Last week Suzie told me someone said I was “brave” for discussing our fertility attempts in public. I didn’t know I was being brave, but I guess most people don’t discuss their own fertility in public.
Why is that?
Are taboos about discussing pregnancy and fertility protective, or do they closet people?
On the one hand, fertility is a delicate subject. Sometimes people don’t want to share their struggles, because they don’t want pity/advice/judgment/etc.
But on the other hand, I think the expectation that fertility is too delicate to be discussed might silence and/or shame people.
I can’t quite make up my mind. Here are some thoughts…
Arguments in favor of protecting people’s feelings by keeping quiet about fertility:
1. It’s too personal an experience; all the unsolicited advice one might get would be inapplicable and misguided.
2. The possibility for accidentally causing friends pain is too great.
a) People who get pregnant easily might make those who struggle to get pregnant jealous.
b) People who terminate pregnancies might offend those whose families chose to have unexpected children.
c) People who struggle to get pregnant might sadden those who are waiting until a different moment in life to embark upon the fertility process.
d) People who insist upon the importance of bearing children might upset those who choose to remain childfree.
3. There is something innately private about the process of conceiving a child. We don’t discuss our sex lives in a graphic manner, so we shouldn’t discuss personal fertility issues in any detail.
4. Keeping quiet about personal fertility issues as a society allows those who are shy about such things to maintain their privacy and not be subject to conversation that makes them uncomfortable.
5. Superstition. If you say you’re pregnant, something bad will happen. (Note: I’m actually ridiculously superstitious about certain things, so I’m not mocking this. I say things like “keina hura,” “Gd willing,” “poo poo poo,” etc about whether or not I’ll see my grandmother every couple of months, so I completely respect the superstitious perspective.)
Arguments in favor of challenging taboos by speaking more openly about fertility:
1. More people sharing their own experiences in a respectful and self aware manner means more knowledge about the subject in general.
2. When people share their struggles, they don’t have to suffer alone.
3. Many important issues in our society–queerness, disability, gender fluidity, etc–have been kept quiet for too long. Coming out is personally liberating, and it allows a political movement to gain footing.
4. Expecting people to engage in quiet discretion regarding personal fertility issues is similar to silencing/shaming people around menstruation. Stopping dialogue about a natural process is unhealthy, and such silencing is ultimately driven by industries and norms which profit from sexism and oppression.
5. Perhaps science is a better indicator than superstition regarding how pregnancies will go. And science has nothing against sharing results.
What do you think?
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