Infertility is a disease
Infertility affects 7.3 million US adults
Infertility treatment is effective for about 65% of couples
Infertility is only required to be covered by health insurance in 15 states
Infertility is lonely
Infertility is heartbreaking
Infertility is a reminder of our weaknesses
Infertility is a reminder of our strength
Infertility is life changing
When friends of ours told us they were suffering with infertility, my husband responded sensitively and with years of experience. He reminded his friend that we are here if they want to talk, but that we respect their need to remain private and secluded. They asked us not to tell anyone and we wouldn’t – it is not our journey to share. Nate also let them know that our infertility journey changed us, it has impacted who we are today, how we parent, and the choices we have made in our life since our son was conceived and even before his conception. Our friends have been struggling in private, like so many couples do, in part because our society has yet to acknowledge the widespread nature of this disease.
Infertility has a stigma attached to it and many people think that if a couple will simply “relax” then “it” will “happen”. Just relaxing does not fix endometriosis, low sperm count, poor motility, hormone imbalances, low progesterone levels, autoimmune factors, or so many of the other factors related to fertility. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone knows someone who has been able to “just relax” and get pregnant. Or knows a couple who has adopted and then unexpectedly gotten pregnant. Please understand that when we are talking about infertility, yes calming the mind and body is important, but it will not fix the underlying causes of this disease.
We need to remove the stigma surrounding infertility and learn to support those going through the pain of the disease. You can start today by doing a couple of simple things:
- When you encounter a couple without children do not ask when they are going to start their family or tell them that they have plenty of time. Similarly, please don’t tell them that parenthood and pregnancy can be awful. You have no idea if they have been suffering through infertility and would give just about anything to be a parent, to be awake every night rocking their sleepless baby.
- If you see a parent who already has a child, don’t ask when they are going to have their second. Maybe they are already trying to have their second or know that a second would be too much of a health risk for mom. Infertility can occur at any point in a couple’s reproductive life – when conceiving their first, second, third, or even seventh child. It can also lead to a high risk pregnancy status for the mother-to-be.
- If a couple has chosen to live child-free respect that decision and know that it was not reached lightly. Don’t suggest that they “give it while” and maybe they will have an unexpected blessing.
- If you find yourself in the midst of family or friends coping with infertility, educate yourself. The RESOLVE website is a fantastic source of information. It even includes a fantastic “Infertility Etiquette” Page.
We are different individuals, partners, and parents than we would have otherwise been without our fertility journey. Five years of heartache and we found out that being awake all night is tough, but it is worth it. We are more patient and we are more understanding of each other as parents and the sacrifices we make for this short season of babyhood. We lost some friends during our fertility journey because we didn’t know how to relate to them as they continued to build their families and they didn’t know how to relate to us as we withdrew and protected our fragile souls. Perhaps if everyone took the time to learn about this disease it wouldn’t be such a lonely place to navigate.
Whenever I am out running errands and see a pregnant woman I say a quick prayer for that mama and baby. Then I say a longer prayer for each man and woman who sees her beautifully rounded belly and is holding back tears because that is all they want…to be preparing to hold a child of their body or heart in their arms.
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine
- RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
- National Infertility Awareness Week