"Daddy, were you made in a bottle?"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Daddy, were you made in a bottle like I was?"
Of all the questions to hear from my 5 1/2-year-old daughter before 8 a.m., I was not expecting that one.
"No, buddy. I wasn't made in a bottle."
Deep breath, because 8 a.m. or not, that’s a tough question to have to answer. There are layers and layers to it, ones my daughter doesn't even realize are there.
"Because, buddy, some people are, and some people aren’t."
"OK," and she went back to not putting her socks on.
This year, we started to tell her the story of ... her. She's at the age when kids start to ask questions about where babies come from, and my kid (the product of two former reporters) asks a ton of questions. So my wife told her one night the basics about how she was made. The term test-tube baby is a misnomer. The science actually happens in a petri dish. Somehow, my kid translated this to a bottle.
Telling her how she was made is a delicate thing, beyond the usual delicateness of describing how a baby is made. We want her to know her story and be proud of it. We want her to know that Mama and Daddy wanted to have her so much that we did a lot of work to do so. We want her to know that we loved her so much before she was even born. But paradoxically, we also want her to look at her story as no big deal. So she was made in a bottle. It's just another part of her story, like her love of Rey, The Avett Brothers and theater.
But we do want to talk about it. Talking is what this week is about. It's raising awareness that one in 8 couples deals with infertility issues. Just five years ago, when our daughter was born, it was one in 10 couples. There are even more people who need to talk about it now. If you’re going through it, you’re far from alone in the early morning blood draws, the lunch-hour doctor’s appointments, the bills that aren’t covered by insurance, the questions, the fears, the tears, the hope.
Every year, my wife and I tell our story. We do it because you need to talk about it to make it easier, tolerable, OK. It makes it less scary. My wife had a friend who was her safe space during her treatments, and she was able to tell her things she didn't even tell me. This is my fourth year telling our story, and every time, someone has reached out to us to tell us theirs. Sometimes, they’re people we didn’t even know, connected to us through a friend who knew someone needed a friend. Someone who needed to talk about it.
And it’s working. People are talking. Mark Zuckerberg, Jimmy Fallon, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, Elizabeth Banks, Hugh Jackman, Courteney Cox, Giuliana Rancic. People at work, people in our family, people like you. People who weren’t talking about it just five years ago. The door is open, and we need more of it. That's what this week is for.
The theme for this year's National Infertility Awareness Week is #StartAsking. That's what talking about it it does. It lets us start asking insurance companies for better coverage. It lets us start asking for help and creating spaces where couples dealing with this can find help, advice and a sympathetic ear. It lets people ask for a friend who gets it.
It lets my daughter ask about being made in a bottle. And it makes her story a beautiful one to tell.