All month long I have been thinking about National Infertility Awareness Week and this year's challenge to bust an infertility myth. There are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings about infertility, what it is and how it effects those who experience it. Since the birth of my daughter 3 weeks ago, what I have been dying to shout from the rooftops is that just because I have my child doesn't mean that I am no longer infertile and it does not mean I longer feel the pain and loss that infertility has caused in my life. I still feel the hurt of those 4 years of heartbreak and the loss of my first pregnancy, not to mention the financial costs of my IVF and FET and the reality that I will need to turn to these procedures again if I ever hope to provide a sibling for my little girl. But beyond my own experiences, I still also feel the pain, anticipation, anxiety, joy and most of all hope for my fellow infertile sisters and brothers because despite myths to the contrary, infertility is not something we have to face alone.
My husband and I, like most couples who are struggling to conceive, felt very alone when our journey began. We didn't tell anyone that we were trying and only began discreetly mentioning anything about our hopes for children when we realized we needed help. At first, we turned to our usual support network of friends and family members. We still consider ourselves very lucky that most of those people responded with love and support. But very often, despite everyone's best efforts, we couldn't find what we needed most: understanding.
At about the time that we began testing and evaluation to find out just why we had spent two years trying to conceive without success, I was introduced to the social networking site "twitter". I had connected with current friends, old high school acquaintances and a few new internet pals. I had enjoyed chatting with these online buddies about pop culture and the quirky happenings in our day to day to lives. But the farther down the rabbit hole I fell into temperature charting, ovulation prediction kits, blood tests and weekly ultrasounds, the more I found myself wanting to talk about these things in 140 characters or less instead of my usual lighthearted chit chat about who should win the latest tv reality dance show. Since I had so many real life friends following my thoughts online, I started a new account just so that I could vent my TTC (trying to conceive) related frustrations and hopes. I made a couple of connections with fellow TTCers and breathed a sigh of relief that I had found an outlet for my thoughts about trying to become a mom.
The group started out small but very close knit. We rallied behind each other and answered each other's questions about charts, testing and fertility procedures. We made jokes about the number of sticks we had all peed on and started a satirical store devoted to holiday ornaments and household items made of all of our BFN (big fat negative) home pregnancy tests. We "met" in private online chat rooms for a virtual happy hour to discuss our trials and support each other in real time. After encouragement in one of these chats, I finally decided to start this blog and here I've found not only the freedom to discuss my feelings in more than 140 characters at a time, I also found even more wonderful people that cared, that supported me and that understood.
When I was officially diagnosed with infertility and told that my only true chance to ever be pregnant was through IVF treatment, the amazing women and men of this online community were there for me in every sense of the word. I could safely laugh or cry as I expressed the full range of hope, despair and every feeling in between that I was experiencing. Although each of us were facing unique diagnoses and our own individual choices about how to move forward, we were there for each other and we understood, we got it. I truly believe that I would have never survived the year of treatment, miscarriage, waiting and yet more treatment that I underwent before having my daughter without the support and love I found in the infertility community. And what's more, I believe that the love and true hope I was given by this community is a big part of the reason my little one is here today.
Last year during NIAW, I did something big. I came out of the infertility closet. Chad and I both shared our struggle and heartbreak with friends and family who previously had no idea we had been trying to start a family, let alone having trouble doing so. The response we received was overwhelming. Not only was the support of the few close friends and family that already knew reaffirmed, but we were blown away by the support we received from others. We also received messages from others that had also been struggling but hadn't been outspoken about it. We felt less alone than we ever had. It was amazing and inspiring.
In the past year I have continued to be outspoken about my journey and reach out to anyone else dealing with infertility in any stage. Just because our experiences are are our own, it doesn't mean we have to face them alone. Just this week I was given an incredible opportunity to help someone on their journey in a concrete way. The other night I logged on to twitter and saw a plea on my timeline for an IVF medication from someone in my local area. A medication I just happened to have left over in my fridge from my own IVF cycle. Chad had actually tried to toss it on more than one occasion but for some reason I never let him. And now I had my reason. I immediately contacted her to let arrange a meeting so that I could give it to her. And of course I will continue to keep in touch with her and send messages of support and hope throughout her cycle, just as this community did for me. And I know I won't be the only one supporting her or the blogger that is recovering from loss or another that is preparing for her adoption homestudy or yet another that is finding peace with living child-free. Because even though each of our journeys are different, we are here for each other. Years ago, I kept my struggle and my pain a secret because I believed that I had to face these things alone, now I know better. Over the past year and a half my own myth has been busted. Infertility is a very personal journey but it does not have to be a lonely one.
For more information about the basics of infertility please visit http://www.resolve.org/infertility101
And for more information about National Infertility Awareness Week visit http://www.resolve.org/takecharge