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Infertility Manifesto

You don’t understand, so let me explain.

We thought we’d be able to have children and then we couldn’t.

It wasn’t a choice to enter into treatments/adoption/donor gametes; it wasn’t an option.

Having a child may feel like a choice to you, but it isn’t to us.

You and I will need to disagree on that, because you’ll never change our feelings about having a family be a need over a want.

When we’re cycling – whether we’re trying naturally, doing minimally invasive treatments, or doing invasive procedures – I am riding on a roller coaster of emotions.

I am angry. I cry a lot. I am frustrated. I am told one thing and another happens. No one can give me straight answers. No one can make real promises. We pay A LOT of money for the chance to have a child. This money does not guarantee that we will have a child at the end of the day.

We get pregnant and we are elated. And then we lose the pregnancy.

Or we get news that the pregnancy isn’t taking and we never get a chance to feel that elation – we only get the depression on the other end.

Even though I’m a pro-Choice feminist, I also love my children when they’re only embryos.

And that is a difficult thing to wrap your mind around.

You think that you know what we’re going through based on the small amount of information you know.

You think you know how I feel or how I’m reacting based on what I present to you.

You never see the full picture, but you make a lot of assumptions.

You are impatient that we plan our lives like this.

You think you need to make parenthood seem less enticing – this doesn’t make me feel better. This just makes me feel like you are belittling the thing I am putting myself through hell to obtain.

You say that you feel like you can’t support us. And you can’t. Not really. Or not in the way that you want to offer support.

Infertility isn’t linear. It’s a wavy line and you can’t know if you’re entering on a crest or a dip. I don’t expect you to get it right.

I don’t expect you to run in like a cheerleader and accompany me to appointments or help me raise money for treatments/adoption.

What I want from you is actually quite simple.

Ask me how I am and want to hear the answer.

Ask me about treatments and where I am in the process.

Ask me to explain to you more of what I’m going through.

Let me vent.

Don’t try to change my mind or see the world from your eyes.

I used to have your eyes too before this happened. And I know you mean well, but even if you say that you went through infertility or loss yourself, my own experience is unique.

I try very hard to be proactive. I do this not only by seeking treatment, but gravitating towards other infertile men or women or other people using assisted conception/adoption.

We are a supportive community.

They take care of my emotions – I rarely have to explain myself to them. They understand with few words. I enjoy being with them because it’s easy.

I also enjoy being with you. Sometimes I like being with you because I don’t have to speak about infertility at all. Other times, I like being with you because I can talk it out and explain and hear my own words and make sense of this myself.

Infertility is so different for every generation. When our mothers and fathers were experiencing infertility, they had few choices. They had fewer answers.

Now, we have many choices–maybe too many choices. It makes it difficult to step away.

I believe that I probably won’t understand much of what my children are going through if they experience infertility. I’ll try to be there for them and I’ll do my best. But I also know that they will have opportunities or choices to make that I never had. And it will affect them in a way that I will never understand because I didn’t go through it myself.

And that will make me sad because I really want to be there for them. That’s the closest I can come sometimes to understanding how you feel when you are dealing with me. So, I’m sorry. I know it really sucks to watch me be sad and feel like there’s a wall between us.

Infertility makes some women want to sweep it under the rug. It has made me want to be an activist – not only for infertility, but for all the taboo topics still out there. I talk about infertility a lot – not because I’m obsessed with the topic, but because it has shaped who I am and it is a large part of my life. It has to be – so much of infertility is a day-to-day monitoring that it becomes impossible to set it aside fully.

It makes me want to reach out to other people – and that is something I am extremely proud of that I do. I think I used to lead a life that was very focused on self and I think I lead a life that is now focused on others – the children I have, the children I want, the people I reach out to comfort or help. You may think I focus too much on self because you may not understand the intricacies of what I do. What I put myself through because I have a burning need to parent. You may think the choices I make are selfish. Or self-indulgent. You may think that I like being sad or that I should just move on. You may think that I’m making unhealthy choices. I can’t really do anything to change the way you think and frankly, I don’t have the emotional reserves to focus on you.

We can’t take you to the edge where we stand – we can only tell you about it. And hearing it is nothing like living it.

But if you want to stand over here and watch me at the edge, you may find that everything you are scared that I am or becoming isn’t true at all. And if you opened your eyes, you would see that I’m not at the edge to jump, but I’m at the edge because I trust myself and my choices so completely and I know this is where I need to be if I want to fly.


In honour of NIAW, because I do want to say something (and if you haven’t added your link yet, please do), I’ve rerun that post above that I wrote back in 2007.  It was written in a fit of rage as a response to someone who didn’t understand why we were fighting infertility rather than just throwing up our hands and saying, “okay, the family we want obviously isn’t in our cards.  We’ll just dedicate ourselves to… fill-in-the-blank.”  They just didn’t understand why we didn’t take our infertility as a sign from the universe that we weren’t meant to procreate. (In the same way that people should get rid of their glasses and just accept the fact that they weren’t meant to see.)  I realized when I quoted from it a few weeks ago that I still feel the same way, six years later.


1 Katie { 04.24.13 at 8:27 am }

This is so perfect. Just perfect.

2 a { 04.24.13 at 8:29 am }

Still completely relevant…and probably will be in 60 years.

3 Catwoman73 { 04.24.13 at 8:50 am }

Love this…. so much. Thanks Mel.

4 Egg Timer { 04.24.13 at 8:54 am }

Thank you… I love what you have captured here. It is true that people never seem to know how to help, that they seem to confuse giving advice with giving support.

5 Katie R { 04.24.13 at 9:02 am }

Oh, so relevant! Even after a successful pregnancy and thinking about the long road to another, I feel this deep in my soul

6 Pepper { 04.24.13 at 9:05 am }

I really, really love this.

7 Michaela { 04.24.13 at 9:15 am }


8 NotWhen { 04.24.13 at 9:27 am }

Oh my goodness this — “I talk about infertility a lot – not because I’m obsessed with the topic, but because it has shaped who I am and it is a large part of my life.” I’ve found myself saying this (not as clearly or concisely) so much recently.

Thanks for re-posting. Still a accurate as ever!

9 Chickenpig { 04.24.13 at 9:54 am }

I would write something on my blog about this, but I could never say it as well as you do. 🙂 I just want to say “YES, what Mel said!!!” to the world!

10 luna { 04.24.13 at 10:19 am }

the last line still slays me. xo

11 Tiara { 04.24.13 at 10:25 am }

So very well said.

12 Cassie Dash { 04.24.13 at 11:32 am }

Perfectly, perfectly said. I’m so glad you shared it again. Now, if only every overly fertile person could read it…

13 Battynurse { 04.24.13 at 11:39 am }

Wonderfully stated.

14 shelli { 04.24.13 at 11:54 am }


15 shelli { 04.24.13 at 11:55 am }

Perfect. Still.

16 Cristy { 04.24.13 at 12:26 pm }

And the tears flow. This is beautiful, Mel.

17 unaffected { 04.24.13 at 12:31 pm }

Still so perfectly well-written and apropos. Thank you, Mel.

18 mary { 04.24.13 at 12:45 pm }

Shared this – perfectly said! thank you!

19 Noelle { 04.24.13 at 1:01 pm }

Well said! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

20 bizzieb { 04.24.13 at 1:27 pm }

were you in my head when you wrote this – so expressive, so right and so brilliant – thank you for my tears and for the understanding that is explicit within your words x

21 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.24.13 at 2:05 pm }

I loved this then and I love it all over again now.

“Infertility isn’t linear. It’s a wavy line and you can’t know if you’re entering on a crest or a dip. I don’t expect you to get it right.” Yes to this and so much more.

Especially the invitation to listen. Just listen and not judge.

What a well-stated manifesto.

22 It Is What It Is { 04.24.13 at 2:12 pm }

Hey, neither the “say something” or the “added your link” hyperlinks are working.

23 Deni { 04.24.13 at 2:49 pm }

This is spot on! Absolutely love it and while I have had a child, I’m still infertile and still feel these things! Thanks for sharing and being so honest!!!!!

24 Summer { 04.24.13 at 3:35 pm }

Everything here felt so very true to me when you first posted it and one child later, it still feels true. Thank you for reposting.

25 Cherish { 04.24.13 at 8:17 pm }

Love your writing. This is so real. And the final push I needed to blog for NIAW, which I’d been thinking about doing since this morning.

26 Siochana { 04.24.13 at 10:24 pm }

Thank you for posting this. I have read the manifesto several times this evening. I’ve also read about half the NIAW posts so far, and I am really moved by the courage of the women who describe their experiences and what they learned. How good to not feel alone to hear these voices of strength. Also, although I haven’t talked about IF with much of anybody IRL yet, I am thinking of how I want to talk about it when I do and what I can perhaps share with people to help them understand. I started a collection of links as part of this blog: http://torthuiljourney.blogspot.ca/2013/03/art-education.html
and thanks to the discussion here I’ve added a couple of links to it. If anyone else has suggestions of what to include in my “reading list on IF”, I’d love to hear about it.

27 Justine { 04.24.13 at 10:31 pm }

I never read this piece before. Yes, this:
“What I want from you is actually quite simple.

Ask me how I am and want to hear the answer.”


28 Martina { 04.25.13 at 12:17 am }

Thank you.

29 Pamela { 04.25.13 at 3:46 am }

An oldie and a goodie, Mel.
In a similar vein, on the Seleni Institute website I offered up my take on Infertility Etiquette:

30 serenity { 04.25.13 at 1:33 pm }

I love this.

31 Shelby { 04.25.13 at 1:55 pm }

Exactly. And lovely. There is nothing like living it to understand why we fight, but we try to paint a picture and if words can do that, this is spot on.

32 Mellissa { 04.25.13 at 4:11 pm }

This helped today, on what has been a crap day. Thank You.

My link:

33 Emma { 04.25.13 at 9:45 pm }

Wonderful. I really don’t have any other words than that!

34 Amber { 04.27.13 at 10:28 am }

So very well said. I missed it the first time around, so thank you for sharing it again.

35 A Passage to Baby { 04.27.13 at 10:30 am }

This one is going in Evernote for safe keeping!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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