April 19 to April 25th is National Infertility Awareness Week. (Read more about it here.) I’ve never participated in the conversation around this week even though infertility is part of my life. However, this year’s theme is You Are Not Alone and this theme is so so so important to me.
Roughly ten years ago I was sitting in a pizza place with one of my closest childhood friends. We were talking and laughing and catching up like old friends do. Somehow – I can’t remember exactly how it went – I told her that we were trying to have a baby and it just wasn’t happening. I will never forget the look on her face. It was her words, however, that shocked me more. She told me she was facing the same thing.
I remember how we both cried when we realized we’d each been holding on to this secret and feeling so alone when we didn’t have to. I remember thinking how awful it was that she was also experiencing the sadness and the disappointment, but also feeling relieved that I had finally told someone and she understood.
So often, people suffer through infertility in silence. It’s insanely personal and the pain is raw. I realized that day just how alone and isolated I had felt.
As soon as we were married, everyone wanted to know when we were going to start having kids. We were repeatedly asked personal questions about our plans to have a family. While these friends and family members meant well and were clearly excited to welcome a baby to the world, their questions hurt. Every comment about when I was going to get pregnant was like a knife being pushed deeper and deeper into my heart.
No one knew that we desperately wanted to start a family but that things just weren’t happening the way we’d planned. No one knew how every single month I cried when my period showed up, dashing our hopes yet again. I suffered in silence and tried to provide non-committal answers and blow off the comments.
After talking to my friend, I decided to stop being silent. If people were going to ask personal questions, they were going to get personal answers. I got a lot of shocked looks when I responded with statements like “we’re having a hard time getting pregnant so I don’t know when or if I’ll ever have a baby, but thanks for your excitement.” You know what? It felt GOOD to put it out there. It was like a weight had lifted off my chest and I felt free.
Around this time I also discovered the power of social media. I found several bloggers who wrote about infertility and their struggles with building a family. I found a community on Twitter who felt the same things I felt – alone and broken. The online community was amazing and helped me through some of the darkest times of my life.
One in eight couples experience infertility. I am one in eight. My friend Erin is one in eight. Both of us went on to have beautiful children – her through IVF and us through adoption. Wherever you are at in your journey, please please please remember that you are NOT alone. There are so many of us who’ve been there. Who understand. Who get it. You will be okay. You are not alone.