Who? What? When? Where? WHY?

INFERTILITY.  Who is affected? What is infertility? When should you look into your fertility? Where do you go for help & support? Why is it happening? These are some of the questions I encourage you to ask about infertility.  I am asking and as usual, I have more to say….

Who? Me.  I am one in eight people/couples who suffer from infertility.  There are days it feels like I am one in one hundred. There are others it feels like I am one in two or three.  

What? Infertility is a MEDICAL condition…a DISEASE of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Okay….it’s a medical condition.  So it’s covered by my health insurance, right?  No.

When did I find out? Much too late in life.  Because I never actually tried to get pregnant before I was married to my husband at the age of 35. Because I never had a doctor take a serious look at the happenings (or more appropriately, the lack of happenings) of my reproductive system at a younger age or take my questions about my fertility too serious in my earlier adult years because at the time, I admitted I was not ready to start a family. I didn’t push for answers to the hard questions because I wasn’t educated enough about my body to know they were hard questions. 

Where do I go for help? If my doctors weren’t proactive at a younger age, and my health insurance doesn’t cover it because my State and/or Federal lawmakers don’t mandate them to, and my employer doesn’t offer assistance and I’m too ashamed or embarrassed (for no good reason) to ask people for help and no one talks about this sort of thing in public……where do I go? Who will help me/us? Where do I get answers? Why is this MEDICAL condition so difficult to seek help & support for?!?

Why did this happen to me?  To us?  To so many people. To one in eight couples? Why is there a secret society of women and men out there, posting on private Facebook group pages or forums, gathering at churches or at coffee shops, sharing tear after tear, whispering about & masking their pain, their defeat and the potential loss of their dreams? Why is there such a stigma associated with being infertile and so little understanding, dare I say, empathy, from those who are not?  The burden of the disease itself, finding the right treatment, figuring out how to pay for it and then fumbling to emotionally deal with it rests entirely on the shoulders of a person or couple who are devastated to the core to learn they will struggle to, or never be able to have biological children. It may not be a terminal disease, but make no mistake, infertility is a loss…..it isn’t tangible, like the physical loss of a loved one to another serious medical condition, but it is a loss of huge proportions.  Because the loss can not be seen, it can be confused by some as something one can “get over” because “worse things could happen to you.”  The old, “you can’t miss what you never had” adage, right? Wrong.  

This loss…of everything you ever thought your life would be…..of dreams you had with your partner of & for another human being…the ache to share a bond, share blood & dna, share a legacy….the moment you learn you are infertile, the instant the doctors tell you you have an unattainable dream….I promise, you will miss every first breath, all ten little  fingers and every teeny, tiny toe…you never had. 

By vast majority, the infertility stories shared in public, in the media and, if we’re being honest, in the infertility community as well, are the ones which have happy endings.  We know why, of course, it’s because happy endings spread a message of hope – which is a message desperately needed in the trenches of this war. Reproductive science is creating miracles every day…and there are family building options out there, to resolve the inability to conceive – like egg & sperm donors, embryo adoption in addition to surrogacy & adoption.  But what if, for whatever reason – you are limited in the family building options that you are open to. What if your journey ends with no baby? Where are the messages of hope for those infertility stories that did not end in pink or blue blankets in a Pinterest-perfect nursery?  These stories count too.  

April 24-30, 2016 is National Infertlity Awareness Week and the theme for this years awareness campaign is to #startasking questions.  The most notable infertility support & resource organization, Resolve, has asked and encourages us infertiles and our supporters to spread the message to get people to #startasking the hard questions…like:

*Employers for insurance coverage. 

 *Lawmakers and legislators to support issues important to the infertility community. 

*Friends and family to support us.

*The media to cover infertility and the real challenges we all face. 

*Those who have resolved their infertility to stay involved.  

*OB/GYN or healthcare provider to talk about OUR reproductive health – EARLIER. 

*For affordable care for treatment of a disease.

*Legal access to all family building options nationwide.

If you have questions about your fertility, ask your doctor now. If you have a friend or family member who is struggling, please ask them how they are doing.  Do some research on the subject to educate yourself or ask your loved one how you can be supportive.  

If you have no one to talk to or feel alone in your infertility journey, speak up, because you most certainly are not. You are not alone in the moment you first hear the word “infertility,” you are not alone in the two week wait, you are not alone in your happy ending with a baby in the nursery…..and you are not alone if you walk away with empty arms.