NARRATIVES (IN)FERTILITY: ORGANIZING AND EMBODIMENT IN SILENCE AND STIGMA
Within the United States, infertility diagnoses are becoming increasingly commonplace, yet treatment often remains shrouded in stigma and silence. Consequently, for the women going through it, infertility is an isolating experience. Infertility is frequently conceived through notions of medicalization, which prompts a disembodied, scientific, ‘never give up’ discourse that often leaves women feeling disempowered and further alone. This study considers how individual narratives of infertility contributes to the organizing of a social identity of infertility, one which abuts and diverges from medicalized notions. In adopting theories related to narrative organizing, tenuous identity/identification, resilience, and social support this project engages a feminist-interpretivist framework. In doing so, this study draws upon a three-phase methodological engagement of (1) online ethnographic observations and auto-ethnographic reflections, (2) in-depth interviewing of participants narratives and networks related to (in)fertility, and (3) text mining and semantic network analysis of public discourses related to (in)fertility.
Findings from this project reveal how infertility is discursively-materiality organized to both embrace and disengage from medicalized logics. First, analysis of personal and organizational narratives illustrate how infertility is construed through competing tensions of loss, empowerment, and support. Second, identities were shown to be communicated as potentially tenuous, liminal, and/or challenged during the process of infertility as women cope with an ambiguous future; however, so too can identities be considered a source of strength and hope. Third, through conceptualizing resilience as a communicatively constructed process, this study showcases the embodied nature of resilience as it ebbs and flows throughout treatment. And fourth, in analyzing social and semantic networks this project interrogates individual and organizational discourses, building a more holistic, yet still thoroughly partial, understanding of effective supportive communication during treatment. Through this process, this study reveals how online support groups re-center the women’s body and emotions as central to the (in)fertility experience, while noting the disembodiment that occurs within health clinics. This study advances knowledge on emergent, embodied organizing and the communicative construction of resilience through considering the intrapersonal and embodied aspects of resilience. Through conceptualizing embodied organizing and embodied resilience, this project advances theories of antenarrative, emergent organizing, and self-persuasive rhetoric. Methodologically, this study contributes to qualitative inquiry by linking crystallization methodologies with network science. Additionally, this project offers recommendations for family members, friends, and medical professionals on how to promote resilience within women receiving infertility treatment.