I decided to become a strong supporter and advocate for the infertility community sometime after my first miscarriage. It put me into a deep depression that made everyone, not just myself, miserable. I had feelings of hopelessness, abandonment, loneliness... Things I felt because I was completely alone in my battle. I was uneducated about infertility and pregnancy loss, and had no idea that help was out there.
I had to work on my own to pull out of it and find my happiness and joy again. Once I did, I was a new person. I was stronger and knew I could overcome anything thrown into my path. It was then that I knew I had to make my voice heard. I had to let everyone out there experiencing infertility know that they are not alone. During that time, I resolved that I would never let anyone I know go through what I went through. I had to let all of my friends, family, and members of my community know what infertility is, and how to help those in their lives who are afflicted with it. I had to let everyone know that infertility is hard, but it sure doesn't have to be lonely. It can be overcome solo, but why not make it easier and do it with support?
I utilize Facebook quite often to discuss infertility with my friends and acquaintances, joining in on Resolve.org's discussions and posting updates about my own struggles. I love writing in this blog, Progressing in Circles, where I discuss my own treatments and pick topics to discuss and teach. I was a writer for a website belonging to my alma mater where spoke up about my journey. Many of the readers were very receptive to that, and a few have contacted me to find more support. And lastly, I am very excited to announce my latest project that I have been working on for the last few months, The Infertility Survival Guide. It's a book that is aimed toward infertile couples in my church, and gives advice, validation, and just a hint of humor about how to survive as an infertile couple in a very fertile and family driven world.
Looking back, I am very proud of my efforts to expand understanding and support for the infertility community. Even though I feel like I should be doing more, I am doing all I can at the moment. It's always a very touching moment to receive emails and messages from friends, and sometimes even strangers, complimenting me on my advocacy and asking for help. I wish I had had someone in my own life to talk to when I was in the dark about infertility, so I'm glad that I can be there for other people.
Now, I encourage you to also speak out. Whether or not you have infertility, you do have a voice. Infertility awareness is more important than a lot of people know. It is a real disease that affects an estimated 7.3 million people in the United States alone. Because it's such a private issue, it's taboo in many societies. But, it can cause a lot of depression and anxiety due to feelings of loss, struggles with self-esteem and worth, unfulfilled ambition, and other hidden emotions. It's very real, and shouldn't be ignored!
So, the solution? Educate, educate, educate! Resolve has so many amazing articles available to aid in answering any question. First, please read all of the following pages to learn as much as you can about the disease and the best ways to help.
What is Infertility?
- Frequently Asked Questions about Infertility
- Infertility Diagnosis
- The Hidden Emotions of Infertility
- Fast Facts
Second, post on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Please help us to expand Infertility Awareness Week to reach the ears of more people than ever before. Chances are, there are many people you know who are silent in their struggles. Be open about infertility, and you'll be amazed how many people may approach you about it and share their story.
And lastly, be a listener and a support for those people. There is no reason for infertility to be lonely. Nearly 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age suffer. We are far from alone! We are out there. Be open and be an encouragement. I know many friends who were scared and ashamed of their disease until they found someone willing to give them support. Be that support. To read more from me about that, read "Comfort IN, Dump OUT" posted earlier this week.
If you are suffering from infertility yourself, there is hope! I strongly urge you to find a support group, either local in your area, or online. I never could have been this strong and hopeful without my support groups. They are invaluable resources.
And remember, there are many ways to build a family. Even though going a different route may not be the one you expected, it will still get you to your end destination. It's just like taking a long car trip. One time, my family was making a six hour drive from my grandma's house back to our home. We were in the last hour of our journey, and couldn't wait to get out and stretch our legs and take a shower. However, we were stopped and sent on a three hour detour due to the river flooding. It was utter mayhem in the car with complaining and whining. But, there was nothing we could do about it. The only thing we could do is take the detour if we wanted to get home. We ended up getting home late, but we still arrived. The extra three hours hadn't changed anything. Our house was the same, our toys were still in our rooms, and our cats were still waiting for us. The only thing that had changed was us. We ended up on the most beautiful drive we had ever seen. Some parts were slower and very winding, causing us to slow down and drive more carefully, but others displayed the most gorgeous countryside, farms, animals, and color-changing trees we had ever seen. We saw such beauty, and were able to actually enjoy the journey it took to get to our destination.
The infertility journey is much the same. Many times you may be sent on a detour that is not of your choosing, and sometimes it will be slow and winding, but you can still learn and grow so much stronger than you ever were before. And, after that journey, you can still arrive at your same destination of having your family. Your detour may take you through many different ART treatments, adoption, and perhaps even lead you to the decision to live childless. But all are good, and all can give you peace and fulfillment, and be that destination you have been working toward.
Speak up about that journey. If you are in the process, share it to inspire others! Speak about those gorgeous trees out the car window. Share the beauty you have found in yourself during this journey. Talk to your support system about that flooded road. I know it's scary to open up sometimes, and it's not encouraging when people say the wrong things. But how will they ever know the right things to say if we don't teach them?
Read more about National Infertility Awareness Week here