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Shame: The Power Behind Secrecy in Non-Traditional Family Building

Secrecy has been the 'buzz' word for the infertile as they struggle to have the family they so desperately want. Keeping the secret has done more to impede awareness and public understanding of the plight of the infertile.

Individuals were counseled, convinced, advised, and even coerced into keeping their reproductive activities quiet. The guise of privacy served as the political tactic to supposedly aid and abet the infertile.

From the archives of adoption practices, through the establishment of sperm banking, to the more recent development of egg donation programs, secrecy disguised as privacy has been the touted conventional wisdom.

Reproductive practitioners counsel and advise their patients to keep their reproductive choices quiet so no one will know that their child is not biologically related to one or both parents. The purported purpose allows parents to live their lives without the fear of being ostracized. This makes perfect sense on one level, but makes little sense when you examine the bigger picture.

Whenever one questions the motivations for maintaining the secret you only have to dig a little deeper to uncover the "shame" that is associated with not being able to have children in the traditional way. Shame about failing at traditional procreation, shame about not having a genetically conceived baby, shame about being prodded, poked, examined, and intruded upon, and shame about not being man enough, woman enough, or whole enough.

It is the shame that wrecks havoc on the infertile's life, and fuels the discomfort of the family building process. Infertility is a difficult enough experience without the explosive component of shame. It is the shame that builds walls between people whether it be between family members or friends. It forces one to isolate oneself and withdraw from life's happenings.

Shame sets up barriers between people and inhibits the development of relationships and unimpeded communication. It contributes to an individualÕs feeling self consciousness and discomfort as they work hard to protect the secret. Secrets can have a corrupting influence on family life. If we are to legitimize and respect alternative ways of building families, we must question what it is we are needing to protect.

Are nontraditional family building options shameful? If they are not, then we are obligated to rethink our position on secrecy. And this perhaps could be the greatest legacy the infertile can offer to their children - the children that are here and the children that will be here soon.