Writing has always been important to me. It’s how I process my thoughts, how I let go of my feelings, how I calm myself down. Very often I express myself better when I write rather when I speak. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel or what I want till I write it down.
Writing about our fertility struggles and the pregnancy–and now, parenthood–has been cathartic and therapeutic for me. But I never thought it would be help other people open up about their own fertility issues.
After each blog post was published, Oneal would come home to tell me about various officemates and their own struggles: hormone imbalances, age, various treatments, compromised immune systems, miracle pregnancies, all sorts of health concerns that interfere with conception and pregnancy. So many of them shared their stories with him after they read my blog posts, and we were so touched that they opened up. He helped where he could, sharing the names and contact information of our doctors, or the medications we took. But more important than any of that, I think, was that he simply listened, without judgment, with sympathy, to their stories.
So many others reached out to me too. These women weren’t always close friends. Some I’d only hung out with in person a handful of times. But I suppose our story touched a nerve, or was far too familiar. At least two told me how long they’d been trying to get pregnant, what conditions they or their partners had, the treatments they’d tried. They told me how frustrated they felt, and how tired they were of trying. I told them the names and schedules of our doctors, listened to their pains, sent virtual sympathies and hugs.
Another friend told me about her struggles with depression and anxiety during pregnancy, and I told her about my anxiety attacks, and my own frustrations.
Another one told me that she thought she was pregnant, and shared with me her excitement and fears, and asked questions about very early pregnancy.
Others messaged me, sharing the struggles of friends or relatives, telling me they had sent links to my blog, hoping it would help.
On my blog, a stranger left comments, asking questions about tests and treatments, sharing her own struggles.
Far more surprising, so many friends who weren’t even interested in having children avidly read my posts. They told me and Oneal how much they were learning about fertility and pregnancy, how fascinated they were by our journey, how excited they were for us.
It surprised us, that all these people felt compelled by our story, and it was touching that so many reached out to us. “Keep doing what you do,” my friend Trish said, after she read an article about a man’s longing for fatherhood. “This reminded me of your past few blog posts and how difficult it is to write about, well, difficult (i.e. intensely personal things).”
I remember now what I wrote at the beginning of “Lil Ass-Kicker’s Long Journey:”
“… [F]ertility problems come with so much stigma. People think it’s a woman’s problem. Men don’t want to admit if the problem is with their reproductive system, or they think fertility issues make them less of a man. People think it’s a shame, an embarrassment when you can’t have kids. People look at you with pity. People pat your hand or your shoulder and say “in God’s own time” or “just relax, darating lang yan” and other patronizing, incredibly infuriating things. People make lewd jokes suggesting that all you need to do is have more sex. And on April Fools’ Day, people think it’s hilarious to pretend they’re pregnant.
“But it’s not funny, not at all. It’s hurtful and insensitive, and it just makes couples with fertility issues want to crawl under a rock and hide forever.
“So I wrote this to get that conversation going. To remind people that it’s not okay to make assumptions about other people’s reproductive choices. To show people that a thoughtless remark can trigger a sleepless night full of tears. And to remind myself and Oneal just how hard we worked to get here.”
I guess we got that conversation going, at least among our friends and relatives. If nothing else, our story helped some people open up about their struggles, and posting about it provided a safe space for them to share their stories.
So while my writing has always been a primarily selfish exercise, I’m really happy that in this instance, it helped others too.