Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Infertile - it's just a word...

or is it?

In the midst of a huge sh!t-storm on one of the message boards I frequent, the discussion came round to using the term "an infertile" to describe well, someone dealing with infertility. It was said that..
 ...I am so uncomfortable with the phrase "an infertile". It'd be like calling someone with cancer "a tumour" or something like that. You girls are awesome in so many ways, and ARE NOT completely defined by your IF journey!
  and in reply to that, someone agreed that "ya, it just seems like such a sad term..." I thought about this much of last night, and this morning and then I just dunno.. had to respond. I try and keep my nose clear of sh!tstorms, after being banned from a board or two in  my time (ok, same board, twice, whatever).

My response was this..

You're right, it IS a sad term, but it is what it is... Many women are lucky enough to be able to define themselves as Mothers. Those of us who can't though are generally infertile. You are mothers, we are what? NotMothers? eh, maybe. Most ppl don't get the child-free (choice) / child-less (not by choice) distinction, but tend to at least comprehend infertile to some minute extent. I realize taht being infertile doesn't completely define me... but when it's a topic about ttc/children/other-related-things, then ya, that's the descriptor I'll use. Does it suck? sure does.. but it is what it is. I'm also (in no particular order) a geek, numbers gal, civil servant, wife, catmomma, FRIEND...

So, those of you dealing with some sort of infertility (unexplained, MF, whatev) - do you use infertile as a self-descriptor?

(It's been 3 or 4 days since I started writing this, and just wanted to get it out... it kinda lost steam...)


  1. Okay, I have to ask a question cause I know you will have a great answer. If a couple has not been able to conceive naturally and it is determined that one or the other of the couple has medical issues that are causing the inability to conceive, why is there a tendency for both to be refered to as infertile? I get that as a couple they are infertile as they have not been able to produce offspring together and well it takes both to do it :-) but at the same time, the person not deemed medically responsible so to speak for the infertility is still referred to as infertile. Kwim? Can you shed some light on that for me cause it is something I've always wondered. I'm not by any means stating that the "okay" person does not have the right to carry the descriptor, I simply just wondering if it just mutually shared because it "takes two"?

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head - 'it takes two', so even if one really isn't 'technically' infertile, they're still infertile by default. Really, that's the situation we're in (I believe). I ovulate (irregularly), and my dr said to me at one point "(I can't believe it but) you're not the issue". We are dealing with MFI, but I'm still infertile by marriage :P

  3. Here's one of my infamous tangents. ;-)

    So, I'll join in on a similar but unrelated topic: what you're describing is "person-first language", which has been a buzzword in the special needs community for many years (as well as a point of contention!). Is language that important? Is a person really going to be perceived as being autistic THEN a person if we describe them as being "an autistic boy" as opposed to "this is Cameron, who has autism"? It has always been my position that if the language is used respectfully and conveys the truth to the intended listener, then it makes very little difference what terms you use. Obviously, there are some terms that are blatently offensive, but if it's word order... ? It's still as much a part of the person as having a nose, yk? Some days I say, "he is autistic/he has autism/he has special needs/he needs some extra help.. ". I vary it depending on what the listener will understand and what the situation dictates, and some days I'm tired and don't say anything at all.

    Going back to the infertility topic.. IMHO, you wouldn't be the same person today, for better or worse, without this experience, but you're right-it doesn't define you. The difference is in the way it's expressed, I guess, when you look at dealing with other people? And some people just *won't* get it, but in that situation it goes deeper than language. You can't really understand it unless you've been there, but then some people don't want to TRY to get it. On the flip side, I think you can tell when someone is trying to be understanding, and at the point the terminology becomes relatively unimportant.