Overcoming the Emotional Stigmas of Infertility: Barren but not Ashamed

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). The initiative is led by Resolve, the US infertility association. The theme chosen this year is what I want you to know. Today, 21 April 2021 you are encouraged to wear orange and show your support for the one in eight couples who are trying to conceive.

It’s a week where we come together to shine the light into some of the dark areas of infertility. The language of infertility is clinical, cold and isolating. There are many shades of grey that characterise difficult paths to parenthood. Words like infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, miscarriage, geriatric pregnancy, IVF, endometriosis are cold. They don’t reflect the feelings of bereavement from loss of a pregnancy. They don’t reflect the stigma. They don’t reflect the feelings of hurt and anguish as friends and family enjoy parenthood.

Only 8% of Black women seek medical help

For Black women, the stigma is compounded by cultural aspects. This is reflected in the lower take up of fertility treatments by Black women. In fact, only 8% seek medical help to get pregnant compared to 15% of White women. Some women, however, are stepping forward to address this situation. One of these women is Frances Jones, an author and lifestyle coach based in Memphis, USA. Frances has written a book called, “Overcoming the Emotional Stigmas of Infertility: Barren but not Ashamed”. Frances hopes to prevent other women from viewing themselves as damaged goods because they cannot conceive or bear children.

Frances Jones

“Many people are facing infertility battles with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. There are so many negative feelings including guilt, anger, resentment and blame as a result of fertility challenges.”

A 20-year journey to heal

Frances spent 20 years trying to heal the damage that being infertile caused. Feelings of being unworthy and how unknowingly friends and family compounded that hurt. Frances said, “I am also using my experience to bring awareness to people who were able to have children without any issues. I hope that they can be more sensitive and compassionate to the plight of people who are having challenges building their families.”

In the book she focuses on specific topics where she feels women who can’t conceive need emotional support. These include:

  • Why the desire to conceive never goes away, despite having two adopted sons and a stepdaughter
  • What fertile people don’t understand about those who are not
  • How to break free from tormenting thoughts that minimise the good things in life
  • Tools that are helpful to infertile couples
  • Changing the dialogue society has about fertility problems.

Infertility no longer controls my life

These areas are covered from a personal perspective that will resonate with many readers. Frances said, “There was a time when I saw myself as damaged goods. I was hard on myself, felt unworthy because of my infertility and was tormented by negative thoughts and emotions. The worst part was that I didn’t know how to stop. Then a miracle happened: I had an awakening. The crippling pain, heartache, and toxic thoughts associated with infertility no longer control my life and my self-esteem. I now feel worthy as a mother, wife and woman. I coach others who are dealing with infertility.”

She hopes that the story of her journey will inspire others and help guide them through their infertility challenges. She has already received support from thought-leaders in the area.

 “Overcoming the Emotional Stigmas of Infertility: Barren but Not Ashamed, describes perfectly the ongoing struggles facing those of us saddled with this traumatic, often isolating diagnosis. I admire Frances’s strength and determination as she pulled herself out of that darkness and chose to light the way with hope for others traveling this uncertain path.”

Danette Kubanda, Emmy-winning television producer.

“Overcoming the Emotional Stigmas of Infertility: Barren but Not Ashamed” is available here.