Thursday, April 26, 2018

National Infertility Awareness Week

For the 1 in 8 Social Media Image 6
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. It always causes me to reflect more deeply on our struggles to build a family. We’ve always been up front about our journey to have kids. It started out as “we aren’t trying but aren’t not trying.” Then “yes we’re trying.” Next was “it’s jut taking us a little bit longer than it takes some couples.” Finally came “we are 1 in 8 couples that struggle with infertility.”

None of my friends were trying to get pregnant when we were and Rob’s family and friends seemingly got pregnant without even trying. While they were all sympathetic and offered their nicest words to assure us it would happen eventually, no one really understood what we were going through.

I thankfully found a couple great groups of ladies online who were in the thick of the struggle. Some of us had been diagnosed with certain reproductive issues, others had just been trying for months or years with no success, but we all understood the monthly struggles and pain that came with every new cycle and negative pregnancy test. We were experts in reading ovulation tests, charting our cycles, and taking our basal body temperature before getting out of bed each morning. None of us wanted to be experts in those things, however. We all wanted to get pregnant without having to try so hard.

Eventually some of us got pregnant on our own, some of us resorted to medication or ART, artificial reproductive technology, and some of us saw relationships dissolve during the stress of battling infertility. Most of the ladies from the group I’m still in touch with, thank goodness for social media, and even though we’re all at different stages in our lives now, we will always remember the support we offered to each other during such a difficult time. I don’t know that I could have stayed sane through it all without them.

As our journey continued and we moved toward IVF, I began to rely on my sisters and their expertise. They had both been down this road before. All three of us, for totally different and unrelated reasons, had to use IVF to try and build our families. I hate that they had to go down this same path before me, but I am thankful for the knowledge and support they offered me. We never talked about our experiences in depth, but we had  each other to commiserate with over the constant shots, the financial drain, the never ending appointments, the heartache of failed or postpones cycles.

It’s a lot to take on by yourself, or with just your partners support, so why do so many of us keep it hidden from the world? Because we’re judged and looked down upon, made to feel like lesser women. I see it all the time. I see it directed at me, I see it directed at women online. I see people who were so excited to hear that we have two sets of twins ask if twins run in our family, and when I explain that they’re they result of IVF they respond with a disappointed, “Oh.” I see women who are told that if they can’t have children on their own they should take that as a sign they aren’t meant to have kids. I see people who use ART to build their families be called horrible names and told their children aren’t real and they should have adopted instead.

We have to speak out about our journeys. Let the world know we are 1 in 8. Let other couples know they are not alone. The more we share our battles, the more we lessen the stigma, the more likely we are that infertility is finally recognized as more than an inconvenience, the more other couples will know they are not alone. I hope that by the time my children are old enough to have children, things have changed. I hope the judgment is gone. I hope that infertility is treated as an disease and not just as an inconvenience some couples have to face. I hope they never have to face this battle, but if they do I hope there is more sympathy and understanding.

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