Now, I know I am a really really new member to the infertility blogging community and I am so proud to be here now. I have been part of the infertile community since late 2007. When I first had questions about my infertility and nobody to turn to, Resolve was the first organization I found that was helpful. It was such a great feeling to find something dedicated to infertility and to know that I wasn’t alone.
Hopefully you are aware that this week (April 24-30th) is National Infertility Awareness Week. #niaw Each year Resolve has a Bloggers Unite challenge and their theme this year is #StartAsking. Now, when I first heard about the theme I was a bit stumped and my initial draft of this blog post was about all the things we should #startasking. I think many people know what they should be asking or doing but are afraid, or they feel shame or they just don’t want to be uncomfortable.
Infertility affects nearly 10% of our population and is a major struggle for 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age. Let me repeat that, 10% of the population and 1 in 8 couples. Infertility affects men and women equally. Even if you are not aware it is likely that you have a friend, relative, neighbor or coworker who are struggling with infertility or you may face infertility yourself. This is why it is so important that awareness be raised about this topic. #StartAsking
So, why is raising awareness so difficult if it affects so many of us? I think it boils down to Fear in many cases. Now, for myself I feel pretty comfortable talking about my infertility journey (thus blogging about it now). It has been both a privilege and a shock at how many women haven opened up to me about their own fertility struggles. Too often though it is a topic only shared after they know I have some personal understanding. Even then I am often saddened that some feel they have to discuss it only in the shadows. I mean, I get it, I have had to get used to people who quickly change the subject, make aloof comments, want to “fix it” for you or just brush off the whole thing. I think like any painful thing we can let our fears get in the way of asking or offering support. Fear of upsetting someone by “reminding” them of their loss when often they may want someone to talk about it with them. Fear of saying or doing the “wrong” thing and feeling embarrassed. Fear of that next fertility treatment and it not working. Et cetera Et cetera Et cetera.
I write rather organically so I’ll try to stick to 4-5 topics as I fear I am about to get long winded. Run-on sentences look out, here I come. 😉
Are you Afraid to #StartAsking for support about your infertility?
It can be so overwhelming to seek help for your infertility. When it feels like so many people get pregnant just looking at the colors of blue or pink it is hard to admit you might need some help. You may need help getting a diagnosis, seeking out a therapist or support group. Perhaps you just want to talk with somebody who has gone through something similar to you. These can all be things that evoke fear in us. From the societal pressures as a woman to grow up and become a mom and the pressure on men that somehow they might be less manly if they can’t create an heir. When we are young the majority of us don’t think of fertility at all let alone that it might be a problem. I know I didn’t and it wasn’t until our 3rd miscarriage that I thought we needed help. There are a number of resources out there to help. From finding an in person support group, online community support groups or maybe you want to talk to someone that can help guide you through and find some resources that will work for you. Whatever it is don’t be afraid to take the first step in getting some help. Infertility can be so isolating but you are not alone and you may find someone to connect with and provide support for one another. If you are afraid to openly discuss your infertility it may help to know we all have fears and things we hide but you don’t have to. I was just watching this amazing TED talk about having the courage to talk about the hard stuff. You can watch it here. Please #StartAsking for help and support.
Are you Afraid to #StartAsking about a friends infertility journey?
It seems simple enough to do but it doesn’t seem to happen all that much. I think it is usually out of either not knowing how to ask or that fear of upsetting the person. For me personally, I wish more people asked how I was doing or how they could help. I’m sure some people may not want to talk about it and it may feel like a hard think to talk about. For myself I know that sometimes I may not want to talk about it but I am an adult and I will communicate that to you. I know your inquiry is coming from a place of love and most often it will be refreshing and welcome to know you are thinking of me and want to know how things are going. I am not referencing some of the meddlers who don’t ask out of caring but from a information standpoint of a vacuum. I wish we could all learn that while it may make us uncomfortable to ask how someone is doing (grieving, depression, job loss, divorce, etc.)it is also the way we can show someone that we care. We each have gone through difficult times in life, we all have feelings but you don’t have to have the exact experience of another person to empathize with them and show compassion. There is a wonderful video about Empathy vs. Sympathy by Brené Brown that I will share here . Give it a shot, connect with a friend and let them tell you about their journey. Ask them how you can offer them support. If you want some help about what to say or do you can start here. Please #startasking about your friends’ struggles (no matter what they are).
Are you Afraid to #StartAsking your infertile friends to events?
If you are among those of us who are the infertile then you probably know I am talking about baby showers, school plays, birthday parties for the littles. Basically, any event that may be thought to be traumatic to any of us who are still trying to conceive, are childless in general, are infertile etc. I don’t want you to be afraid to invite your infertile friends to these types of events. Why? Because, while they may not attend some of them depending on where they are on this journey or how they are feeling it can be far more hurtful to leave them out. Have I decided not to attend a baby shower or a friends bbq that was going to be full of little children? Hell yeah! But, I was invited and my friends love me enough to understand that sometimes I am just not in a place where attending those events is healthy for me. I have also shown up to those very same events and I may have shed a tear or two but was happy I attended. Trust your infertile friends to know what they can handle but give them the option and understand if they don’t want to attend. This also goes for pregnancy announcements or sharing information about your child in general. I have been blessed by some wonderful mommy friends that know all about my journey and have shared pregnancy news with me often in private before it is broadcast over social media or some other mass format. This has been so helpful as I could process the news and have a bit of warning. While, I can be so excited for a friends’ pregnancy hearing it with the masses and witnessing the outpouring of congratulations can be really tough. I also want to hear how little “johnny” is doing in school or what his favorite things are etc. etc. If I am your friend and love you then you can guarantee I love your children too. I haven’t struggled a lot with this but I do have to beg certain friends to see pictures of their kids or hear what they are dressing as for Halloween because they feel like sharing that information will harm me. I enjoy hearing these things and often live vicariously through my friends in this way. On the reverse I don’t really want to hear only about your kids either but I don’t think you have to be infertile for that to be the case. 😉 There are tons of articles and information on what to say or do (as I shared above) but, mostly I think if you show that you care and want someone to be a part of your life while giving them an out when they need it is all good. Please #StartAsking your friends to be a part of your life and stop sheltering them from children.
Are you Afraid to #StartAsking for healthcare reform?
Infertility diagnosis and treatment is often limited or not covered by health insurance. This leaves so many people who have infertility problems left covering the tests, treatment and procedures completely out of pocket. This isn’t so much a knee knocking type of fear but more of a where do I start or how can I possibly change this concept. This is where my fear lies and I plan to do more research to see how I can help change this. I believe many people also worry about what changes to the healthcare industry will cost them or that fertility doesn’t deserve to be covered. I can say for myself that many things that have an affect on my fertility are also things that affect my health so I have been lucky to find some ways things can be covered. Where I don’t have options is for testing or any procedures like IUI or IVF to be covered. Currently, there are only 15 states that require some type of coverage option for infertility treatments and I do not live in one of them. I am not asking that public healthcare should be required to provide this coverage so you can save your comments. I do hope however that we can reform healthcare so it becomes an option for all private insurance. Take the time to learn a bit more about infertility healthcare and ways you can help. Yes, I will take my own advise and be looking at this information in more detail as well. In addition to the above information I learned that there are additional resources for military families too. Please #StartAsking the important questions about heathcare reform and legislation.
So… What are YOU Afraid to #StartAsking? Whatever it is I hope you find the courage and support to erase the fear, raise awareness and help make an impact.