Why aren’t we honest with each other about the fertility journey?

I’m halfway-decent at blogging (well, somewhat) and I never really block as a writer, although sometimes I completely shit the bed on narratives. The hardest part for me with articles is usually the opening hook, and this one ain’t no different! Let’s try this approach.

A few weeks back, I was sitting at this bar/restaurant with my friend from church, having lunch. We have these other friends who used to go to that church, right? They’ve been married three years and, poof, no kids. So my friend at the lunch says to me, “Why do you think they don’t have kids yet?” I paused and was like “Well, I mean, why do you think we should even be allowed to discuss this?” He nodded.

About a year before that, I had gone to my cousin’s wedding, which was about 250 deep as COVID was beginning to spread (late February ’20). I have no idea how I didn’t get COVID at said wedding, but goddamn, I guess it’s just luck. At that wedding, literally six different speeches involved an adult standing up and alluding to the 19,246 babies that my cousin and her new dude would have. I’ve been to probably 11 weddings like that. While I get that the point of humanity is to spread the seed forward, and that a 47 year-old woman with no kids is considered useless to biologists, I also think those types of weddings are shitshows. I mean like, what if the couple has fertility struggles, right?

OK, so back to this restaurant. My friend and I start talking about general notions of shame, concern, secrets, and privacy regarding “the fertility journey.” I look around and there’s probably 40 people in there, 25 of them being women. People say the miscarriage rate is 12.5–25%. Let’s assume the high end. 25 women x .25? That means probably six women in there had a miscarriage. How many of those six women’s closest friends know about it? Maybe 3–4?

You’re legit talking about one of the biggest things in a person’s life, to some extent, and fucking no one knows. I think I know probably 10 women who have told me about a miscarriage — most good friends, some through church, and 1–2 by accident. It’s just like, not a discussed thing. But it’s a huge thing, for the woman, the dude, their families (if they were told, etc.)

Now, on the non-miscarriage side, you’ve got like, some people hit it the first time and BAM, beautiful baby girl ready to be welcomed by the loving embrace of Instagram. Some people it takes years. Maybe that three-year couple we brought up, maybe they’ve been chasing it since Day 1. I literally just went to a fertility clinic for the first time in my life, at 40. You ever been in those waiting rooms? It’s depressing as hell, because everyone is staring at everyone trying to figure out their deal, and most of the women in there are hopeful but hopeless simultaneously, which is one of the toughest rails to skate in life. (It is very common in many jobs: “This could get better! But… it won’t.”)

If you Google anything around “fertility journey,” you get tons of headline hits with “shame” or “privacy” or “secret.” How fucked up is that? This is like, the cornerstone of most people’s existence — and, honestly, relevance. And people just like, fucking hide it from their friends? I know “Yo, my dude has slow swimmers” is not maybe ideal brunch conversation, but life ain’t a drum circle on The Gram. Sometimes you gotta get down in the mud, ya know?

PS on that part: I went to a dinner once where a woman said her husband had “super sperm,” and someone else at the table was like three years deep into trying to conceive. Needless to say another bottle of red was opened.

This ties into something I’ve discussed before, too: think about the shit in life you’re not supposed to discuss, including →

  • Your salary/earnings
  • Failure in general
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Fertility journey
  • Fucking in general

Now redo that list:

  • Determines the quality of life you can have
  • Happens every second
  • Hardcore belief structure
  • Ditto
  • Massively relevant to people, creates life
  • More fun than carpentry, creates life

So some of the biggest chunks of existence in terms of how we feel and relate to the world around us … we ain’t supposed to discuss? Goddamn!

OK, so as for my own, I think it’ll end up fine, but I also spent a bunch of my 30s drinking IPAs in dank bars and sending stupid texts to people, so maybe my dick isn’t like maximum-level efficiency. We shall see. How’s that for transparency, am I right?

Life ain’t easy, and it ain’t perfect. It’s beautiful and glorious and salacious and you meet and lose many a great human being, but goddamn, there ain’t no manual for this shit, and some people try for eight years and get that beautiful little Jessie Anne, and some people never do. It’s not the easiest discussion over muffins and OJ, no, but it should happen more.

As I’ve gotten older and I’ve been in 2–3 friend circles/arcs where people are having kids, I’d also like to offer the following before I depart this post: virtually every human being who has a child treats the experience like they are the first person in human history to have a child, and none of them realize they are doing it. Then, their mothers correspondingly treat the moment like they are the only people to ever give advice on having and eventually rearing a child, and they usually have no clue they are doing it. When you combine those two things with “birth announcements” — a subset of hell — and “gender reveal parties” — I thought we cancelled gender? — the experience of seeing your friends have kids is a literal mix of beauty and malaise at the highest levels.

One of my friends who cancelled me over some completely inane shit — “You know what happened in Tucson, Ted!” — was probably the first of my friends to text me a newborn photo. It was like 6am in New York City and the temp was about -3 degrees, and I was walking seven blocks to the subway for work with a boss I wanted to choke with an extension cord every day. I remember looking at that photo and smiling, then mouthing “Fuck.” That’s when it changes, when those baby pictures start flowing. And the whole crazy shit of it is … none of us ever have an idea what it took to hit that point!

Be open with your people.

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