Wednesday, April 23, 2014

National Infertility Awareness Week

National Infertility Awareness Week.  A year ago I didn't know this week existed.  Now, it's one I'll never forget.  This week we are encouraged to speak out about our struggle, our experiences, and our pain to generate awareness that infertility not only exists, but affects 1 in 8 couples.  Yes, you heard me right.
1 in 8. 

I thought a lot about what I wanted to write.  There's a part of me that feels like I am not entitled to write a post like this since my blog is anonymous.  D, my husband, isn't fully comfortable with being as open about our struggle as I am.  I think in part he worries about me and people saying things that would cause me more pain.  I think part of it is him being a more private person than me.  And I think part of it is him not knowing how to handle all of this.  Whatever the reasons he's my husband and I respect his wishes.  I'm hoping that it doesn't make me a fraud to write a post about Awareness when I'm doing so anonymously.  But the truth is that I have a cut in this game.  We are in it - deeper than we ever imagined we would be.

Where do I start?  When my husband and I were married we couldn't wait to start trying to have a family.  While I've always thought in my head that my biggest fear in life would be not being able to have kids, I never truly expected to have to live out that fear.  In fact, I was very open with our friends and family that we were trying.  Like if I said it out loud it would happen.  Obviously it didn't and as we began to know more about what we were up against I spent hours upon hours researching all of the tests they were running on us and the potential diagnosis.  My emotions were all over the place.  Of course there was fear and worry.  But mixed in there was also shame and embarrassment.  There's such a stigma around making a baby.  When a woman gets pregnant men are congratulated, patted on the back, proudly declaring their manhood!  What a manly man that gets his wife pregnant!  When you struggle to conceive a child you feel like there's something wrong with you.  We were put on this earth to procreate.  It's the most basic of our instincts as humans.  And when it's not happening you begin to question everything.  What did we do wrong?  Are we being punished?  Why is this happening to us?   On top of all of the pain it's not socially acceptable to talk about.  And that stigma only deepens the hurt, embarrassment and shame for those of us experiencing it.  My friend Amanda wrote this....

Infertility lives in the shadows. No one wants to talk about reproductive organs, menstrual cycles, or intercourse. No one wants to admit that reproduction, the most basic of functions alludes them. It's far more glamorous to pretend the Hollywood stars bearing children in their forties are the norm. No woman wants to imagine that her reproductive clock stopped ticking in her twenties. No man wants to worry if he's "man enough" for the task. It's far easier to ignore infertility, to shove it further into the dark recesses and hope it goes away. But the truth is that infertility is more prevalent than ever before. Even if you are never affected by infertility, I can almost assure you that you will know someone who is. 

After getting over the shock and disappointment of our diagnosis that is when the hope crept in.  Ok, so having to do IVF to have a baby wasn't ideal (or cheap!) but we could work with this.  No one would even have to know.  I remember my brother telling me at one point "it's not like the baby is going to come out with IVF stamped on his arm!".  So as we (shamefully) accepted money from my parents and prepared for our first IVF cycle I comforted myself with the fact that this would work and everyone would *think* we were normal, even though we were not.  

I'm here to tell you after 2 failed fresh IVF cycles and awaiting number 3 the pain has definitely not dulled.  And I'd like to tell you that the shame and embarrassment have but that wouldn't be 100% true.  There are other emotions that have crept into my over crowded mind as well.  Anger.  Jealously.  Bitterness.  These are not pretty emotions and I'm not proud that I have them. But it's part of dealing with infertility and what we struggle with every day.   

What I can tell you is that what gets me through is knowing there's a whole community of people out there fighting the same fight as me.  I am NOT alone.  WE are not alone.  And the love, support, and understanding I've gotten from this community has been a light in the darkest tunnel.  

It's time to bring infertility out of the shadows. It's time to say, "I am the face of infertility." It's time for infertile couples to feel supported rather than ostracized.  Resolve to know more... know the signs, know the language, know the options. Resolve to know more for yourself. Resolve to know more for those you love

With that being said below is a great resources if you have a friend or loved one struggling with infertility.  So many people, wanting to be helpful, say damaging and hurtful things.  

And once again from my wise and sweet friend.....

If you yourself are not infertile, but someone you know and love is dealing with this painful diagnosis, you too should resolve to know more. It is a breath of fresh air to someone dealing with infertility to carry on a conversation with someone without needing to explain every single thing. I don't really mind explaining or educating, but sometimes it's exhausting. You certainly shouldn't feel like you have to know everything, but you'd be surprised at how supported you can make your friend or family member feel by knowing what IVF and IUI stand for (In Vitro Fertilization and Intrauterine Insemination) and the differences between the two. Or if your friend or family member is looking into adoption, know some of the differences between domestic and international. Resolve provides some excellent resources to help you get started. Believe me, showing an interest in this VERY important part of your person's life will express love more than anything else. There have been times when I've felt like I lived and breathed infertility. It was the ONLY thing on my mind, so when a friend asked how things were going or remembered that we'd had an appointment with our doctor, I felt so loved. The reason to know more isn't to solve the problem for your loved one, so don't spend your time researching quick fixes. Rather spend time learning about what your loved one is interested in or planning to pursue. The reason to know more, isn't to fix the problem, it's to communicate that you care.

 So if you are reading this as a fertile person I encourage you to become informed.  For even if you don't currently "know" someone dealing with infertility odds are one of those close to you is or will be.  I challenge you to care enough to educate yourself to be the best support that you can be.  To think, before you speak.  To research before you advise.  To be patient and forgiving, for your loved one is in the midst of an ugly battle both physically and emotionally.  And most importantly that a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen is the best medicine.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the love, friend! I hope you don't for one second think of yourself as a fraud. You're a person; you have a story, and that makes ANYTHING you have to say this week just as valid. Names and faces just help create bonds and a sense of camaraderie, but they don't validate. You are so valuable to this community! We are lucky to have someone as kindhearted as you to support us on this journey! Much love!