Infertility Awareness Week
With infertility awareness week rounding the corner on April 23 -29, it is striking to me that the experience of infertility is far more lasting that seven days. Those living with the ambiguous loss and disappointing hope of infertility don’t get a day off from their empty cribs and wombs. For many women and men longing to be parents, infertility is a constant reminder of this unmet desire and the heartbreaking experience of hope deferred in the waiting and loss.
Infertility is a grief and longing like no other. According to the National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), “No matter what race, religion, sexuality or economic status you are, infertility doesn’t discriminate.” Hearing a doctor say you will not conceive without IVF (Invitro fertilization) and even with IVF, there is still a slim chance, is soul crushing and devastating. To make matters worse, infertility leads to isolation which then leads to suffering.
When my husband and I were going through the IVF process and sitting in the waiting room nine years ago, I was amazed at how many couples were affected. It just wasn’t talked about. Research tells us that 1 out of every 8 persons will struggle with infertility. I’m sure you have learned, unfortunately by now, that people can be oblivious and somewhat cruel in their ignorance. Sometimes when people learn of one’s infertility, advice—poor advice—can follow. They can throw hurtful religious rhetoric around, tell you it is God’s will that you do not have babies, or tell you that going through IVF is sinful or that you are playing God. If pregnancy works and the couple gets their long-awaited bundle of joy, others are quick to ask when they will conceive another one. Or the judgmental looks and comments of, “Oh, you just have the one?” An added insult to injury with some couples is called ‘secondary infertility’. This is when a couple can naturally conceive the first time with a full-term pregnancy, have a child and then are unable to get pregnant again with no medical reason. They are left in complete confusion and discombobulation as to what happened and how to answer questions from well-meaning, but oftentimes hurtful friends and family members.
One never gets over the pain of infertility, nor do they know when bouts of sadness can fall on them, like a surprise summer rain shower. One can be walking through Target and go past the maternity section, and it feels like they were gut punched. Another time they could take a stroll in the park and see a plethora of strollers and squealing children, and not be fazed.
What does one do if they have been diagnosed with infertility?
- First, find the right medical doctor who treats infertility and who will listen to your needs and be supportive of your hopes.
- Second, find a therapist who specializes in infertility. This would be an area I would encourage you to find one who has gone through IVF themselves. Many of my infertility clients have told me how helpful it was for me to have already known terms and the multitude of shots and blood draws and what numbers meant. They said they did not have to explain the details of the process, but go straight into their story, heartache, and grief.
- Third, feel your feels. As author and researcher, Emily Nagoski, says, “Feelings are tunnels that you have to go through.”
- Fourth, take care of yourself. You do not have to go to baby showers, church on Mother’s Day or Easter (gasp), attend christenings or any other event that will cause you emotional pain.
- Lastly, remember you are not alone. Find your tribe in this time. Surround yourself with those who love you and have no ulterior motive except to surround you with love and compassion.