Exactly three months ago, I gave birth to a baby boy that I achieved through my third IVF. My husband and I never received a diagnosis (other than, “It sucks to be you.”) and on our last in vitro, we only had one embryo to show for it. I’m proud to say that the one embryo is currently smiling and drooling on his “One Good Egg” onesie.
Those who follow my blog though know that the third in vitro cycle was the one where I had the least amount of hope, the least amount of finances and I dare say the least amount of sanity I had ever had before. When I think of “Don’t Ignore…”, it’s impossible for me to come up with just one thing as a flood of feelings, thoughts and emotions overwhelm me. There are so many aspects to infertility that not only we as a community ignore, but that the rest of the world does too. It all makes me think of my two current favorite quotes. The first not only accurately describes my feelings on my journey through infertility, one that spanned approximately three years, but it also would be my advice to those who are still in the thick of it. It’s, “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m saying it’s going to be worth it.” The second quote is from RuPaul and is, “My goal is to always come from a place of love ...but sometimes you just have to break it down for a mother*cker.” Amen sister!
The first quote reminds those struggling to get pregnant that although the process can be long, arduous, painful and so many other non-fun adjectives, once you become a mother, it is worth it. It won’t matter if it’s through insemination, in vitro, donor eggs, adoption, etc. If you want to be a mom, although it may not be the way you had hoped or planned, once you hold that child in your arms, it won’t matter. You will be a mom.
The second quote speaks to the rest of the world who asks couples, “When are you going to have kids already?” in front of their families at a relative’s baby shower or random guests at cocktail parties who give such genius unsolicited medical advice like, “Have you had tried having sex and leaving your socks on? That’s what got me pregnant!” Quite often, the “fertile community at large” doesn’t stop and say, “Hmmm. Here’s a couple that don’t have kids and they don’t talk about it. Maybe making comments, giving advice or asking personal questions can be insensitive, rude and hurtful?”
And even worse, when the “fertile community at large” DOES know you have an issue and tries to comfort you by saying, “Just relax and it will happen…”, that’s when, as RuPaul implies, you need to break it down for them and say, “I realize you heard a story about your sister getting pregnant after she tried acupuncture but different things work for different people. Ultimately, we’re in good hands with our Reproductive Endocrinologist. Thanks anyway for the tip.”
Keeping all of this in mind, here is my personal list of what I feel shouldn’t be ignored:
Don’t Ignore that Others Need to be Educated: Infertility is a real medical issue that can’t be pushed aside by some stupid piece of advice. If you confide in someone that you’re having fertility issues and they suggest an herb or that you weren’t meant to have kids, don’t accept that. I’m not saying start arguments with everyone but rather, take a deep breath and look at it as an opportunity to educate. For example, I can’t tell you how many people I had to explain the difference between ‘transferring’ an embryo and ‘implanting’ an embryo or what exactly is ICSI or that suggesting adoption to someone who may not yet be considering it isn't helpful. Because of mine and my husband's willingness to be open, my family and friends have learned so much that they weren't aware of. Just by sharing our story, we are advocates of educating others about infertility. I'm proud and happy to report that when these same family and friends encountered other people who are dealing with infertility (which believe it or not, they all did), they were way more sensitive and informed.
Don’t Ignore Each Other: There is an understanding that infertiles share even without actually having met one another. We know the feelings of disappointment, shame, frustration and heartbreak. You don’t have to feel alone as there are so many out there who understand, relate and can help you with what you’re going through. Whether it’s through a support group, Twitter, a blog or a chat room -- reach out, share and cheer each other on. I also urge you to not play the “Whose Pain is Worse Contest" with one another. It doesn’t matter and it doesn’t help. We all have different experiences, wins and losses but ultimately, we must stick together. After all, how can we expect the world to support us if we can’t support each other?
Don’t Ignore What You’ve Accomplished: There are many who have struggled with infertility and went on to have healthy babies that wouldn’t mind putting it behind them. Although I totally understand this, I don’t feel that way. Infertility was a huge, major part of my life for quite some time. It put my marriage, my body, my checking account and my sense of humor through hell. Yes, I have a baby now but I can never turn my back on those who are still in the trenches nor could I forget what I went through. It doesn’t take away the joy I feel over my son… if anything, it reminds me how much perseverance and patience can pay off. I take great pride in sharing with anyone and everyone that I had a very difficult time getting pregnant but it did happen and I’m so very grateful. To be clear though, even if you’re still working towards starting a family, that doesn’t mean you haven’t accomplished a whole freaking lot. You should be extremely proud of the process you are putting yourself through… which leads me to my next, “Don’t Ignore…”
Don’t Ignore the Strength You Have: No matter where you’re at in the trying to get knocked up rollercoaster, I promise you – you’re stronger than you think. I’ve met so many beyond amazing women who have been through situations and scenarios that I didn’t even know that were possible and they somehow made it through. Find a theme song, indulge in a guilty pleasure, get your nails done, schedule a therapy session and have a romantic dinner out where you DON’T discuss your cervical mucus. Fight the good fight as we all have it within us. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; women who have infertility issues ARE the Masters of the Uterus. We are superheros who willingly subject ourselves to physical torture, who endure tests and conversations that are truly unpleasant and who keep going in the hopes of fulfilling our dreams of motherhood. We not only all deserve rewards, we all deserve babies.
Don't Ignore the LOGO Channel: I realize this is a slightly silly point but one I feel compelled to make... especially to those who are currently going through a cycle. Each time I did one of my inseminations or an in vitro, the LOGO channel was my best friend during my two week wait. Being that it is considered the "gay channel", there are, for whatever reason, no commercials about pregnancy tests or what's the best diaper. There are no sitcoms or plot lines where someone gets knocked up by being sneezed on or any reality shows about people with 500 kids. There are commericals mainly for plant food and excercise equipment, plus, you can watch one of my favorite shows, RuPaul's Drag Race, where everyone is beautiful with the help of some make-up and duct tape. It is a fun escape that will not only distract you from your follicle count, but it will make you want to run out, buy false eyelashes and dance to some disco.
Don’t Ignore Hope: Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.” Although this isn’t a light hearted fun quote (I sense Nietzsche was not fun at parties), it was one I thought of often when trying to get pregnant. It’s so hard to hope as we all know that infertility makes no promises. Things don’t always work out. Not everyone gets the happy ending they deserve. However, given our options, it’s better to have hope then to have none at all. I also believe with all of my heart that although things may not be the way we had expected, it doesn’t make it any less rewarding. There may be a conclusion to your journey that isn’t at all what you imagined but that will surpass your wildest dreams. Perhaps in the end, we shouldn’t hope for what we want. We should hope for the best possible outcome… whatever that is.
Lastly, Don’t Ignore the Gift of Humor: Again, regular readers of my blog know how often I employed making jokes to cope. IVF for me stood for “I’m Very Fertile” or “I’m Very Funny” depending on what day it was. When they found I had a uterine polyp, I named him Jackson Polyp and gave him his own Twitter account. Once, I was at a restaurant and the waitress asked me how I wanted my eggs and I told her, “Fertilized and implanted, thank you.” It’s not easy but to make light of the situation is the only way to go. Never ignore an opportunity for a good joke. Your sanity will thank you for it.
During National Infertility Awareness Week, I plan on not only sharing my journey with others through Twitter, Facebook (on both my real life account and my infertility account) and here on my blog, but I’m also working on something I’m very proud of called the “Infertility Sponsorship Program” (check back next week for the details). I will also spend this week trying to find clothes that fit, locate a cream that gets rid of cellulite and preparing to go back to work after maternity leave. NOTE TO SELF: Remember not to burp my fellow co-workers after they eat lunch.
To my regular blog readers, I’m so sorry for being out of touch this last month or so. One of the good things about having to go back to work is I’ll have more time to blog on my lunch hour!
For now, here are two links about National Infertility Awareness Week and Resolve: