Every year, RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, designates a week to bring awareness to those struggling with infertility. It’s called ‘National Infertility Awareness Week’ (NIAW) and officially starts on Sunday, April 20th and ends on Saturday, April 26th.
While this event brings needed attention to infertility to the public at large for a week, for some, infertility is for a lifetime. That is why when I read this year’s theme, “Resolve to Know More…”, I was particularly inspired.
If you’ve been reading my blog on a regular basis, if you’ve seen some of the pieces I’ve written on various other sites, if you connect with me through my job (which is in the infertility space), or if you simply talk to me for more than ten minutes, you know that infertility issues are something that I’m deeply passionate about year round. I strive to help and support others who fight this heartbreaking and isolating disease as much as I try to inform the public that infertility affects one in eight couples and must not be ignored or dismissed with a, “Just relax and it will happen.”
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to have children. To be a mother was the most important goal to me. So when I started trying to conceive and nothing was happening, it cut me deeper than I could have ever even imagined. I became a different person. I was depressed, resentful, and felt like a tremendous failure. You never know how often the subject of babies, pregnancy and parenthood come up in every day life until it becomes something you so desperately want and can’t achieve.
My marriage became strained, my friendships suffered, our savings account was depleted and I began to avoid people and situations for fear they would ask me why I hadn’t had children yet. This time in my life was a dark period of endless doctor appointments, blood work, therapy, sonograms, calls to my insurance company, injecting hormones and wondering what I did wrong to deserve this.
To get the diagnosis of “Unexplained Infertility” made me feel even worse. Without any answers, I’d never know when or if this nightmare would end.
Although there were many things that helped me during this period, the biggest most valuable lifesaver was the infertility community itself. They not only empathized, supported me, and cheered me on but quite frankly, they were my best resource in teaching me what I needed to know about infertility treatment.
It was my fertility challenged friends who told me to ice before I did a hormone shot in my stomach, who told me what an autoimmune panel was and among many other tidbits, gave me the single best piece of advice ever: to get a second opinion.
On my third in vitro, when my husband and I were paying out of pocket and money was tight, again, the community came to my rescue. They donated their medications to us. I had one friend while we were at the movies pass me a vial of progesterone in oil, another who gave me her left over boxes of Gonal-F and I even received estrogen patches from a fellow infertile that lived all the way in Ireland.
Much to my surprise, I’m often asked why I still care so deeply about infertility issues since I now have a son. This question astounds me. How could I NOT care???
I have not forgotten for one second what infertility put me through. More importantly, I have not forgotten the community, like RESOLVE, like my fellow bloggers and like my very dear infertility friends on Twitter and Facebook, that helped me. I would never abandon them when in truth, I owe them for so very much.
I know so much more now that I didn’t know back when I started my journey. I know that infertility is a real medical disease. None of us have done anything to deserve it and “just relaxing” will never solve the problem.
I know the best way for friends and family to support someone going through infertility is to just say, “I’m so sorry. What can I do to help?"
I know that you can be an advocate for yourself and find another doctor if you are at all unsure about the treatment you’re currently getting. This is a big deal and YOU are a big deal. If you’re not enthusiastic about your protocol, you take your fabulous uterus somewhere else and get another opinion.
I know just how much the public really doesn’t understand infertility. When I wrote an article recently about thinking before you ask people why then don’t have children, some of the comments showed how uninformed people are. This is why I firmly believe we can educate others in our own way: Whether you join us for National Advocacy Day or whether you privately confide in a friend that you have been diagnosed with this issue, you are making others aware.
I know that it doesn’t have to be IF you become a mom. Sometimes the question just is HOW you become a mom. There are so many options: donor egg, surrogacy, embryo adoption, donor sperm, etc. If you feel comfortable with exploring all of these family building options, then your choices open up.
Finally, I know that living childfree is not giving up. It’s making a choice to put your hope in another part of your life. It’s courageous to acknowledge when you feel this is something you need to move on from.
I’m so grateful to RESOLVE for giving the community an opportunity to draw attention to this condition. I know coming out of the infertility closet isn’t easy so I have sincere respect to those who choose to keep this issue private. However, I do want to say that if myself, RESOLVE or others like me can hold your hand, lift you up (like others did for me) and help you resolve to know more, you have a standing invitation all year round.
To learn more, please visit these links:
http://www.resolve.org/infertility101 (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)
http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html (About NIAW)
With hope and humor always,