It started some fifteen years ago. The time, circumstance, and context were different, but its presence was visceral, consuming.
We spoke in hushed tones about it most of the time, as if we were trying not to awaken the elephant in the room. If we did, we thought, it would surely trample us. Say nothing of what that elephant would do to our friends and families.
So we continued to whisper through doctor’s visits, injections, and blood work. We whispered so only we could hear. We whispered those three letters over and over again, so much so that if you listened closely, you’d confuse it for a chant. An incantation.
i.v.f. i.v.f. i.v.f. i.v.f. i.v.f. i.v.f.
Being told we couldn’t have children without medical intervention sequestered us into a statistical corner from which we thought we may never return. Sure, we found out, there are countless people who are huddled in their own corners, but it didn’t make ours seem any less claustrophobic. And because of a nascent, growing shame, we hushed our tones and suffered in relative silence.
And then Abby was born, thirteen years ago today, in fact. What came next was a guttural, cathartic yawp of those same three letters. We were finished whispering. We were ready to exclaim.
I.V.F. I.V.F. I.V.F. I.V.F. I.V.F. I.V.F.
Now the whispers are back, but instead of us doing the whispering, we have become the subject of the whispering.
Did you hear?
I had no idea!
Someone has to find out what happened.
The news of our divorce was surprising only to those who weren’t paying attention. But that’s not what caused the whispers. People get divorced every day. No, these whispers were meant to protect us and to insulate others.
No one wants to talk openly about divorce because that’s salt in the wounds, an inadvertent schadenfreude. Plus, people don’t want to speak the word into existence, so they whisper it, convinced it won’t hear as it searches for its next victim.
But we took that power away. We talked to each other every step of the way, against the advice of counsel, and hid nothing from our kids. We’ve said the word divorce so many times and in so many ways that it’s become semantic satiation.
Where we once shouted IVF, we now shout DIVORCE.
Is your school full of hushed tones? Are students and staff terrified to say the quiet part out loud for fear of reprisal? Are trauma informed practice and SEL big, bad wolves we don’t talk about (like Bruno) for fear that they’ll come for us? Do your teachers share their “stuff” with each other? With you?
Listen, I won’t tell you that our culture is so synchronous that we never whisper, conspiratorially or otherwise. And we don’t overshare, blurring personal and professional lines. But we do know each other and our kids. We care deeply about each other’s lives outside of school. We model and celebrate what it means to be connected every day. We speak up when one of us is threatened or demeaned.
And we listen.
Because sometimes those whispers are begging to be heard.