As many of you know, and some of you don’t, this week, April 24-30 is National Infertility Awareness Week. And as anyone might guess, this is a case near and dear to my heart. I am one of the 1 in 8 couples in the United States that was dealt the card of infertility. Within the infertility community, I fall into an even smaller percentage, the 20% of couples for which there is no known cause for our infertility. As I like to tell people, based on what we can test for, Bill and I should be at Duggar fertility levels.
But that, sadly, is not the case for us. Instead we’ve spent 8 long years trying to build the family we desire. Hundreds of injections, doctors appointments, and thousands of dollars, in the pursuit of what happens for most people as a fun romp in the sack and an afterthought. It’s brought us closer as a couple, but alienated us from friends and family. As I blogged about last year for NIAW, it even caused me to have a nervous breakdown at one point.
This years motto is Start Asking. This could be something as simple as reaching out to your friends and family for support. Or it could be raising your voice to the highest levels and joining me at Infertility Advocacy Day on May 11th in Washington DC. No matter how you choose to Start Asking, the more we talk about our infertility, and normalize it, the less stigma and shame that surrounds it.
I wouldn’t be ashamed to tell my family I had diabetes. I should be ashamed to tell them I have infertility. Both are diseases that drastically impact our lives. Both cause us to need support from those near and dear to us. Both require empathy from those around us. But one is more well known in the community at large because it’s talked about. The only way we can get that same recognition is by starting the conversation. By demanding equal access to care. To Start Asking for what we need.
So this year, Start Asking. Your friends, family, employers, state, federal government. Start Asking them to recognize our disease for what it is, a disease.
For anyone that has talked with or seen me recently, they would know I have a new obsession. For those that don’t, I have a new obsession. Yoga.
I finally broke down after having my regular doctor, my psychiatrist, and my reproductive endocrinologist all suggest I try yoga. I signed up for a beginners workshop, as I’d tried the at home videos in the past and not enjoyed it.
Turns out being in a supportive studio is what I needed. After the beginners workshop I signed on for the annual pass and have been trying to attend a minimum of 3-4 classes a week.
I’ve also noticed a huge boost to not only my mental well-being, but my physical well-being as well. I haven’t lost any weight from it, but I have gained the obvious flexibility. On top of that though I’ve also noticed that my resting pulse rate has dropped to an average of 72, compared to an average of 84 before I started yoga.
The mental health part is no joke though. I feel significantly less stressed, and my anxiety has been easy to control. Bill also noticed during my last retrieval that my overall mood was completely different from the first time. I’m sure part of that was being proactive and going back to counseling and back on an antidepressant, but I also know a part of it is the yoga. I feel a difference in my entire frame of mind if I go too long between classes.
I definitely recommend anyone that has stress, anxiety, and/or depression to give it a try. Find a supportive studio that has yogi’s that really make it work for you, and you’ll be surprised how addicted you’ll get!
For my February RESOLVE Peer-led Support Group I covered the topic of relationships. I figured it was fitting given Valentine’s Day.
Infertility really puts your relationship through the wringer. It brings up topics most couples never thought they would have to discuss, and the scientific process of making a baby can be a real buzz kill in the sex department.
I created this handout however to hopefully give people some idea’s on how to defeat the dolldrums that come with infertility babymaking and get the spark back.
Infertility might forever change our relationship, but we can try and mold it into something positive. If you’d like to download the guide, you can click the image above or click here to download the Nurturing Your Relationship Through Infertility handout.
“You’re so strong”
Something we constantly hear during grief. Something that’s seen as a positive ray of light. The problem however is the damage this phrase causes.
My emotional struggle in large part is generated by being so “strong”. By “coping” so well. Managing my grief by locking it in a box and tossing it to the farthest reaches of my mind. Emotions are a dalliance you don’t have time for when you’re busy being strong and resilient.
At least, that’s what my brain told me. While everyone fawned over my ability to “cope” through tragedy, I was busy building a beautiful wall to hide my emotions behind.
“I have to be strong” I would tell myself. Strong does not include feelings. Especially not feelings of sadness.
Anger is okay, anger has power. People like power.
Happy is great. People like happy. Real or forced, it matters not.
The reality is people aren’t comfortable with others emotions outside of happy. As a society we have no empathy. We want a pretty picture, not the reality. It’s uncomfortable to just sit with someone and their feelings. We’d much rather they “be strong”.
So I locked my feelings away, and I was so strong.
And it broke me.
I’ve finally reached out and realized, other people’s discomfort with my feelings is there problem. Not mine. I don’t have to feel guilty for answering questions honestly. I don’t have to feel shame discussing my struggles. If my emotions are too much for someone else to handle, they need to deal with it themselves.
And it’s hard. So hard. Retraining your brain to allow yourself to feel. To embrace kindness and understanding and allow yourself to really feel and sit with your emotions.
But I’m doing it. And so far, it’s working out great.
With the news world abuzz today in light of the Supreme Court ruling on Zubik v. Burwell, another challenge to the ACA birth control mandate, I have once again become heated.
“Why?” You might ask. Social media is alight with the hastag #HandsOffMyBC and reproductive freedom is being touted across a multitude of channels. Shouldn’t I see this as a good thing? The easy answer is: I kind of do.
Yes, I believe women should have easy access to birth control.
Yes, I believe women should have easy access to abortion.
Yes, I believe women should have easy access to maternity care.
But I also believe women should have easy access to fertility treatments.
This is where the “cart” loses its wheels. The infertility sphere is the black sheep of the reproductive freedom loop as we are consistently left out of the conversation.
Women should have access to birth control, abortion, and maternity care. The ACA even mandates the majority of that. Nowhere is fertility treatment mentioned. Heck, the vast majority of states don’t even mandate that diagnosing infertility be covered. And the ones that do have a mandate, stop once diagnosis is reached. Only 20% of employers in the United States offer any infertility benefit.
Are we really empowering women to harness control of their reproductive system if we leave 7.3 million couples without treatment?
The inability to fairly access fertility treatments has the same negative affects on women’s lives as those that can’t access contraception, abortion, and/or maternity care. It hinders our health (both mental and physical), careers, and economic security.
Despite the huge affect infertility has on women’s lives, we are consistently left out of the conversation of reproductive freedom, when we should be included.
This needs to change. The best way to foster that change? Start talking about it. Advocate for infertility and adoption benefits.
The louder we are, the more likely it is people will listen.