My trying to conceive journey starting in 2009 and it changed my entire life. Truly. Every single aspect of it. From my personal life, to my friends, my interests, my job, my outlook on life and how I deal with people. It’s honestly impossible to overstate the impact being diagnosed with infertility has had on me.
Its 2015 now, years later, and the reality is that I’m in a very different place than when I first started out on this journey (or rollercoaster as the case may be). However, I still care tremendously about this issue and remain outspoken about it. Not only do I remember every little hurt and setback in great detail and share it with both my fertility challenged and fertile friends and family but through my role at Fertility Authority, I speak daily to people who all struggle with that nagging question, “Why can’t I have children?”
As was the case with me, so many of them feel like they are the only ones in their social circles or family that can’t conceive. Why me? Why am I dealing with this when everyone around me can get pregnant? What am I going to do?
Staying connected with the infertility community as well as working with fertility patients continues to educate me on all that people go through to work through, deal, cope, fight and struggle with this heart breaking medical diagnosis.
This is one of the things I like most about RESOLVE’S National Infertility Awareness Week: That it gives those of us who have gone through treatment time to reflect on our own journey, hear other people’s stories and make the fertile public at large that this is something that exists and doesn’t go away by a romantic night, a vacation or by just relaxing. We are not only reminding others that we exist but honestly, I think we’re also reminding ourselves that there are so many others out there like us.
As I posted on Twitter this morning: No matter where you are in your journey – kids or no kids, YOU exist and YOUR feelings matter just as much as anyone else’s.
And why is this so important to say? Because infertility is so often isolating. It can be a lonely, devastating experience even when you’re in a room of fellow infertiles.
So when I read this year’s theme: You’re Not Alone, it got me thinking more than previous year’s themes. I immediately recognized this statement to be true. “I’m not alone” is accurate on an intellectual and factual level. Many, many women and men are diagnosed and/or suffer from fertility issues.
However, when you’re in the trenches, even when you connect with others going through the same thing as you, for reasons I can’t explain – the reality is you still often feel alone.
Right now, if you’re peeing on a pregnancy test for what feels like the four hundredth time only to see yet another big fat negative, if you’re friend tells you she’s pregnant with her third child by accident when you’re waiting to get pregnant just once, if you still have empty arms after trying timed cycles, insemination, IVF, etc. and I sit you down and say, “Hey – Did you know infertility affects 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age? So you’re not alone!” — Would that make everything less painful? Would you truly feel better?
It reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to worry about this, that and the other thing (I was a worrier) and my dad would say, “Don’t worry!” I wanted to tell him, “Don’t worry? Why, that’s brilliant! I never thought of that! You should sell t-shirts! My worrying problems are over!”
I remember there were a series of months when we were trying to get pregnant when I would get my period and immediately go to bed (even if it was 4pm in the afternoon), stay there and cry until I fell asleep for the night. In those moments, I felt incredibly alone and no one could have told me anything different.
While one in eight people may have understood me and my struggle, I was still surrounded by seven people who not only didn’t relate but who also seemed to get pregnant easily while asking me why I didn’t have children yet.
PLEASE KNOW that I’m not at all trying to be disrespectful or dismissive of the phrase. These are exceptionally important words that we, as I said earlier, need to be reminded of often. Also, regular readers, followers and friends of mine will attest that over the years, I’ve said repeatedly how very much my fellow fertility challenged friends have saved me. Their support, their understanding, their compassion and more than anything, the short hand we share, is unparalleled. When I was actively trying to conceive and I would say to one of them, “I got invited to a baby shower…” they would all know EXACTLY what I was feeling without me having to elaborate. The guilt you feel for not being able to be happy for whosever shower it was, the dread of having to go (when you simply couldn’t get out of it), the deep sadness you had that it wasn’t your baby shower and the nagging fear that you’d never know if you’d ever have a shower. Ever.
So while I would never pretend to have all of the answers, while I can’t say my experience is similar to yours and while I don’t know if telling you, “You’re not alone.” is going to bring you much comfort, this week is a reminder that truly – this is worldwide issue that affects so many and needs to be acknowledged by ALL of us.
If I could try to offer any additional words of comfort – I’d say this:
You’ve done nothing wrong, no one deserves this and infertility is in no way a reflection on who you are, what makes you amazing and the many accomplishments you’ve had and continue to have.
You do have many family building options open to you if you can afford them and decide you’d like to pursue them.
You have every right to tell friends, family or anyone else that asking any questions related to your reproductive parts is NOT ok.
If you feel comfortable, I would encourage you to use those opportunities where someone asks you when you’re having children to educate others on infertility.
Always feel free to lean on your fellow infertiles because not only are they amazing people who can relate but they also know better than anyone else those feelings of isolation.
PLEASE be your own advocate: Get second and third opinions, seek out anything and everything that will help get you through this (support groups, hobbies, writing your own blog, going to the gym, etc.) and do what you need to do to stay sane.
If you’re going to a family party, college reunion, any function where the kids question may come up, I highly recommend making a list of your accomplishments ahead of time to have in your memory bank. You may have just gotten a promotion, bought a new house, are planning a vacation – have those in your head so you can not only redirect the conversation but you can remind yourself that you ARE still an awesome person with amazing things going on.
Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know if any of this helps as everyone has to find the secret sauce to working through it all for themselves BUT I do hope it’s a reminder that there is a community that surrounds you and is here to offer advice as much as they are to listen to your thoughts.
And to those who are a diagnosed infertile as well as to any of my fertile friends who are reading this, you can learn more about infertility by visiting these links:
http://www.resolve.org/about-infertility/what-is-infertility/ (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)
With hope and humor always,