When Ariel Ng wrote Infertile at Thirty-Three, she was shocked by the responses she got.
“I was surprised at how many women reached out,” she said over the phone earlier this week. “That’s what gave birth to this project – The 16 Percent [referring to the 16% of people in Canada who have some experience with infertility]. We started realizing how people do want to talk about it once they’re given a forum.”
Ng works with two other women in publishing, and each one of them has a personal experience with infertility, ranging from PCOS to miscarriages to low AMH. They thought it would be valuable for other women to not feel as alone as they did, so they put together The 16 Percent as a platform for women to tell their stories around infertility, in their own words.
Ng finds there is a lot of lingering shame around the subject. “I know from my personal experience, I felt at times less of a woman, or that my body wasn’t doing what it should be doing…especially when you talk to so many people who are able to conceive, and with social media, where everything is quite visible.”
This shame is coupled with a certain degree of reluctance to talk about infertility. Ng doesn’t find platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” or “miscarriages are common” very helpful. “I think just listening and letting the person know you’re there for them [is important]. I had a friend drop off some muffins for me and it was the sweetest little thing to do and it actually made me feel like a million dollars.”
Her journey has had moments of catharsis – but it’s still fraught. “I’m in the process of having a second miscarriage,” she says. “It happened right when we launched. It’s been really hard, to be honest, because it’s right in my face and I’m still going through a lot of the side effects. I’ve been bleeding for a month. It’s been a bad time personally. But at the same time, I find a lot of strength knowing that I’m not alone. I thought I would have to take a step back from reading all the stories, but I’ve actually found it quite helpful.”
Ng hopes that ultimately, there will be less shame associated with infertility. “I don’t want people to feel as ashamed as I did in the past. I think all of us want people to feel empowered by it; in knowing that we’re not alone and that we can talk about it without feeling like it’s a secret and there’s no one else who can understand in this world.”