Today, I wanted to share the real life experiences of someone I know. Joelle and Justin are real people who have gotten pregnant and had a son through IVF. ~ Heather
It might not have been directed at you, but chances are you’ve heard someone teasingly ask another “So, when are you lovebirds going to have kids?“ If you’re struggling with infertility how do you answer that question? For Joelle, she felt it was easier to come out and speak about their difficulties in conceiving a child than to laugh it off or make up some ‘line.’ Often it didn’t end the awkwardness, however, and responses like ‘Just relax and it will happen,‘ or ‘You just need to give it time,’ came back to her.
“People have real difficulty understanding that this is a medical condition, that there isn’t a magic wand that you can wave and make everything better. I don’t know of any other medical condition where any of the above would be an appropriate response, but that’s what happens,” says Joelle.
IVF is still often a taboo subject and nobody really knows what to say or how to say it. People feel sad, uneasy, ashamed, or just plain weird when having a family doesn’t come naturally. There is still some stigma around the issue with certain religious groups as well. Catholic churches frown upon in vitro procedures as do several others. What does this mean for families who have to choose religion or having the family they always wanted? It means being quiet when instead, talking about it can help so many people live a better life.
Joelle and her family were successful with the IVF process and had a lovely son who they love as much as any parent loves their child. But now that he’s started school there are new challenges around the process that brought him to the world. What, if anything, do they tell him about how he came to be? Are there social aspects to be concerned about for him as he grows up? If his friends find out will they taunt him, calling him ‘test tube baby’ or will he be told he’s ‘illegitimate?’ In this case, both Joelle and her husband contributed DNA for their son, but many IVF pregnancies rely on donors for either sperm or eggs or both. For those children, will they want to know who their donor is?
Joelle’s husband Justin has been reluctant to talk about their story publicly. “This might be our story, but it’s his life,” he says. There is worry that if the world knows how their son was born he might not be welcome at Catholic school. “The worry might be for nothing.” says Joelle, “but it’s still there.”
Wanting a family is one of the most natural things in the world and talking about it shouldn’t be so stressful. By sharing Joelle and Justin’s thoughts I hope someone else out there will nod and think ‘me too, I’m not alone.’ And I’m also hoping those people will reach out to Generations of Hope for more support. 1 in 6 couples in Alberta struggles with infertility like Joelle and Justin did and it’s time to break down some of these barriers. It’s time to talk about this and ensure all Alberta families are strong and healthy and feeling supported both emotionally and financially. Because that’s how we move forward to building a better future for our children. Read more about IVF funding in Alberta here.
*First names have been changed to protect the privacy of ‘Joelle’ and ‘Justin.’
**I am a valued member of the Generations of Hope #ABHC4IVF blog team and as such have received compensation for my time in writing this post. All opinions remain my own.