Thursday, April 25, 2013

NIAW: Join The Movement

This week, April 21-27 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Since I first began participating in NIAW three years ago, it has become a time of inspiration to me. I never feel as connected to the infertility community as I do during this week of advocacy, education and awareness. Each year that I have participated, has brought the opportunity for new reflection and growth. 

It was during this week in 2010 that I first opened up about my infertility. My husband and I "came out of the closet" so to speak, as one of the 1 in 8 couples in the U.S. experiencing infertility and as one of the 1 in 6 that suffer a pregnancy loss. Taking that plunge was terrifying. I had carried so much guilt and shame about my infertility diagnoses for so long. But once we went public, we were astonished by the love and support we received. What surprised us even more were the friends and family that came forward to let us know that they faced it too and that we were not alone. The more I reached out, the less isolated and ashamed I felt. My first NIAW was a turning point and the first time I felt as if I had taken charge of infertility story instead of letting it control me. I broke the silence and in the process helped others facing similar struggles, engendered compassion in those that didn't, and opened up a whole new world of support and empowerment for myself that would help me through some of my toughest moments. 

This year I have been as enthusiastic about NIAW as ever. Infertility advocacy has been transforming for me from something I didn't know how to approach to a passion that I can't seem to do enough of. I am thrilled to be attending RESOLVE's Advocacy Day next month for the first time. I can't wait to speak to my senators and representatives about how vital The Family Act is to me and the other 7.3 million people facing infertility in the U.S. In an attempt to reach out even more, I have also begun blogging for Fertility Authority and this summer I have plans to begin another exciting position with them as well. And perhaps the scariest, most exciting advocacy experience of all- I have agreed to CHAIR the first ever Walk of Hope in Southern California this fall. (sidenote-if you're in SoCal and want to get involved- please message me!) But as exhilarating as all of this involvement in the movement and the community is, it is still the quietest of exchanges, the simplest acts of providing support to someone that needs it or speaking up for those who are struggling that matter to me most. 

One of the things I cherish most about NIAW is the opportunity to learn more but the movement, the community and myself. This year I have discovered that while NIAW provides hope and support for many, that is not true for all. There are wonderful women and men suffering from infertility that feel pain and loss during NIAW rather than support. Let's face it, the infertility community and our supporters in the fertile world are obsessed with "success stories" and by success we mean people who are infertile, but in some way became parents. We don't know how to celebrate the success of those who resolve their infertility by living a child-free life. I readily admit, that while supporting those in the community that have reached a child-free resolution matters to me very much, I am not always sure of the best way to do it. These stories don't touch my heart any less than the tales of IVF or adoption, but I have heard from so many that without the constant chatter of cycles and homestudies, those in the child-free camp often feel left out of the conversation and even the infertility community as a whole. This breaks my heart because we not only need to support EVERYONE that faces infertility and celebrate every victory, every resolution, we need these stories, these voices to make our community and our movement whole and complete. 

Equally heartbreaking, is that there are those who don't see the value in raising awareness about the issue because, while NIAW and speaking out may provide you with personal comfort and release from shame, it does nothing to actually cure infertility itself or that "forcing" awareness down the throats of those not facing infertility is fruitless and self-indulgent. To that I say, you are missing the point. No, posting a link to a blog post about how to best support friends and family struggling with infertility won't resolve their infertility. Sharing information about deciding to see a specialist and how to find one won't guarantee that treatments will be successful. Educating co-workers that 7.3 million people face infertility won't decrease that number. Awareness on it's own won't make infertility go away but it WILL make a difference. 

One thing everyone struggling with infertility seems to agree on is that it really is a STRUGGLE. Not only because our hearts break month after month, year after year with our inability to become parents, but because the navigating the world of fertility doctors, adoption lawyers, uninformed friends, unaware politicians and unconcerned insurance providers is one of the most challenging things we have ever had to do. Only through awareness can we begin to change all of that. Educating the public about the pervasiveness and realities of infertility will increase understanding of infertility as a disease deserving of compassion. Advocating by writing to your congressional representatives or by attending Advocacy Day will increase political presence and help pass important legislation like The Family Act, which would reduce the financial burden of fertility treatments for millions of Americans. Showing support and compassion for friends and family facing this disease, whether or not you face it yourself, makes a difference in your loved ones lives in ways big and small. Writing, talking and sharing the realities of IVF, domestic and international adoption or living child-free will ensure that every voice, every experience with infertility is represented, heard and supported. Taking the time to truly listen and support everyone devastated by this disease, no matter how much their circumstances and choices may differ from our own, will make this movement even richer and more complete.

With all of the obstacles facing those with infertility, it is easy to forget how far this movement has already come. The women and men of our parent's and grandparent's generation did not have RESOLVE support groups or online communities available for them to seek a compassionate, understanding ear. Adoptions were often done under a shroud of secrecy with little to no support for any involved. Adults without children were feared or ridiculed as "old-maids". Education about what really does and does not work when trying to have a baby was limited to what was passed on between friends and family members, rarely with sufficient access to additional information or medical assistance. Infertility simply wasn't often talked about. It often still isn't. I know it seems so small, so insignificant to just talk about infertility because how can that possibly make a difference? But speaking out is the first step of any movement. No, it is not a cure for infertility but if we keep it up, it WILL cure many of the challenges that currently accompany it. So make your voice heard and support others who are doing the same. This community is powerful and strong, we CAN make a difference.

"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." ~ Margaret Mead

To learn more about infertility and National Infertility Awareness Week please visit:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Light in the Face of Darkness

Like most people in the US tonight, I am struck with shock and sadness over the events in Boston earlier today. It is horrifying to witness innocent people become victims of senseless violence like that of the bombs that exploded near the finish of the Boston marathon, killing some and severely injuring many more. Throughout the day, I have seen and heard many statements of despair at living in, and trying to bring children into, a world that holds such cruelty. Events like these are the types that often cause people to lose their faith in humanity, but I have seen something else too- displays of hope, caring and compassion. While there are certainly countless reports of tragedy, and I fear there will be more in the days to come, there is also great evidence of kindness and behavior that exemplifies the very best of humanity. 

I am sure many of you have heard the reports of marathon runners, who, upon learning of the blasts, kept right on running until they reached the nearest hospitals to donate blood. Or maybe you have heard about the local Boston residents who opened their hearts and their homes to provide those displaced with a bite to eat and a place to rest. And of course, you know that the very instant the first explosion happened, bystanders, firefighters and police officers nearby rushed to the aid of the injured without a second's hesitation. The most beautiful quote I have seen circulating today is this one from the late Fred Rogers: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Mr. Rogers and his mother were certainly right about the amazing and inspiring side of the helpers in the face of tragedy. As I thought it over tonight, I realized it was not just the tragedy of horrible events such as those in Boston, that these beautiful words apply to. 

While I in no way aim to compare the deplorable and heinous violence committed in Boston, or any other act of terror, I do believe that infertility is undeniably tragic for those who suffer it. And just as brave men and women have showcased the best side of humanity in Boston and across the globe through their eagerness to help, it was my battle with infertility and experience with miscarriage that showed me that most people truly are compassionate and caring at their core. Yes, there will be those that will use this tragic news to further their own selfish agendas or who will carelessly diminish the pain and loss experienced, just as there are those who will insist that infertility sufferers were never meant to have children along with any other number of hurtful, negative things. But there are far more people rushing to donate to the Red Cross, offering a couch to crash on or a shoulder to lean on. Most importantly, there are more "I love you's" being shared than messages of hate. When people are at their lowest, their most vulnerable, the realization of what and who matters becomes undeniable. I know that so many people are holding their loved ones tightly tonight and making sure that they know just how much they are loved.

And that is what I took away from experience with the outside world when I finally shared my struggle with infertility. For every anonymous "you are so selfish for doing IVF", there was an entire supportive chorus of "we are here for you". For every thoughtless question or careless comment there was a twitter pal, or a blog reader virtually squeezing my hand to remind me that I was not alone. For every heartbreak, there was a friend or a family member offering a hug to let me know that no matter how broken I was, I was always loved. In the darkest moments of my life, it was the helpers that showed me the light, and it is the caring people, the helpers, in Boston that remind us all of the light that will continue to thrive in our world no matter what evil may try to extinguish it. That is the world I am so grateful to be raising my daughter to be a part of.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Two Years of Love & Laughter

To my precious Snow Pea on her 2nd Birthday: 

I can't believe that we just celebrated your 2nd birthday. It seems like such a short time ago that you came into my life and made it brighter with your laugh. You have grown so much and developed so many wonderful new abilities in these two years, but it is your ability to laugh easily, effortlessly and with sheer joy that is the most heart-warming, infectious and beautiful. Not a single day has passed this year in which I have not had the honor and privilege of hearing the music of your laughter. Even on those days you behave like a "terrible" toddler- tantruming, whining, pouting or crying uncontrollably for no other reason than you want to cry- you still find reasons to laugh, loudly and with utter abandon. 
In your second year of life you have become less of a baby and more of a child, and what a truly happy and loving child you are. You show concern when anyone around you expresses sadness or pain. You are always quick to ask if I am ok when I cough and to bless me when I sneeze. And once you are sure there is nothing serious to worry about, you are right back to laughing and doing your best to spread that laughter with a silly dance, a tickle fight or just a plain old squeal of delight. You do that squeal a lot actually, it's kind of your trademark, you're very well known for it. You don't even need a big reason- your friend is in the stroller next to yours, you successfully put your plate into the dishwasher, you are in the middle of singing a song you really like, Daddy is lying in the middle of the living room floor- any little happy moment is cause for BIG celebration. 

As you turn two, it is clear that you have many emerging talents and I know you will continue to acquire new skills, interests and abilities as you grow. I will be there to encourage that growth and help you develop your talents but it is your effortless ability to find daily joy, to laugh loudly and often, that I hope with all of my heart never changes as you age. I hope that each day continues to bring you reasons to laugh, to smile and to squeal with delight and if the day does not give them to you, I hope you continue to find them yourself as you do right now. 

There was a time that I feared I may have lost my ability to be joyful the way you are now. I was hurting and broken and I felt that I may have lost a part of me that I might never get back. In many ways, I think I was right. I have lost, I have changed. But thanks to you, your presence in my life, my life as your mommy, I have found parts of me that I thought were gone and even created some new ones too. The very thought of you is enough to bring a smile to my face and your daddy and I have yet to have a night pass after you're asleep when we don't recount the amazing, charming and hilarious things you said and did that day. You are our joy baby girl, just as the entire world is yours. Thank you for two incredible years of loving and laughing. I look forward to countless more giggles, squeals and smiles with you in the years to come. Happy Birthday. 

Love, Mommy