praying you (and Amanda) get to this point, too - AND SOON!

  2. It sounds strange to say, but in a way I "like" when you write about infertility- because I just don't know that much about it, and it's always an eye opener when you tell us some of what you're going through. I don't like that you and Matt have to go through it, but thanks for occasionally letting us peep into what it's like so we know better how to comport ourselves in conversation with people who might be in a similar situation.

  3. Good post. Thanks for sharing a vulnerable part of your story. I, truly, am praying for your miracle.

  4. This is one of my favorite blog posts EVER! I had know idea it was National Infertility Awareness Week... I will try to get motivated to bust a myth of my own :)

  5. Oddly enough, I didn't realize it was "that" week.. What a week to most likely find out I'm not pregnant...again...I think this month would make it 23? We fall into the unlucky 1/3 that has no clue why it's not happening. I've been pretty good about just trusting God's in control and has His timing, but I'll tell ya - this month is not making it easy on me. I hope you're faring better. :) At least we have a fun event to look forward to on Saturday and I'm serious about bring some Bailey's or something to spike that coffee punch.

  6. ((HUGS)) I continue to pray for you, often. (And your last paragraph made me snort my Sonic slushie up my nose.)


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