Monday, April 25, 2011

RESOLVE's Infertility Myth Challenge: Infertility is Nature’s Way of Telling You That You Aren’t Meant To Be A Mother.

Infertility Myth To Be Busted:  Infertility is Nature’s Way of Telling You That You Aren’t Meant To Be A Mother.

Approximately one year into my infertility journey, my aunt, who had recently found out about my struggle with infertility, said “Well, did you consider that maybe this is God’s way of telling you that you aren’t supposed to be a mother?”  That statement knocked the wind out of me and, as the ensuing dazed feeling wore off, I wondered how anyone could be so cruel.  I’m financially secure and responsible.  I’ve taken care of my younger siblings since I was a child myself.  What did I do to indicate that I would not be a good mother? 

Little did I know that I would hear variations of that comment over and over again during my infertility journey.  The wording would change a little.  For example, one friend (a mother of three) asked “Are you sure that infertility isn’t nature’s way of telling you that you aren’t meant to be a mother?  Maybe you just aren’t going to do well with messy diapers and no sleep.”  Another friend, who did not know about my infertility struggles, said “Infertility is a tool of evolution, and women who aren’t meant to have children can’t.  These women who make test tube babies are messing with nature and with the balance of life.”  Each of these comments felt like a knife stabbing through me, and I have heard from my fertility friends that I am not alone in having faced these cold comments and the psychological trauma that the comments cause.  Regardless of how these comments are worded, they all send the same message – if you have infertility, you are broken and the reason you are broken is directly connected to your inability to be a good mother. 

But people say lots of insensitive things in relation to infertility.  So what makes these comments any worse than the others?  I think that this myth is one of the most dangerous myths out there because it is so easy to believe.  All of us who have experienced infertility have experienced the dark days that come with it, when the pain is almost unbearable and we are left asking the question “Why?  Why am I unable to get pregnant and have a baby, the most natural act in the world?  Why has infertility chosen me?”  Combine the human desire to attribute reason to hardship, with the profound negative effect that infertility can have on a woman’s self-esteem, and it is very easy to see why many women with infertility struggle with the concern that they have infertility because they will be a sub-standard parent and they just don’t know it yet.  Even if we “know” that it is not true, sometimes this myth “feels” true…so whether the seed of doubt is being planted from the outside or from within, the very means in which infertility effects us as women makes this myth feel true.

Here is the good news…this myth is not true!  When this myth is applied to other physical conditions, it is apparent how silly the myth is and how insensitive it is for others to make these comments to women who are going through infertility.  No one would ever say to a person with diabetes that, “This is God’s way of telling you that you aren’t supposed to enjoy desserts.”  No one would say to someone who has suffered an amputation, “Maybe this is just nature’s way of telling you that you aren’t meant to have an arm.  Maybe you would do bad things with that arm if you had it.”  As with most debilitating medical conditions, infertility is indiscriminate.  Women of all ages, races, socioeconomic status and religion are afflicted with infertility.  And, like other physical conditions, how a person “may” behave in the future cannot be deemed the cause of a physical condition the person suffers from now.  To believe otherwise is irrational. 

Another means of debunking this myth is by looking at all of the women suffering from secondary infertility.  I have only had the pleasure of knowing a dozen or so of these women, but I can say, without equivocation, that they are wonderful mothers, full of love and patience.  Although I am working with a small sample size, I say with great confidence that no rational argument can be made that these women have been afflicted with infertility because they will be sub-par mothers.  They have already taken on the motherhood role and have managed it splendidly.

Further, although I try not to pass judgment on others, we all hear stories on the news, and in our own personal lives, about women mistreating their children…abandoning them, abusing them or worse.  It would seem that if God, nature, or evolution were going to weed out the candidates for motherhood on a merit-based system, every infertile woman I know would be a mother and there would be far less of these awful stories on the news. 

Women with infertility become personal assistants of sorts, juggling medication protocols, appointments, and large quantities of information.  We also become avid researchers and problem solvers.  We hone our ability to focus fully on the tasks at hand, regardless of any pain and emotional turmoil that we may be experiencing.  We support one another unconditionally, listening without judgments and expressing love and comfort to people we barely know, based solely on the bond we’ve developed over our shared experiences.  In short, infertility prepares us to be even more amazing mothers than we were already destined to be.  I am certainly not saying I would wish infertility on anyone, but my point is that having infertility is not a sign that you should stop pursuing your dream because you have been deemed unworthy of motherhood.  Infertility is a curse of sorts…but it is not a punishment.  We are not infertile because we will be bad mothers…we are going to be great mothers in spite of, and because of, our battle with infertility.

So, to those who would say infertility is nature’s way of saying you won’t be a good mother…I say, Myth Busted!

***For a basic understanding of infertility, go to:

*** For a little background of National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW):*

*** For those interested in taking on the infertility myth challenge: 


My New Normal said...

Fabulous post. Perhaps I should forward it to my MIL who just recently told me that maybe nature was trying to tell me something???

One Cycle at a Time said...

Totally agree!! Can you imagine telling someone with cancer "Well I guess this is just God's way of saying there are too many people in the world?" Ugh!!! The fact that people feel like its ok to say such hurtful things to IFers makes me want to scream!

Love your new page design! :-)

marriage20 said...

Great post! Thank you for busting this painful myth!

Ludicrous Mama said...

Whenever someone implies that God is trying to say something, I reply that if God didn't want me to have babies, He wouldn't have invented IVF. But it just galls me how people think that rudeness and judgement is appropriate under the guise of religious belief. My big problem is people (mostly my sister) implying that my IF is MY fault because I won't give up, or I'm not "relaxed" enough or not having enough sex.
Infertility has definitely made me a better parent than I would have been otherwise. More informed, more patient and more tolerant. I treasure her, and her emotional well-being is just as important as physical, which is not the case in many families. Every time I see a friend yank their kid up by an arm to spank them makes me want to cry. How can they not treasure that little miracle? How can they not strive to find a better alternative? I've never had to hit or threaten my child to ensure obedience. I treat her with respect and loving discipline. Would you spank your spouse for exasperating you? I didn't work NEARLY as hard to get HIM!

Whitney said...

Beautiful! You're so right! That myth is definitely one of the easiest to believe, as false and ugly as it is. Thank you so much for your thoughts.

S said...

Ugh, this is a terrible myth, and SO painful to hear! I am lucky that no one has ever said this to me--the closest remark was when my mother said maybe I was "meant to" continue my volunteer work as a CASA rather than have a child of my own--because I can't even imagine how badly it would hurt me.

I absolutely think that anyone who says this is not only very insensitive but should look at the flip side of this logic, which you mention in your post: G-d means for any woman who can have a child to have one. This world is full of many clear (and sad) examples of fertile women who should never have been parents, for a variety of reasons.

Good post.

New Year Mum said...

Love your post and your new blog look :)) You write so beautifully and with such truth xoxo

Christina said...

Right on! You busted that myth wide open!

Love love love the new blog layout/design!!

infertilenanny said...

Wonderful post! I'm half tempted to print this out and carry it in my purse in case I hear another variation of "maybe it's just not meant to be". It's such a stab in the heart. thanks for sharing!

a field of dreams said...

Brilliant post! A myth that I related to many times during my journey. One of the toughest to challenge too. Thank you participating.

My post: Just Relax
NIAW Blog List #30

China Doll said...

Great post... such a hurtful and stupid myth, now well and truly busted!

Princess Wahna Bea Mama said... I know I'm commenting on my own post, which is likely in bad taste, but I just have to say that I am so thankful for this NIAW challenge. When I started blogging, it was hard for me to find many infertility blogs that I could relate to and which were current (as opposed to abandoned or Mommy blogs). I managed to find a couple dozen great ones, but because of this challenge, I'm finding tons more that I never would have found any other I had looked. I hope people checking out this blog for the first time will check out the blogs I follow, too. There is this amazing network of women out there, and we all have something to offer other IF'ers. In the meantime, enjoy the challenge. Thanks.

projectedprogenitor said...

Ah, to the infertility-is-nature's-way-of-saying [insert retrograde BSery here], I say...well. I can't say what I say REALLY. It rhymes with "Muck hat." Grr. Thank you for this. Thinking of you this NIAW! Quite agree, too, this challenge is seriously fantastic. I've been looking for y'all for AGES. Come out, come out wherever you are brilliant bloggie-activists!

Krissi said...

I loved, loved, LOVED this! You wrote it so perfectly! I have my 3 beautiful miracles that I treasure each day and feel so proud to be their mother after going through 6 IVF cycles. I wanted to bust this same myth but I don't know if I can word it better than you just did!! Wow!

annoyed army wife said...

Thank you for such a well-written, heart-felt post.

DMN said...

Love your post!

Lees J said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post!! It should be required reading for all IFers!

Yoka said...

Thank you for such a well written post. Good luck with your first DE cycle.