I have joined many “clubs” related to having a baby that I’d rather not be in. But none have been extreme cases.
My miscarriage was devastating…but I was still a few weeks away from my second trimester. It took 13 months to get pregnant with baby #2…but not years. I had scary pregnancy complications…but my baby and I survived. Navigating the NICU was hard…but it was only for three weeks.
I’ve haven’t always added the “but” in there.
I haven’t always thought that because others suffered worse, my pain wasn’t real. In fact, I know exactly when it turned.
I started out 2016 on a rather sour note. There was no baby in my arms, no baby on the way. I was about to board a plane for uterine surgery. Waiting for me afterward was the delicate dance of balancing reproductive endocrinologist appointments with working full-time and parenting a toddler. I was barely hanging on.
I worked in PR for a medical school and constantly asked patients to talk about their very personal medical journeys with the media. I often checked the lists of awareness months to brainstorm story ideas. As I was scrolling through the April list, I froze:
Infertility Awareness Week. I couldn’t ignore it even when I tried.
I had just learned my second IUI had failed. I had one close friend in particular to talk to about the crazy world of AMH levels and antral follicles, but it was a lonely place to be at age 30. Not unlike miscarriage, it seemed shrouded in secrecy, too. I felt compelled to do what I had asked so many others to do: share my story in hopes of making others feel less alone and to take some of the stigma away. And to share it when I didn’t know how the story would end, not looking back years later through rose-colored glasses.
Before I talked myself out of it, I called a reporter/anchor friend. Yes, she was interested, and no, the station didn’t have a story planned on the topic already.
When the interview date rolled around, I had just done my 3rd IUI, and the dreaded two-week wait was even worse knowing this would be the last effort before moving on to IVF. I tried to speak from a very real and raw place.
I was a ball of nerves when the story aired. Even still, I felt peace from knowing it was the right thing to do.
And then I read some of the comments.
I was criticized for having a child already. I was criticized for not having done IVF. I was criticized for not struggling with infertility longer. I was crushed. Does the judgment surrounding motherhood really begin before we’re even pregnant?
I knew that the story would not have been done if I hadn’t initiated it. I knew that I only had my perspective to share. (How could I even presume to speak on behalf of all women with infertility?) I knew that it still reached and helped others; after all, 1 in 8 couples are affected…but it stung and truly wounded me deeply.
This is what I wish I could say to the women who lashed out at me:
I am truly sorry for what you have been through. I can feel your tremendous pain. Seeing someone talk about infertility who has not been through the ringer like you must have struck a nerve. Infertility can be all-consuming and rob us of so much. I hate that. I want to hear your story and understand what you are going through.
But please know I am on your side. We should be sticking together and lifting each other up. After all, if we can’t be supportive of people going through miscarriages and fertility struggles, what hope do we have of building the kind of community we want to raise children in?
Infertility Awareness Week this year falls on April 22nd through 28th. If you feel called to share your story, contact an outlet/reporter now to arrange to tell your story. Or consider simply posting on social media. By being brave, you may help someone you had no idea was struggling.
As I watch my baby turn into a toddler, it’s harder to access those feelings from two years ago–the desperation I felt for a second child and the realization that nothing was guaranteed. I will never forget how support and kindness carried me through.
If you do feel alone in your struggle, there’s a local Resolve group that meets one evening a month. Email [email protected] for more information. Online groups can also be a valuable resource if you can’t or don’t feel up to making it to an in-person meeting. Iowa Infertility & Loss Support Group or Infertility Support Group are two possibilities that you may find helpful for finding others going through similar circumstances. If you’ve lost a pregnancy or an infant, please consider joining our ICMB Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support group on Facebook. Two of my favorite podcasts, The Longest Shortest Time and Coffee+Crumbs, are among the many episodes you can listen to on infertility, too.
If you are currently struggling to conceive, know you aren’t alone and that we’re all rooting for you.