Infertility is a disease. It is a disease that results in the abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive system. The World Health Organisation, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recognise infertility as a disease.
So why don’t I think of infertility as a disease? Why do people not think about infertility is a disease? Because we don’t understand it. We don’t learn about it at school. We might learn about it through friends and family, but only if they choose to share their diagnosis and treatment. Many do not because they are embarrassed that they cannot successfully procreate.
But I am finally beginning to understand infertility, and I have been suffering from it, for over a year now. It’s taken me a while! So how can I expect non-infertile people to understand when I live and breathe it daily?
Why is it so important that infertility is recognized as a disease? Because generally people understand that a disease is something that is fought against. The concept of letting a disease consume a human being is horrifying, whether it is physically or mentally consuming. Disease is bad. Disease should not be tolerated. Disease should be researched and studied until we figure out how to overcome it.
I personally have been ignorant to the fact that we are fighting a disease. I have advocated for education and learning about infertility through my blog, and yet I have only just realized that I was ignoring it. That might seem to be an absurd statement considering the number of blog posts I have made in the past year….I think about my infertility every waking day. May be I am obsessed by it. But I have ignored it at large too. Why? Because I have been led to believe that I have a choice to procreate. And luckily, I do have a choice. I can choose not to procreate. But my choice to be able to procreate has been taken away from me by this disease.
Here’s an analogy for you.
One day I wake up and notice that I have an open wound on my arm. Hmmmm. I don’t know where that came from! Well, it doesn’t hurt, so I get up, get dressed and continue with my day. That small bloody wound on my arm is noticed by a couple of people at work.
Someone asks me…
”Errrrr……Dani……..do you know you have an open wound on your arm?”
I reply nonchalantly,
“Oh yes, I saw that this morning, it doesn’t hurt, so I figured I’ll be OK, I’ll just let it heal on its own”
My colleague looks at me strangely and says, “OK…..if you say so! You may want to get that checked out though, it looks a little nasty”.
I think about this encounter, thinking may be my colleague is right, perhaps I should get it checked out and then wonder when I can fit in a doctor’s appointment to get it looked at. I look through my calendar and see I have an open space in three weeks’ time after I have made a trip to Europe and back, and a major milestone is complete in my project. After all….it doesn’t hurt so I’ll be fine. I make the appointment to see the doctor for 3 weeks and 4 days time.
Meanwhile, I begin to learn that my arm wound offends people, so I cover it up in creative and inventive ways so as to not gross people out or distract them in meetings. But the wound is getting bigger by the day…it is spreading and now covers my entire forearm. But don’t cry for me, I can still type OK so, thankfully, I can still do my work. So no more questions are asked.
3 weeks and 4 days comes and my boss asks me to complete an urgent piece of work. I think about my arm and weigh up the pros and cons of not going to the doctor’s appointment. After all…what is the worst that can happen? My arm might need surgery. May be. OK I can cope with that, they will give me anesthesia, I’m sure. Or the absolute worst case scenario. I lose my arm. They have to amputate my arm. Yeh, that would REALLY suck. But I mean it doesn’t hurt now so that probably won’t happen. But who needs an arm anyway? Not me….Lots of people cope without their arms. I’ll be fine!
Infertility is the flesh eating disease on our arm. If it was visible, people will be telling us to go the doctor’s EVERYDAY to get it fixed. And infertility is like this analogy, because for the past year I have been constantly trying to fit in my infertility treatment around my work life. Like this anology, if I don’t do anything I could end up losing my arm – and we all know that I’m not going to die if I lose my arm. My life would just SUCK a lot. And people would feel sorry for me. Similarly, if I don’t attempt to fight this infertility like this flesh eating thing, I would just end up with no child. I’m not going to die. But that would SUCK a lot, and people would feel sorry for me.
But today, no more, I stand to FIGHT THIS INFERTILITY AS IT IS – A DISEASE. I will make sure to do my best to fight it, by keeping myself mentally healthy as well as physically healthy. If this means I need to make sacrifices at work, then this is what I will do to fight this disease. No more will it simply ‘fit in around my work life’. If I am going to advocate for infertility awareness and education, I need to fight it like I mean it, and it starts with recognizing infertility as a disease.