Today is the last day of National Infertility Awareness Week. This year’s theme of “Don’t Ignore Infertility” was spread far and wide. I read many powerful pieces, each about the importance of not ignoring the many ways that infertility can shade and color people’s lives.
Don’t ignore me. Don’t ignore that infertility is emotional, not just physical. Don’t ignore the financial impact of treatment. Don’t ignore that infertility is part of me, but doesn’t define me. Don’t ignore your own strength.
As NIAW comes to a close, I challenge you to keep talking about it beyond this week. You never know who you’re going to impact. My National Infertility Awareness Week post received only seven comments, but there were over 700 unique hits and 63 Facebook shares. I’m not bragging about numbers (because in comparison to others’ stats, I’m sure my counts are considered paltry). But the idea is that I’ve reached almost 800 people, and I’m just one person. Can you imagine the ripple effect that reaches far beyond the statistics that computer software shows me? Can you imagine the total ripple effect caused by everyone who posted about infertility this week?
I received several emails from people who stumbled across that post. Some asked for permission to use the NIAW “movie poster” that I created. Others simply thanked me, because through that post they found my Emotional Infertility series, and it helped give them some clarity and understanding about their infertility affects them at an emotional level.
Someone who found me via Aiming Low friended me on Facebook. When she saw the infertility awareness banner (created by the lovely Keiko) on my profile, she messaged me to say how it made her day to run into someone speaking so openly about infertility.
Another person said that reading my post gave her the strength to finally be open about the struggles that she and her husband had been going through for the past four years. Aside from her husband, she’d felt isolated emotionally out of fear that no one would understand. After reading my post, she opened up to a few close friends and family members. She was surprised by and overwhelmed with the support she received, and was relieved to find that she had a willing and understanding support system in place as they move forward with IVF with egg donation.
My point with telling you all this is that you never know who you’re going to touch. What you have to say may be just the thing that someone else needs to hear.
With all of that said, for my final words about NIAW 2012, I’m lending my blog space to Miss W. She has a blog of her own, but it’s been so long since she’s written anything that she probably doesn’t even remember the password (*wink,* Miss W). My long-time readers might remember that I was going to be her gestational surrogate, but along the way plans changed and we never even stepped one foot on that path. That’s okay, though–we each got forever friends out of the deal, so it wasn’t a loss at all.
Without further rambling from me, here is Miss W’s NIAW contribution:
Don’t Ignore that Infertility Lasts Beyond Having Children; I’ll Always Wonder “What If…”
I’ve thought about writing this all week, but haven’t found the right words. I wasn’t sure how I could write about something so intensely personal, something that people in general just don’t talk about – mainly because it’s not something we know how to talk about. But today marks the last day of National Infertility Awareness Week, so it’s time for me to figure out how to talk about it.
As my friend Kym (Moxie) pointed out, infertility doesn’t end when you finally become a parent. It’s not something that has a sudden “cure.” Beyond that there are so many causes and variants that most of the well-meaning advice people give doesn’t apply. My personal infertility is due to a malformed uterus. Sure, I can GET pregnant, but I can’t STAY pregnant full term. I thank God every day that even though I delivered my son very early, my body managed to hold onto that pregnancy longer than all the others, long enough for him to be big enough and strong enough to fight for his own life in the NICU.
When we first began fighting to have a family, I thought that once we had children, I’d be able to close my eyes to where I had been – that it would become nothing more than something that “happened.” But it definitely didn’t turn out that way for me. It tested my faith in God; it tested my marriage; it changed who I am as a person and how I view the world. While watching coverage of the Royal wedding, I listened to the prayer for them to have a family and my first thought was, “I hope they’re not infertile – I can’t imagine going through that with the world watching and giving ‘helpful’ advice.”
And of course, infertility has changed the way the family we have looks. We always planned to have “children” in the plural. Scott wanted 2, I wanted 3 – but that was something I was sure we would figure out in time. But the emotional toll of infertility and the premature birth of our son, coupled with the risks of subsequent pregnancies were too much for him. He doesn’t want to step back into those waters. So I’m left with an intense gratitude for the family that I have and feeling a deep loss for the family I could have had. It’s likely that I’ll ever know what it feels like to have a daughter (a daughter I have imagined since I was a little girl playing with my dolls, a little girl whom we had already chosen to name Kathryn Grace). In the picture of our family that I’ve carried in my mind since we got married, I now have to erase the little girl with long dark hair. I have to stop dreaming of Girl Scouts and ballet classes and shopping for prom dresses.
My friend is right. Infertility isn’t over when you have a child. My issues can’t be fixed. The emotional scars remain alongside the physical ones. It hurts less most days, but those wounds are still there. I will never be exactly who I was before. I wish that I could be, that things could have been different. I’m just happy every day that I was finally able to carry a pregnancy long enough to have a son even more incredible than anything I could have imagined him to be. And while I’ll always wonder “what if” I know that being his mother is enough.