I’m almost embarrassed to say that I almost missed out on posting something about National Infertility Awareness Week since my blog is primarily about infertility. Over the past six days, I’ve been reading amazing posts about how members of the infertility community have opened up about their own infertility journeys, struggles, and successes. I felt like whatever I might decide to write about couldn’t compare to the numerous posts that have already been beautifully written.
However…. Something happened today that changed my unwillingness to want to write a post of my own. Something reminded me why it was so important for me to open up about our infertility struggles and our journey in the first place….
I went to lunch today with some girlfriends who just happen to also be members of the infertility community. At said lunch, I was presented with a care package for our upcoming FET. It wasn’t so much the actual material items that overwhelmed me – it was the fact that so many people have been thinking about me and have gone out their way to offer their love and support towards E and I.
For many couples, infertility can be an isolating experience and very difficult to navigate, especially if you’re going through it alone. While opening up about our journey was scary and nerve-wracking in the beginning, I’ve found that sharing has been extremely beneficial – not only for myself, but for others as well. The generosity of others that was shown to me today reminded me that I couldn’t have made it this far without the support of the infertility community.
Over the years, I’ve joined different support communities. Back in 2010, after our first miscarriage, I decided to start blogging as an emotional outlet for all the overwhelming feelings that I was experiencing. In the beginning, I didn’t have a large amount of followers, but I felt like blogging was therapeutic and helped me deal with our infertility diagnosis and loss. After a few months, I discovered that there were literally hundreds and hundreds of bloggers out there who were traveling down a similar road. I started connecting with a handful of them and eventually joined the infertility community on Twitter. I connected with so many other strong women and even met some local women who have become some of my nearest and dearest friends. I shared my own experiences and received support, advice, and love. I also offered all of the same things back to others. (I think it’s important to remember that this isn’t all about you. You need to reciprocate!)
I was open with family and friends if they ever inquired about why we didn’t have children yet and offered as much information on an as-needed basis. Unfortunately, I came to realize that I didn’t seem to receive the same kind of emotional support as I was receiving through my online support communities. I received mixed reactions from people. I was completely ignored by others. I was hurt and confused. Infertility is a disease that affects so many people – 1 in 8 couples to be exact. Why was I being treated like this didn’t matter? Why did I feel so isolated by those who should have been the most supportive?
When I found out that the theme of this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week was going to be about joining the movement and sharing a variety of information about infertility and changing the conversation about infertility, I made the decision to share more than I have in the past on the mother of all social media – Facebook. While I officially “came out” on Facebook last year during NIAW, I didn’t post often about infertility. I actually didn’t post much at all. I was too busy being a bitter Betty and hiding all of my pregnant friends and oversharing mommy friends. This year, I decided that I would be brave and share more. Maybe the reason why people that I knew in my “real life” couldn’t offer support was because they didn’t know enough about infertility in the first place. I also wanted to bring to light the fact that I most likely was not the only person that people knew who was dealing with infertility.
Throughout the week, I posted information that I gathered from the RESOLVE website – statistical information, frequently asked questions about infertility, and how to offer support to those experiencing infertility. On Tuesday, I posted about our own struggles. About our treatment journey and about our losses. I was amazed by the support that I received. I think the most meaningful comment on that post came from a friend who has not been personally affected by infertility. R’s quote read: “Thank you for opening people’s eyes to this world that so many suffer from in silence. I always wish I could do more to help support people suffering from this. You are truly an inspiration and I pray your journey ends quickly. You are touching many lives for sure.”
This single comment made me feel accomplished. I felt like all of the information that I was willing to share opened someone’s eyes to the struggle that is infertility. I’ve told people time and time again who are shocked by my openness, that if my story can help at least one person, then all this openness will be worth it. If my Facebook posts can help others who don’t know how to offer support to someone they know who is experiencing infertility, I feel accomplished. If my blog posts help a fellow infertile advocate for him or herself during their own journey, I feel accomplished. If my tweets of support help a friend get through a particularly rough patch, I feel accomplished. Typically, I’m a very guarded person in regards to my feelings, but sharing has helped me make it through these past five years of loss and disappointment and sadness.
I will also feel a new sense of accomplishment when I travel to Washington D.C. next week to join numerous other amazing infertility advocates at Advocacy Day. I look forward to meeting so many of my online supporters as well as discuss important legislation that could help more individuals and couples afford infertility treatments. While I’m intimidated to be meeting with political representatives, I’m honored to be representing my community. I want my voice heard. I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to share my passion with others.
Before I end this seemingly long entry, I also want to share some basic information with you about infertility just in case you’re a new reader of my blog.
- Infertility is a disease that affects 1 in 8 couples who are of reproductive age.
- There are many causes of infertility. It is not just a woman’s issue.
- Infertility impacts many different aspects of an individual’s life including: physical, emotional, mental, and financial.
- There are many ways to build your family including: oral medications, IUI, IVF, FET, surrogacy, adoption, embryo adoption, sperm or egg donation, and living as child-free family.
- If you have been trying to conceive for a year (or six months if you’re 35 years or older), there are specialists that can be seen to help you move forward in your journey.
For more information on infertility and NIAW, please visit the following links on the RESOLVE website:
Remember to join the movement. Even though it might be hard to share your story, you have the power to help others open their eyes to the infertility world and support others who are struggling within the community. You CAN make a difference.