Monthly Archives: May 2011

family secrets, part 2

I thought my aunt and uncle chose not to have children.  My aunt is so career-focused, both of them travel so much.  It never occurred to me that they had dealt with infertility.  Last night I found out they tried for years.  They went through treatments (I’m not sure what; this would have been in the early 80s).  Finally they decided they couldn’t do it anymore and moved on without children.

I assumed my other aunt and uncle adopted my cousin from China because of a secondary fertility issue; I had no idea that her older brother was conceived after significant medical intervention.

Last night my mother told me these secrets.  I’m not sure why she told me after so many years; I think she didn’t know everything either till recently.

My mother also had problems conceiving; it took two years before I was conceived, and eventually she was diagnosed with POF (hot flashes at thirty!).

Taken all together, even in such a large family, this is quite a lot of infertility.  It makes me wonder where exactly we all came from!  And all of it, except of course for mine, is a great big secret.  My heart aches for my aunts and uncles, and for my mother, who went through this thirty years ago.  There was no blogosphere then; IVF was experimental (I was born the same year as Louise Brown); and all of it was, and is, a great big family secret.

What does it serve, to keep it a secret?  Knowing this history doesn’t change our situation — after all, my aunts and uncles don’t have anything to do with my husband’s MFI — but maybe there could be a way to talk about this the way we talk about oil changes, and sexual harassment, and three bean salad.


family secrets, part 1

I have a big family.  (That’s Catholicism for you.)  Each of my parents has five siblings; I grew up with twenty-five first cousins.  Now that most of us are grown and some are married, there are nearly three dozen of us in my generation.  There are nine kids in the next generation already, and two current pregnancies.

Every time I talk to my grandmother she says I’ll be next.

Although there are so many of us cousins, and although we all grew up together in a laughing, tumbling mix of birthday parties (it was always someone’s birthday) and embarrassing stories about our aunts and uncles, we’re not really close as adults.  A lot of us have moved away from the Ancestral Home, and we’re all busy with our own lives.  We’re Facebook friends, we congratulate each other on weddings and the births of children, and we madly send emails before family gatherings so we can keep track of who’s going to show up, but that’s about the extent of it.  It feels like a loss — and one of the only things wrong with living where I currently live.  But I’m so grateful to have had the growing-up experience I did.

Most of all I’m grateful for my aunts and uncles.  Growing up, I felt like I had ten extra sets of slightly cooler parents that I could always go to for anything I needed.  I’ve slept on their couches, gone to them for advice about everything from oil changes to sexual harassment, and had heated discussions about literature, relationships, and…the proper composition of three-bean salad.

I always felt like we were a great big close family.

But some things, apparently, were not up for discussion.

Like … oh, just for instance … infertility.