Dara Torres: 9 time medalist in swimming, 5-time Olympiad, 41-years-old (and the oldest female swimmer), incredible powerhouse. And stirrup queen to boot. With 7.4 million Americans diagnosed with infertility, it makes sense that a portion of Olympic athletes would need a little help in the non-equestrian stirrups. But certainly Dara Torres's openness in talking about IVF has made her a hero in the infertility blogosphere.
And her reason for speaking out is to remove the stigma of infertility. As she said back in 2004 when she was still doing treatments to conceive her daughter, "I only know of people who have spoken about their problems getting pregnant after they succeeded. That's great but I felt that people who are struggling with this need to hear from someone going through it just like they are."
Kicks ass in the swimming pool and kicks ass on dry land.
It's interesting how the Olympics--like all major events--become entwined through infertility depending on when you are cycling. I guarantee you that the women who are going through IVF this week or are paper pregnant through adoption will have emotional moments when the next summer Olympics rolls through four years from now. They will remember giving themselves an injection as a male gymnast tackles the parallel bars. They will remember how they were holding their cordless phone in one hand, willing their social worker to ring. And every time the Olympics rolls around, they will be brought back to this time period.
Miss E from Miss E's Musings has a post this week about how she felt watching the last Olympics vs. how she feels now, pregnant with twins after IVF. She writes, "During the last Olympics I was acutely aware that I had accomplished comparatively zilch in my life and yet was older than nearly all the athletes, so the games made for kind of sucky viewing. Thankfully I've gotten past that stage and now just lust after the young male athletes, especially the swimmers."
Meghan and Bill's Adoption Adventure is literally coming to a milestone during the Olympics. They are in Moscow, bringing their son, Nick, into his new family. Reading her blog this week, I became as emotional as I was seeing Michael Phelps screaming for joy at the end of his relay. She writes of this moment:
Now I'm sitting here, watching the Olympics and contemplating how our lives are going to change in the span of less than 24 hours. I know some of you out there are probably thinking, how dramatic, its just a child, everyone does it. The thing is, after years of trying to start a family, unsuccessful fertility treatments, disappointment after disappointment, you start to think that maybe it isn't your destiny to have children, maybe you aren't meant to be a parent, you can be the fun aunt. But you press on, desperately trying to make something happen, in hopes that your dream of having a family will finally come true. I can hardly believe that our dream is finally going to become a reality. I'm quite overwhelmed and very excited (and a little scared)!It is this strange thing to watch this pinnacle of bodily achievement when your own body is not cooperating on the baby-making front. Stacey's Thoughts on Infertility has a wistful post about living life as a SAHW when she always thought she'd be a SAHM. "It actually felt pretty great today because I got some house cleaning done to the tune of the Olympics on TV. It was pretty inspirational. I think I turned in at least a silver medal performance. But it doesn't feel great day in and day out." In the end, she admits, she doesn't feel like she has contributed to the world, and there is nothing like the Olympics to bring out that emotion.
It is hard to watch people achieve their dreams when you're not achieving your own. We're not seeing the people who didn't make it to the Olympics when we're watching the games--we're seeing the athletes who applied themselves and achieved their dreams. And there is a very bittersweet analogy for infertile people in the fertile world. No one sees the hard work or the sacrifices or the struggle when they see someone infertile. Our focus, as a nation, is with the woman who achieves. Who is carrying the baby or has the belly bump. Infertile women are like the athletes still stuck in Topeka, Kansas. The ones watching the games on television instead of executing their balance beam routine in Beijing. Wondering what went wrong, why they didn't make the team despite their hard work.
My own infertility tie to the Olympics came from the premature birth of the twins. We were supposed to be watching the opening ceremonies at home. Instead, we were across the street from the hospital, in a hotel while our twins were in the NICU. Nothing was how I imagined it would be. It is impossible not to get emotional when the Olympics rolls around again and I see all of our legs tangled around each other as we lie as a family in a hotel bed on vacation, explaining Chinese brush painting to our four-year-olds. I'm sure I will still feel this rush of emotion, this memory of infertility, four years and eight years and twelve years down the line as each Summer Olympics is televised.
My only hope for those future games is that more Olympians--these pinnacles of health and bodily dominance--come forward like Dara Torres and use their moment in the spotlight to also show the fallibility of the body. And, as a result, ask all of us to tread carefully when huge emotions are at stake.