Sunday, April 23rd, marked the first day of 2017’s National Infertility Awareness Week, a week where so many men and women break their silence to share their stories of infertility. Every year, RESOLVE creates a theme for this special week and this year it’s called “Listen Up!” (you can read more about the theme here). This time last year I was as vocal as I think I might ever be when it comes to talking about my fertility journey. My blog was in full bloom, I started a fundraiser for RESOLVE with an eager goal (and I made that goal in September 2016), and I even made it on my local news station (see story here). As proud as I was (and still am) with what I was able to accomplish in 2016, this year is different, I’m different. I’ve learned a lot in the past year and really the past 4 years that I’ve been struggling with this disease. So I decided to reflect upon what infertility has taught me and what I sorta wish I had known prior to being diagnosed.
- Infertility doesn’t define me. There was a time when I thought it did. Everywhere I looked, I felt like I had a big “infertile” sticker on my face. Obviously, I know that isn’t true but at the time it was so hard for me to walk down the street and not feel mortified by my inadequacies as a woman. I mean, it’s the one thing a woman is supposed to be able to do and I couldn’t do it no matter how hard I tried. I’ve taken this diagnosis and flipped it on its head by becoming an infertility warrior and not letting this disease control my life.
- Some people are just never going to understand. This cannot be said enough. And this goes for both my infertility diagnosis as well as my struggle with depression (which many people go through when they experience infertility). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone to stop asking me when Dan and I are going to have kids even though they’re well aware of my diagnosis. Or how many times someone will say to me “well, maybe you’re not meant to be a mom”. No matter what, there will always be people who not only can’t empathize but definitely can’t even sympathize with you. Even people at work still think I’m a horrible person because of the deep depression I went into 2 years ago – it seems like I will never be forgiven for my actions during that dark time in my life. If I’m quiet for a day, to them it means I’m in a bad mood and shouldn’t be approached. But what they don’t understand is that I might’ve woken up that day to find out that I’m not going to be a mother that month and I am yet again heartbroken. They will never understand that it took everything in me to even get out of bed that day and that it’s taken everything for me not to break down in sobs every minute. Sometimes, educating these type of people is just futile and a waste of time for you. So be kind to yourself and make an effort with those that are willing to understand. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Infertility is more common than you think and yet isn’t talked about nearly enough. 1 in 8 couples experience infertility… wow. I mean, come on… that is 12.5% of the population! I didn’t even really think this could happen to me. I don’t know if it’s just the sex ed course I took in middle school, but they put the fear of God in you that if you have unprotected sex once, you’ll get pregnant. No… incorrect kids! I just had no idea it was this common and that there are so many different types of infertility. No two couples have the same journey, it’s sorta mind blowing. But that’s what’s great about RESOLVE and National Infertility Awareness Week: it gives people an opportunity to open up and talk about it to try and get rid of the stigma that has revolved around infertility for so long.
- The end of infertility doesn’t mean you end up with a child. I see and hear this too often: “Oh if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be” or “I just know you’ll be a mom” and even though those types of responses are better than the ones I mentioned above, they’re still not helpful and there is no way to know whether or not it’s going to happen. Many couples going through several fertility treatments for years on end decide to live a child-free lifestyle and there’s nothing wrong with that and those couples should never be judged. That’s a hard decision – one that I hope I never have to make. But I know my odds and science hasn’t really failed me before so I know I can always rely on her to help me through no matter the outcome.
- I’m stronger than I thought. Although I’m not nearly as strong as others. But I make it through each day. That, in and of itself, is a big feat for someone struggling with fertility. Especially when everywhere I look, there seems to be a pregnant woman or a happy family and I’m constantly reminded of a life I might never have. I’m stronger than I thought because so far, I’ve had to take 187 needles either in my belly, arm, or upper buttocks. My whole body is sore. My moods are all over the place with the amount of hormones I have taken. I’m exhausted 90% of the time. And yet I still make it to work every day (well most days), I hike on the weekends (or at least get outside), I keep going despite so many factors. If that doesn’t define strong, I don’t know what does.
So although I’ve sorta taken a step back from being as vocal as I have been in the past, it doesn’t mean I’m still not passionate about educating people on the subject. It just means I’ve needed to focus on other things that have taken priority in my life. And I think that’s OK.