This week (23rd – 29th April) is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) in the US which was founded by Resolve. Although I live in the UK it is clearly something I am passionate about so I’m taking part too! Their theme this year is “Listen Up!” encouraging people to listen up and take notice of the issues surrounding infertility and family building. As someone who has been very vocal about their infertility struggles it makes sense for me to join in and talk about the importance of speaking up and how we need to be heard.
Since starting this blog I’ve been quite open and honest regarding my infertility and the effects that it has had on my day to day living, or so you all think. There are things I haven’t mentioned over fear of seeming stupid, overly sensitive, or just that no one really cares, but then I find myself asking why I should keep quiet? One in eight couples struggle with and infertility issue of some kind. One in eight. That’s a lot of people, yet we don’t talk about it. Instead we suffer in silence, never breathing a word to anyone except our partners and *few* select friends, why shouldn’t we talk about it though? Surely the solution is to educate others instead of suffering alone and having to endure years of being painfully asked “When are you going to have children? Don’t leave it too long!” People are never truly going to understand unless they’ve been where you are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try and get people to understand. Does it?
So, listen up and hear me when I say that infertility IS a disease, and like every other disease it cannot be prevented and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We’re not asking for you to feel sorry for us or to treat us any differently, we’re asking for you to try and understand and to stop saying things like “if you just relaxed maybe it would work” or any of the other things listed here. We just want support. Studies have shown that the mental effects of an infertility diagnosis are the same as cancer diagnosis, while the stress levels felt can be the same as someone diagnosed with PTSD. So when are people going to start understanding that it’s not something we can just “get over”?
I’d like you to sit back and think about how you felt when watching certain TV shows that have dealt with fertility issues. Like in Friends when Monica and Chandler cannot conceive and are looking at adopting, Chandler makes an emotional plea to Erica the adoptive mother when she plans to reject them – “I love my wife more than anything in the world and it kills me that I can’t give her a baby. I really want a kid and when that day comes I’ll learn how to be a good dad, but my wife… she’s already there. She’s a mother…without a baby”. In How I Met Your Mother Robin is told she can’t have children and explains that although she never wanted children it was nice knowing that if she changed her mind then she could – “Of course it’s one thing not to want something, it’s another to be told you can’t have it. I guess it’s just nice knowing that you could someday do it if you changed your mind, but now all of a sudden that door is closed” . Lastly I remind you of Charlotte in Sex and The City who had to deal with her infertility and failed IUI’s and IVF all while watching her best friend get pregnant (and steal her baby name), although she did have her brilliant comment of “We’re not barren! We’re reproductively challenged!”, even her dog got pregnant, she had her husband leave her because it was all too much, for her to then adopt a beautiful baby from China and then after 10 years of trying finally gave birth to her own baby. Whether you felt sad while watching those for the first time, or still shed a tear when watching it for the fiftieth time, please take a moment to realise that that’s exactly how 1 in 8 people are feeling day to day. While all those scenes pull on the heart strings of regular viewers, they’re very accurate and completely gut-wrenching for the viewers going through the same things. Personally I cannot make it through a lot of those scenes without sobbing, though Robin’s will always hit me hardest and leave me in a hysterical state. These episodes aren’t just done for entertainment value, they show an accurate and realistic portrayal of what millions of people go through daily, so tell me again that I just “need to relax” or “get over it” because you wouldn’t say that about a fictional character, so why say it to someone you actually know?
Infertility is incredibly lonely and every day we’re faced with more and more challenges. Ranging from diagnosis, loss, funding rejection from care groups and insurance providers, to lack of support from friends, family, and colleagues. For us to feel less alone we need to speak up, but we can’t speak up when we feel like we’re ignored and pushed to the side so please just listen. I know it’s probably not what you want to be hearing about when all you want to do is complain about how rubbish your job is, how badly behaved your children have been today, or what your partner said to offend you, but your friend/family/work colleague needs someone to talk to too. So please just listen up and don’t make them feel more isolated than they already are.