Tuesday, October 13, 2009

start seeing motorcycles

You know how, when you're single and wanting to meet someone, every single freaking thing around you is all about marriage? It's as if the D.avid's Brid.al people have some kind of radar to track down the homes of single women and show bridal-gown-sale commercials every twenty-five seconds, just for the sheer torture value.

And then how, when you're trying to get pregnant, every single freaking thing is about pregnancy? Everybody's having a baby, every single celebrity on the face of the earth is on the cover of Pe.ople magazine with their smiling child, saying how they "thought that life was all about work, and then I had this baby, and now I know the whole purpose of my life, why doesn't everyone do this, it's so amazing"?

(Is it possible that the above paragraphs are really more about my perception than actual reality? No. Certainly not.)

Anyway. Lately, everything around me is about infertility. And this is unusual, though it does have its good points. I wrote just a little while ago about my lunch with a parishioner, during which we both confided our fertility struggles. A grandmother in my congregation told me about her granddaughter, pregnant by IVF with twins (very, very sadly, she lost the pregnancy and both children shortly afterward).

Then there was that article in Sunday's New York Times, which made want to run screaming out of the room (WARNING: DO NOT, under any circumstances, read the comments, because you will lose your faith in humanity). And that Padma Laskmi lady from the Fo.od Netw.ork who talked publicly about her endometriosis (I think I spelled your name incorrectly, Padma. My bad.). There was even in a hint in a story about healthcare reform that the Oba.ma's might have had some fertility problems themselves.

And then, on Sunday night, someone else confided in me about a year-long struggle to get pregnant, culminating in a really bad semen analysis and now the fight that lies ahead.

My brother.

There are three of us in my family: older sister and two younger brothers. My middle brother got married first. He and his wife tried for nearly six years to have a child - my sister-in-law, like me, has severe endo (though she knew it beforehand). We all know my story. And now, the trifecta: my youngest brother has joined our sad little club. Three kids, three separate reasons, three infertility battles. (It took my parents five months to conceive me, my mom told me when I first told her about our struggles. My brothers: both on month 1. My mother is the sort of fertility story I now hate. Ironic, no?)

The other day, I was driving down the road and noticed a bumper sticker on the car next to me: "Start seeing motorcycles." "Huh," I thought to myself, "I was unaware that I was not seeing motorcycles."

You know what happens after you see that bumper sticker? You see motorcycles everywhere. They're on TV, they're parked next to you at the grocery store, they're on the freeway, they're cutting you off downtown, they're waiting next to you at the light. THEY'RE EVERYWHERE. I suppose that's the point, really; that some motorcyclist who felt like nobody was really seeing him (or her) decided to remind us all that there are other vehicles on the road.

I feel like getting a bumper sticker that says, "start seeing infertility." Because one thing I have learned over the past four years is that this struggle is a lot more pervasive than I ever imagined.

This is what I tried to tell myself while I was reading the hateful comments on that Times story: that, right now, I see infertility everywhere. It's shot through my family like a virus. It's in my congregation. It's on TV and in the newspaper and in the lives of friends - but not everyone sees it. Lots of people push it away, cut it off in traffic, drive right past it on the side of the road, because it's not their problem - they drive cars, not motorcycles, why should they care? - and so they feel free to say horrible, cruel things, because they just don't see.

I used to get so fed up about that. I used to write comments back on news stories, letters to editors, blog posts of righteous anger - and now, for better or worse, I don't have the energy for it anymore. They just don't see us. And I can't make them.

Instead, I'm trying to ask myself who it is that I don't see. Who's sitting by the side of the road, trying to pick themselves up from an accident, with traffic flying by and nobody even taking a second look - who is it that I can try harder to see, really see, even if their great heartache is one I'll never know myself?

Maybe I'll get myself a motorcycle. We'll see.


  1. Oooh, I made a huge mistake and read some of those comments!!! That makes me incredibly angry!!! I can't believe how ignorant some people truly are. We did not put ourselves in this situation and do NOT deserve it. It's really sad that people can be so blind.

  2. After your warning, I of course had to read some of the comments. It just reaffirms my feeling that people could care less unless it effects them. Well this article shows how it effects them--the health care cost! Infertility is a medical condition unlike a boob job. Adoption, IVF, medications, they are all horribly expensive for a basic need to have a family. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

  3. I love this post. This is something that I pray will be a positive thing resulting from my infertility: that I will be more sensitive to others who are struggling with things unknown to me. Just wait until one of those commenters has a family member go through infertility -- it changes everything.

  4. A beautiful, wonderful, thought-provoking post. Thank you so much for this! So sorry to hear that you're brother and his wife are not part of the club, too.

  5. This is a really great post (of course, it did tempt me to read the comments, which have me saddened and perplexed by their vitriol). think it's true -- you see only what you are looking for (or sensitive to and not looking for, as in your David's Bridal example)... but I somehow think that childless women just don't even get seen. Thanks for this post.

  6. SOOO well said, again.

    so true.

    and i'm so sorry about your little brother and his wife. damn!

    i don't have time for the article or comments. thanks for sparing me.

  7. Wonderful post. I always read the comments and get myself worked up into a righteous anger and leave stinging comments and ... no one cares. This is truly a case of asking someone not to judge you until they have walked a mile in your shoes, and yet these people spit on our shoes because our shoes are not as fancy as their shoes.

    Readings those comments DOES make me lose faith in humanity and maybe I should just stop reading them. Is it better to live in ignorant bliss and still love my fellow (wo)man?

  8. Great post. I did read that story, but not the comments. I love how you to move from frustration that you are not seen to wondering how you can see others better. I wish I thought like that.

  9. Also loved your post. I've thought about that many times and discovered infertility in unexpected places. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. Awesome post. Just wanted to let you know that you have a long-time fan here. keep writing. meanwhile, i will think about who i am not seeing...