Experiencing shame and guilt for most us living with infertility is common, yet it is not beneficial. Infertility, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a disease diagnosed after at least one year of regular unprotected intercourse without a pregnancy. Thus, feeling ashamed and guilty for a medical condition implies that somehow it is our fault for not getting pregnant. But it is not our fault! It simply is.
Society tells us otherwise, that somehow we are not trying hard enough, or if you just relax it’ll happen. I know you’ve heard these types of comments before from friends, family, and even strangers. They are well meaning, but these comments are hurtful and make us feel more shame and guilt. I call these comments, reproductive microaggessions.
Similar to microaggressions which are “brief, commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue et al., 2007, p. 273), reproductive microaggressions also infer judgment. Reproductive microaggressions communicate that not being able to conceive is a personal fault or inadequacy, and a disappointment. Somehow you are not like the rest of us, who can easily get pregnant. Just try harder. It only takes 5 minutes.
Managing these experiences can be difficult and exhausting, let alone unfair. Having infertility is a medical condition that requires medical treatment. Sometimes feeling shame and guilt keeps us from this treatment and disconnects us from others and from our chance at getting pregnant. So when, shame and guilt creep up on you - acknowledge it, honor it, and then let it go. Infertility does not define you, you are a warrior fighting to have a baby. You are strong and worthy of a family - remember that!