"The In The Know Short Film Competition sought to eliminate the stigma of infertility and encourage couples who have struggled with infertility to share their stories and lend support for other couples hesitant in openly discussing their journey."
I know. Who'd a thunk it? An infertility film festival? But I was there the other night, as the guest of the very lovely Mel, Queen of the Stirrup Queens and The Land of If, who happened to be one of the judges. We had drinks and snacks, we saw the three films that made the finals, and Mel and I talked about the ballet.
But go back and read that opening paragraph. Stigma. A few of the speakers at the event used the word "stigma", and it rattled me, enough so that I had to look it up in the dictionary, because there is nothing better than pulling a redolent dusty dictionary off the shelf for some aimless archeology.
Stigma: In sociological theory, a stigma is an attribute, behavior, or reputation which is socially discrediting in a particular way: it causes an individual to be mentally classified by others in an undesirable, rejected stereotype rather than in an accepted, normal one.
Being infertile does not disgrace you, it doesn't detract from your character, it doesn't mark you in any way, it doesn't make you into an outcast. However, it is something that people don't generally talk about, a taboo subject.
Why is that? And what can we do? Talk about it.
After my husband and I got married, we stopped using birth control and started trying to have a baby. And whenever anyone asked, I coyly deflected the question of "when are you going to have kids" with "we have cats". I did this so successfully that when I told people I was pregnant - eight years into the marriage - they said "we thought you didn't want children". If I had talked about it, perhaps someone would have suggested a medical investigation sooner - because I just didn't realize that yeah, your fertility decreases as you get older. In retrospect, I was an idiot.
Besides the happy production of a child, the experience of doctors and needles and dildo cams and surgeries and so many blood draws it's amazing that I'm not anemic made me hyper-aware of other women struggling with infertility - almost as though I developed a sixth sense for it, an intuition. And once you start talking about it, it's there, and there, and oh, there too. It's everywhere. It's one in eight couples.
Reading infertility blogs was my gateway into blogging. After reading for a while, I started writing, and while I'm in no way an "infertility blogger", having come to blogging after my fertility treatment days were over, I still feel a resonance there, and it's how I met Mel in the first place.
Incidentally, there's a fine irony in the phrase "stigma of infertility". One of the definitions of "stigma" has to do with something at the very core of conception - the release of the ripe egg from the ovary.