Yesterday marked the start of National Infertility Awareness Week. NIAW was started by an amazing organization, RESOLVE, back in 1989 to help educate people about infertility and to help erase the stigma of the disease. I mark this week each year looking at my kids and marveling at how very lucky the Hubs and I are to have them at all.
It’s been a little over 9 years since the Hubs and I started trying to have a family. Back then, I knew a grand total of 1 person in my life who had trouble having kids. While I had a great outlet online to talk women in similar situation, the vast majority of people in our day-to-day lives didn’t have a clue what we were going through. It was isolating and frustrating and scary as hell when everyone around us kept saying things like “All he had to do what look at me and I got pregnant.” or “We weren’t even trying- this pregnancy just happened.” or “Just relax, you’ll get knocked up in no time.”
People didn’t mean to be hurtful, they didn’t mean to be cruel- they just didn’t understand. “Relaxing” doesn’t fix medical issues.
For some, babies don’t just happen. For some, having a baby requires thousands and thousand of dollars in expenses even with great insurance (which we had). Having a baby requires daily shots for years and medicine that makes you moody and crabby and hot and fat. Having a baby requires prayers and tears and raging at God wondering why the druggie on the street corner has a baby every year that ends up in the foster system while you- an employed, stable, married, willing woman- can’t have even one. Having a baby means having sex with your husband only when you’re told to and only in certain positions to try to maximize the changes of making that coveted baby- it’s not about love or lust any more. Having a baby means living and dying by the calendar as you wait and test and pray that you ovulate and then wait and test and pray that you conceived. Having a baby means analyzing every single thing your body does during that 2 week wait wondering if that twinge or that cramp means you’ll finally see those two lines on the pregnancy test.
Trying- and failing- to have a baby starts to color everything. I started to turn into an ugly person, one who wouldn’t- couldn’t- be happy at a friend’s pregnancy announcement. There simply wasn’t any room for happiness when I was so jealous I couldn’t see straight. After we finally got pregnant and I started to have the miscarriages, I’d find myself wishing that someone- anyone- around me would have a miscarriage so that someone could finally know how I felt. I’m not proud of those thoughts- they are hard to even write about now- but that was my reality. Infertility robbed me of my ability to feel joy at a friend’s pregnancy.
But the the Hubs and I were lucky- we made it to the other side and we have two amazing, gorgeous kids to show for it.
But others aren’t so lucky and are still fighting this battle. So please, be mindful and be kind. Don’t assume that babies are always the next natural steps in someone’s lives. If someone does tell you that they are dealing with infertility, tell them you’re sorry and offer to listen. Don’t share the story about your cousin’s best friend’s sister who adopted and then- BAM- ended up pregnant. Don’t judge a couple for going through the infertility treatments and not adopting- or vice versa. You have no idea why they picked the path they did. If you know someone who is dealing with infertility, be mindful of how you share the news of your pregnancy. I promise they will be happy for you and rejoice with you- but it may not be right away and if it’s not, remember that’s not a reflection on you or your friendship.
Today I know of at least 8 people in my day to day life that have struggled or are struggling to start their families. Infertility isn’t going anywhere and having a baby isn’t always as simple as you think. Please, don’t ignore infertility and all it’s victims. Educate yourself about the basics of infertility and the importance of NIAW.