April 20-26 is National Infertility Awareness Week. The movement began in 1989 with the goal to raise awareness about infertility and encourage the public to better understand reproductive health. The theme this year is "Resolve to know more." Infertility is a medical condition that affects 7.3 million women and their partners in the United States- that's 12% of reproductive age population. 1 in 8 couples faces infertility. That's right, 1 in 8. Infertility in 35% of couples is a female problem and 35% a male problem. In 20% of cases its a combined problem, while in 10% it is unexplained.
I have been pondering over this post for a few days, unsure of what I wanted to say. I always had a gut feeling (call in women's intuition) that getting pregnant probably wouldn't be a walk in the park for us because of the extreme amount of stress my body has gone through physically in only a matter of a few years. The extreme stress my body was under from being in a constant state of pain (often severe, especially those first few years), I knew would take a toll on me. I never would have guessed how deep and just how hard infertility would be on us.
Reproducing is a basic human function. It is also one of the most complicated and complex processes. Countless factors have to be just right for you to conceive. If just one of these factors is off but even a minuscule amount, it can make it impossible to conceive. Reproduction is also a very taboo subject that no one really wants to talk about publicly. At very young school age, you giggle and squirm in your chair when you learn about sexual reproduction in health or science class. It is a very personal process, but when you are dealt the hand of infertility, all privacy, intimacy, and modesty go out the window. You are asked by your doctors very personal questions about your sex life and your reproductive organs. You start using a language full of medical jargon and abbreviations. You are told down to minutes and hours when to "get busy" with your partner. It can be extremely shameful, isolating, and make you feel like less of a woman, or man.
Like being diagnosed with any medical condition or ailment, being diagnosed with infertility requires you to become an advocate for your health. You need to know when to seek professional help from a specialist and be informed about all your options. It is vitally important to know about the medications, procedures, finances, etc. If you are the loved one, friend, or family of someone who is struggling with infertility, it is so important to educate yourself on how to best support this person. There are definitely things that are helpful and beneficial, and things you can do or say that could very well end up hurting the person on the receiving end very much. For example, DO NOT say, "Just stop trying, and it will happen!" or "Why don't you just adopt?" or tell someone to "take a vacation and it will happen." Also do not explain how your co-worker's best friend's cousin twice removed tried for X amount of years, and then she started drinking apple juice while laying upside down once a day, and then magically she got pregnant. Comments like these are hurtful and frustrating, not helpful. Again, infertility is a medical condition that needs to be addressed by a medical doctor with medical interventions.
Do ask your loved one or friend, "How are you doing?" or offer a listening ear. There were so many times I hoped and prayed that certain friends would just ask me heartfelt how we were doing or how were were feeling. But again, people don't want to talk about infertility. Do also try to educate yourself a little so you can ask informed questions. For example, showing that you took the time and effort to learn a little about what all is involved in an IUI and why it is done would show your loved you care about what they are going through.
One of my main reasons I decided to document out infertility journey publicially was to try to bring awareness to the diagnosis and bring it out of the shadows and I certainly hope that those that have followed our journey have been able too see how much infertility affects a person's life. We are extremely blessed to be on the other side now and be a success story, but infertility will always be a part of our story.
I'll update with a baby bump post in a couple days so stay tuned!
Till next time...