#StartAsking

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

EVERYONE YOU KNOW.

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April 24th- 30th is National Infertility Awareness Week, but let’s get ahead and #startasking now! That’s right, there is a whole month dedicated to educating the masses and holy moly, the masses need it. According to the CDC 12% of women between the ages of 14-44 are  struggle with infertility, thats an insane amount of people. For something that is so far reaching, we need to engage in more dialogue so that we can create a supportive community that fosters positivity so that this horrific process can be a touch better.

I have met countless couples who tell me that they suffered alone for so long. Their friends, their family, colleagues had NO IDEA what they were going through. I can’t imagine living my life without people knowing because infertility consumes your entire being. I am not 100% myself most of the time and for me I need folks to know what is going on so that my behavior or physical state is understood.

But  I digress, so many people keep it a secret because infertility is not discussed in the public space and thus it makes is shameful. Women are often made to feel it is their fault, providing little space to feel comfortable sharing their circumstance. For men, our culture of masculinity confines them to a box that says, “Man+ sperm + “spreading your seed”= MANLY.” Heck, one time I was chatting with someone who I know quite well and is pregnant, and she said, “He feels like a man,” when I asked her how her husband felt about the news of her pregnancy.  

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Advocate for Legislation

Help ensure legislation passes that protects infertile couples and ensures states require insurance cover treatment. Check out the current pieces of legislation out there and learn what representatives are sponsoring what bills HERE.

Empathize

I write about this a lot but I can not emphasize it enough. If you learn a friend is going through treatment do NOT say, “Oh I know someone who went through IVF, they are pregnant now, it will all work out.” While its great you want to show support and try to provide hope, your friends experience is just that, their experience. We don’t want to hear about it, we just want someone to listen and recognize our own struggle.

Join a support group

Resolve has a great list of groups access the country, find one and join. Having a community that truly understands your feelings and thoughts is invaluable.

#StartAsking

Resolve is hosting a campaign this week to get folks engaging in dialogue around infertility awareness. With infertility comes a slew of questions from “How is this fair?” to “Does my insurance cover this?” to “Where do I start with adoption?” When we ask these questions alone, they begin to eat away at you. When we ask these as a collective, we receive a robust compilation of answers to sift through. While the answers may not always be what we want to hear and they don’t always change your situation, knowledge is power and having an ounce of power during a time when you are utterly powerless is sacred.

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-Annie

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TOP 10 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE GOING THROUGH IVF (PART 2)

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • My IVF comrade
  • The general public who means well but says all the wrong things

We IVF sisters unfortunately encounter common comments over and over. After a while your ability to see the good in people starts to dwindle because you hear the same asinine comments on repeat. I can say with certainty that if you know someone going through IVF you need to follow a couple steps:

  1. Listen.
  2. Think “Will this response make ______ know I listened?” If the answer is no. DO NOT SAY IT.
  3. Only speak if you have something that is empathetic.

AVOID (in no particular order):

10.“I am friends with another couple who is going through IVF for XXX years and they were so happy for us when we got pregnant. You should be too.”

9. “If you try to adopt, I bet you’ll get pregnant.”

8.“When you start puking when your pregnant, you think why did I do this?”

7. “When your kids are running around your house, you think why did I do this?”

6. “Sleep as much as you can now because you wont be able to when you don’t have a kid.”

5. “I wish I could travel now, but thats over since we have kids.”

4. “It will happen when its supposed to happen.”

3. The obligatory “Just relax. It will happen.”

2. The obligatory “Just stay positive.”

1. Talking about your period or your pregnancy in terms of hormones like we have NO IDEA what hormones do or feel like.

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I LOVE the friends and family guide from Resolve, I recommend emailing it to all of your friends and family as a guide to help them talk to you. It will help depersonalize it and let them know that there are some universal feelings that go into infertility.

-ANNIE

It’s not your fault.

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Women going through IVF
  • Supportive friends of folks going through infertility treatments

 

In February 2014 I was a proactive planner, I went to my gyno and let her know we wanted to make a baby. We decided that I would go off the pill in May. I recall the visit so clearly. She said, “I love that you are responsible and are planning. I wish more people did that.” HA!

In June 2014 I didn’t get my period. In July 2014, I didn’t get my period. I went back to my gyno because this was unusual. Before birth control I ALWAYS got my period. I hopped on my bike, road to the office and entered her room. I sat down and let her know what was going on. She pointed towards my helmet and said, “Is this a new thing?” “What riding a bike? No. I have done spin 3 or more times a week for the past two years,” I replied. She scratched her head and explained I might just be exercising too much. In my gut I knew this wasn’t right. My workout routine hadn’t drastically changed in the months leading up to the summer. I knew that me riding a bike a mile wasn’t what was keeping my period. But it was hard not to doubt myself.

Fast forward to September 2014, I still didn’t have my period. I was put in touch with a fertility doctor through a family friend. I hopped on a call with the doctor and she asked me a few preliminary questions. First up, how much do you weigh? At the time I weighed 117 and I am 5’6. There was a long pause, “That’s probably it, you don’t weigh enough. You should gain 5 pounds.” Mind you, she hadn’t seen me, she was purely going on numbers. Also, at the start of summer when I didn’t have my period, I did weigh 5 more pounds. I know my body very well and I know that when I don’t have estrogen in me (which feels AWESOME) I loose weight much quicker and am able to maintain my weight. My weight was a result of my situation, it was not the CAUSE. I got off the phone feeling like it was my fault.

Throughout this process again and again I have been made to feel that my infertility is my fault. Just a few snippets of the “wisdom” thrown my way:

  • “You just need to relax.”
  • “Well if you were just doing XYZ.”
  • “If you just thought about it less.”
  • “When you stop thinking about it, it will happen.”
  • “If you just ate meat, you would get your period.”

There is always an underlying tone of blame. While all of these statements are made with a hint of innocence, the result is shame.

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Women are made to feel that they SHOULD have control over their fertility. That if we just tweaked this, or did that, this would all go away. If we put women’s health in historical context we can say definitively that women’s bodies are still quite a mystery. This comes from years of not prioritizing women because women were not in positions of power within the medical field. Centuries of biases and misinformation feed into the reasons why women put pressure on themselves.

Turning the voice off in your head that says, “I am doing everything I can and this is not my fault,” becomes increasingly difficult as the meds start being pumped into your body.

I can’t speak for everyone but I know from my experience with friends going through IVF, we are all beating ourselves up… we don’t need another voice telling us what else we could  or should do. My therapist and husband are voices of reason and I am so grateful to them.

I would like to offer some “counter” mantras/bits of wisdom for all of those who struggle keeping the voices at bay. I hope you take them, savor them, hug them, and USE them:

  • From my therapist: ” I have never met ANYONE who wants something so bad and has worked tirelessly for it that wasn’t anxious. That is part of the territory. It has no effect on your ability to become pregnant.”
  • There are thousands upon thousands of vegetarians who have kids. Meat wasn’t what helped them get there. UPDATE: Approximately 31-40% of India is vegetarian. Last I heard they were doing pretty okay with population. In fact word on the street is, they have a lot of people.
  • Emaciated people all over the world have kids, its not your weight.
  • Does everyone who has kids not have any stress? No, its ridiculous to think everyone who got pregnant was cool as a cucumber.
  • From my therapist: “People can handle adversity, but suspended adversity is a whole other beast. It is normal and expected to be angry and anxious.”
  • I am healthy.

It is not our fault. We were dealt a really shitty hand. We did not do anything to cause this.

-Annie

 

Feeling your feelings

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • My infertile friends

This week was tough, there is no ifs, ands, or butts about it. It was tough for myself and my husband and there is nothing we can do about it. All we can do is feel the feelings. Sometimes feeling those feelings is the worst.

Throughout this experience I have thought a lot about struggle. Someone once told me, “You are going through this because its going to make you stronger.” I told this to my lovely therapist who rebutted this comment with, “Annie you’ve struggled enough, this is bullshit. You are already strong, you don’t need this.” Hear hear sister! The fact of the matter is, it is bullshit.

I have been told I need or should be happy for certain people and the reality is, I don’t. I can just be,  I do not need to be anything but how we feel.

So many women going through IVF are in the same boat and I feel their pain, I feel my pain, and I feel my husband’s pain.

But there is nothing I can do. My best friend sent me this except from MyHusbandsBrainTumor and it really resonated with me and I hope it resonates for you:

“Hard things are hard, and while they can someday teach you a lesson or make you a stronger person, they are entirely capable of just beating the everloving shit out of you and leaving you emotionally dead and physically exhausted”

AND
“The cure for grief is not “be not sad” and the cure for anger isn’t “be unagry!” It’s feeling all of the things, even the uncomfortable ones, without judging yourself for them.
Your job, when bad shit happens, is to get through it however you can. It is not your job to make your life more palatable for other people.

The world will go on, despite your despair. And you know what that is? LIFE. And like our gym teachers told us when we got pegged in the face with a kickball, life is unfair.

What our gym teachers did not tell us is that it’s totally okay if you fucking hate that and want to just scream cry in your car sometimes! It’s okay if sometimes you hate your friends for having things you don’t have anymore, and then you hate yourself for hating perfectly nice people who love you, just because their husbands are alive! That’s okay!

You will be happy again (and sad again, and angry again, it’s a process?). You will find glittering moments of joy, and you will learn things, and you will be completely lost and found again, over and over and over.

But you do not have to be good.”

Beautifully said.

So my infertile sisters, today I write in solidarity for your sadness. We are where we are, nothing more, nothing less.

-Annie