Don’t Ignore Infertility Week

If I have any proficiency displaying the badge above, then you already know that this is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) brought to you by the amazing folks at RESOLVE.

One of the most frustrating elements of my struggle with infertility was how invisible I felt – how, outside the world of online support networks and largely anonymous bloggers – I was alone in the world. Even at my fertility clinic, patients would sit in the waiting room, not daring to look at one another. Only a sheer thread of something resembling shame united us all in our loneliness.

It used to really upset me that more people, particularly celebrities who we all know went through infertility treatments, wouldn’t speak up about infertility and their experiences. It seemed that once infertiles got pregnant, they were thrilled to leave the club (who wouldn’t be?) and join the fertile sorority on the other side of the glass wall that kept us apart.

There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy recognition as I write this… knowing that my blog, too, is anonymous (largely because my husband is intensely private, but also to give me the freedom to write the truth) and when I was struggling, I only let a few people – people who had already been through some version of infertility – know what I was going through. It seemed too shameful, too raw to reveal in the midst of it, that something was wrong with me and I couldn’t do/produce/have/be something that I had always assumed was my birthright as a woman.

Our last IVF cycle broke down a lot of walls for me – largely because I was desperate. I told just about all my friends in the effort to solicit their prayers and “good vibes” and create a last attempt at some type of synergy of prayer… like a loudspeaker to God. I had to do a lot of educating along the way, even to my friend who is studying to become a nurse! I was/am astonished about just how little people know about infertility treatments (but that’s the subject of another blog). In some ways, telling people was healing and helped to explain a lot of my absence at social events and baby showers (eek!), but in other ways, I felt I had exposed too much vulnerability, especially when people inadvertently (as they do) said things that were well-meaning, yet incredibly hurtful.

When our third IVF proved successful – and miraculously so – I briefly wondered if I, too, would be one of those women who slip silently out of this dreaded club and into the gleaming world of “normal” pregnant women. People who see me might assume – as I did whenever I saw a pregnant woman – that she was an “other,” an outsider to the world of infertility. But at every opportunity now, I’m completely open about what it took to get here and how amazingly lucky and grateful I am.

Yesterday, I had my blood drawn for the 2nd trimester screening that the State performs and my phlebotomist asked me (since I’m already showing at 15+ weeks) if we knew the sex of the baby. I told her that the doctors hadn’t been able to see it on the ultrasound yet, but we knew it was a girl because this was an IVF pregnancy and we had done genetic testing. She said, “You can choose the sex now?!” I told her that that wasn’t the reason we did the genetic testing. And somehow, our entire story about the three IVFs, the 36 embryos, the old eggs, the ONE normal embryo in the entire bunch, the transfer, the absolute miraculous nature of our pregnancy – the whole thing, condensed into a three minute story, with tears filling my eyes – came spilling out.

As I left the lab, I thought to myself, that’s how you do it… one person at a time… one story at a time, making ourselves visible, real, human. That’s how you make a difference.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jesica
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 08:02:59

    One person at a time is right! Love it! I try, as often as possible, when people start talking about my pregnancy to mention what a long road it was to get to where we are. And hopefully open up the conversation to questions if they have any. I don’t want ANYONE to think this happened easily and never let anyone walk away thinking that’s the case if I can help it.

    Reply

    • msfertility
      Apr 25, 2012 @ 11:50:25

      I think that’s great! It would be so easy to sweep it under the rug if we wanted to… but that seems to dishonor the experiences we’ve had and what it took to get here, plus, when I was struggling, there were a few pregnant women who talked to me about their struggles and it helped me have hope more than anything else! We’ve earned our stripes, dammit! 😉

      Reply

  2. Daryl
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 17:13:54

    Amen! I love this post! I am fairly open about our infertility and the steps we’re taking to try to have a baby. For the most part, I’ve been met with understanding and sympathy, at least to my face. It’s scary to talk about something so personal and private, but if it helps one person, that’s enough!

    Reply

    • msfertility
      Apr 25, 2012 @ 18:32:57

      I think people really are sympathetic – the ones who say hurtful things probably (in my case at least) didn’t realize that it was hurtful. Like the “Why are you spending so much money? Why don’t you just adopt?” question. Grrrr.
      But I do think it’s important, when you can and feel okay with sharing the info yourself, to talk to people and tell them even a part of your story. It’s amazing how sometimes people will open up and share their experiences with you, too.

      Reply

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