People always ask me how I am able to freely discuss my fertility issues. Many are surprised at how readily I share that we had our gorgeous babies through IVF. Because in our society, it is almost unheard of to admit you have had to seek medical intervention to have kids. Any my answer is always the same….I do it to share my rainbow.
I have always been open about my journey….even when I was still trying for a baby. The reason was very different then. I found that talking about it made me feel better. It was very therapeutic for me to share my battles and travails with my close friends, and even a few colleagues. These special people helped me get through that dark period in my life, and I am eternally grateful to them.
Most of my confidants were not battling infertility, but they were amazing sounding boards and proffered whatever advice they could. For the few that were also battling infertility, we shared information and tips, and gave/got a shoulder to cry on during the numerous occasions of heartbreak and despair. Yes, I kept a bit more to myself during my 2nd IVF cycle, but I will never forget the support I got from these wonderful women. However, the people I craved to talk to the most, proved to be the least forthcoming. There was a lady I knew, who had suffered a rather lengthy child bearing delay. She had eventually gotten pregnant, and I heard from the grapevine that she had sought medical intervention. So, one fateful day, I approached her and poured out my heart about my own fertility journey, challenges and heartbreak. She listened attentively, interjecting with the appropriate “Eiyaa” and “Sorry oh” when appropriate. At the end of my long talk, she simply shrugged and asked me to pray harder. That was all she offered.
When I was checking out fertility clinics, trying to decide which one to use, I went to a very popular one, previously located in Victoria Island. On both visits, I ran into people I knew from the University. Both times, my face would light up at seeing the person in question, and both times, the person would initially try to avoid eye contact, and when that failed, would offer a strained hello. I got the message both times. These people were not happy to see someone they knew. And years later, when I recommended this same clinic to another friend, her first response was “I can’t go there oh! That’s how I will run into someone from Unilag!”. My raised eyebrow conveyed the message of how unserious I thought she was, if that was her determining factor.
When I got pregnant, it was no secret to many that it was from IVF…and I was quick to offer this piece of information to those who asked if “twins ran in my family”. My answer was always the same “Yes, they do….but I had IVF”. As a result of this, I suddenly started getting inundated with requests from friends who had a friend / sister / colleague / acquaintance they wanted me to talk to. And I didn’t mind this one bit. Instead, whenever any of these women called, e-mailed, or even visited, I was as open as I could be and shared my journey, in its entirety, with every one of them. I did this; not because I was seeking fame or attention, but because it was what I would have wanted when I was in their shoes. Support from friends and family is fantastic….but nothing beats the testimony of she that has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. That was what birthed the idea for The Fertile Chick. I knew I needed a bigger platform to reach women who otherwise would not know there was someone out there willing to share her story.
So, if I’m all about sharing my story, why do I use a pseudonym? Well, Nicole isn’t a pseudonym per say….as it is one of my given names. It’s just not what people call me in real life. The only reason I did this was so as not to take away from the intent of, not just the website, but the purpose in its entirety. It would be so easy for it to reclassified as my own personal blog, and for the message to be diluted to just one woman’s journey. That aside, I remain as open as I possibly can. A lot of women who have reached out to me, and with whom I have corresponded with for long enough, have met the woman behind the Nicole moniker, with some of them even turning into friends.
What then is my message? If you are a woman who is now on the other side of infertility, please reach out and share your rainbow. I do understand why most would prefer to wave a magic wand and pretend that the infertility never happened. I also understand why most people prefer to remain silent, and choose instead to attribute their pregnancies to God. Of course God is the reason behind any pregnancy, natural or assisted. Apart from blessing us with the resources and ingenuity to develop these assisted modes of reproduction, we cannot take away from the divinity of conception. Whether in your uterus or a petri dish, the fact that sperm and egg can meet to produce human life is God at work! But in addition to telling everyone it was because you prayed, it wouldn’t be bad to share through what means your blessings came.
I am pleased that, these days, more women are raising their hands and admitting to having had medical intervention. I was at a seminar organized by a popular glossy women’s magazine, and there were quite a number of women who spoke openly about their IVF cycles, failed and successful. I was really impressed by this. But it’s not enough to just identify yourself, please be open to any woman who approaches you. You can go into as much, or as little, detail as you wish…that really depends on you. Just try not to let these women leave you feeling even more despondent than when they approached you. Even if all you offer is a little crumb, make it a meaningful one. For those who are able to offer more, try to mentor these women, talk to them, advice them. Dr. Google is great, but trust me, nothing is better than the first hand information you will share.
I have to warn you that it won’t always be a bed of roses. Sometimes, when you stretch out your hand, it will be bitten. I have a former colleague who has been trying for a baby for a while. We are not very close, and I thought she simply has been looking for the right opportunity to talk to me about her struggle. So, I decided to give her that opportunity. When I was checking out the various logo options for The Fertile Chick, I e-mailed some samples to her, asking for her opinion, and telling her what I was hoping to achieve with the website. She replied me with a one-liner of “I like logo 5”. Period! The next time I saw her, she was even more withdrawn, so I knew I had touched a raw nerve. I have never discussed it with her again. Another incident occurred at a baby shower, where one of the Mommies was discussing her own 7-year wait for a baby. Towards the end of the shower, I approached her with a sense of camaraderie. I introduced myself and told her I had also endured a wait for a baby, thinking we would proceed to share our war stories and marvel at where we both are today, as mothers to twins. Instead, this lady looked me from head to toe, and said a cold “We thank God.” Hmmm, o-kay! Conversation over! My lesson from these episodes is that if it is unsolicited, it might be best to just keep it zipped. If you are not approached, then you absolutely should not jump into anyone’s personal space.
However, these small hiccups pale in comparison to the immense happiness and satisfaction you get when you know you have been able to help someone. The gratification when these women get some comfort and assurance from your openness, the joy when they do eventually get pregnant, the inexplicable euphoria you get when you see pictures of their newborn babies…priceless! For me, there are very few feelings in the world better than this.
So ladies, if you have been blessed, be sure to pay it forward…and share your rainbow!
(N.B: Our website will be down for a few days, for necessary upgrade work. In the meantime, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Lisa Mckown