June is Infertility Awareness Month, and when it came to being one of the 1:8 women who experiences infertility, I was very unaware.
I spent more than half my life trying not to get pregnant. Growing up in a town with the highest per capita teen pregnancy rate in the state, and one of the highest in the country, I heard the message of pregnancy prevention repeatedly, loud and clear. I am a rule follower, so I followed the rules (and when I bent them, I breathed a sigh of relief when my period came). I put school first. I waited until I was married, had a career, and my dog wasn’t such a spaz. Et voila! All boxes checked, it was time for babies!
It never once occurred to me that it might be hard for me to get pregnant. I was a honeymoon baby, born 9 months and 3 days after my parents were married. I was the oldest of my cousins, and many of them already had babies. There were so many “happy little accidents” on both sides of my family, we could be the cover of our own cereal box: OOPS! All Babies! But for every rule, there must be an exception, and in our family that was me.
June is Infertility Awareness Month, and when it came to being one of the 1:8 women who experiences infertility, I was very unaware. Now I was following a different set of rules: I was tracking my cycles, taking my temperature, and doing all the other TMI things recommended for getting KTFU ASAP. And of course, having the sex. All the time, just in case the ovulation and star charts were off course. After all, that was supposed to be the fun part.
Turns out, there are no fun parts when infertility is involved. All my rule following led to a vicious cycle of anxiety, false hope, then disappointment that repeated month after month. The least fun part was trying not to morph into a psycho beast any time a well-meaning person offered up a “just relax and it’ll happen” (including my own OBGYN when I went in for my annual visit after a year had passed without a positive pregnancy test since the previous year’s TTC exam).
When we finally got a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist, the diagnosis devastated us. If we wanted children of our own, we were going to have to spend the down payment we’d busted our butts saving for a house on IVF instead. I’d already hit my out of pocket maximum on the surgery that got us the diagnosis; from there, we were on our own, rolling the dice for a chance at a baby. Our IVF story has a happy ending (and a lot of vomit): we rolled a double on a single frozen embryo transfer and had identical twin girls. Many other couples aren’t so lucky, which is why I now know to never ever ask anyone “when are you going to start having kids?”
If you’re one of the 1 in 8…
- It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling – sadness, anger, isolation, shame – they’re all part of the unfortunate infertility package. It’s even acceptable to feel uncontrollable rage at anyone who says “Want kids? You can have mine!”
- Advocate for yourself and your future family with your doctors. Find knowledgeable specialists who will treat you with dignity and won’t dismiss your concerns. Lucky for you, Austin has some of the best!
- Find your people. You need empathy, understanding, and someone to shout with you when you pee on sticks and nothing happens. As much as your friends and family want to be there for you, they don’t know what you’re going through. Resolve.org has awesome support groups.
- Bring a book to your doctor’s appointments. They never start on time. This is my only piece of unsolicited fertility advice.
If someone you love is battling infertility…
- Don’t offer up helpful suggestions. They’ve already heard it all and tried it all, and chances are they’re already paying a lot of money for medical advice. Do offer up book recommendations.
- Try not to get too annoyed when it feels like their infertility is all they ever talk about. Infertility has this weird, all-consuming mind control power you can’t really explain or understand unless you’ve been there. And if you haven’t been there, see also bullet point number one.
If you’re pregnant, and worried about breaking the news to your infertile friend…
- First, you’re a good friend for considering your friend’s feelings even though you’re bursting with excitement and cravings.
- Don’t chicken out of telling them directly and let them find out secondhand (or worse, from an ultrasound photo on Instagram). Know that their joy on your behalf can coexist with the sadness on their own behalf.
- Don’t be offended if they decline the invitation to your baby shower. These events are triggering for people experiencing infertility and the last thing you want at your happy celebration is sad blubbering at the sight of an adorable tuxedo onesie.
If you have a coworker or an employee going through infertility treatment…
- They’re going to have frequent doctor’s appointments and their doctor is going to run woefully behind schedule. Be supportive and flexible and don’t ask unnecessary or invasive questions.
- Infertility coverage is often confusing and difficult to obtain, even when it’s offered by the employer. Help them navigate any workplace benefits they can use.
June is Infertility Awareness Month. Visit resolve.org to find out more.