Those of you who have followed Bottles & Banter over the last year and a half know that we needed (more than) a little help bringing our daughter into our family. Thousands of dollars, 3 years, 6 IUI’s, 2 rounds of stims for IVF, and 1 egg retrieval finally led us to a successful transfer and eventual live birth. Finally. And much of that was alone. We really didn’t talk about infertility with anyone, save a few people here and there. Embarrassment for not being able to complete literally the one task humans are meant to do? Fear of judgement for pursuing treatment? Not wanting to hear the “oh relax, it’ll happen” or the “why not just adopt” song and dance? For whatever reason, we kept it to ourselves. Until we decided to say f*ck it. Maybe we know some other people who don’t feel like being alone. And it turns out, we do.
Time To Talk About Infertility
The disease of infertility knows no race, gender, age, socioeconomic status, nor geographic location. Studies have suggested an infertility diagnosis to be as stressful and anxiety inducing as a cancer diagnosis, heart attack recovery, or living with hypertension. Why would one live in silence through any of these ailments? Embarrassed that their bodies are failing them? No way.
If you can bring yourself to it, starting to talk about infertility and your struggles with it can have many, many impacts on your life. Some you can’t even imagine. For us, it was a profound difference.
People Are Far More Supportive
Than You’d Ever Expect
After the initial stages of telling people, we found that they were far more interested in just listening than to offer crappy advice. Most realized we probably did try that crappy diet or the stupid thing Aunt Sally with 10 kids says works every time. Sure, we lost a few Facebook friends along the way because of some misguided religious beliefs or morals or whatever. By and large, though, we gained a support network we didn’t even know we had. Too bad for us we waited so long because it would have been quite helpful to just tell our friends we can’t go out to the bar tonight because we’re doing a vastly different kind of shot party. Disappearing for a couple weeks at a time makes it quite obvious something is amiss. But, hey! Next time around: we’ll give you ALL the detail you can handle. And maybe more.
It’s A Teaching Opportunity
Speaking of sharing all the gory detail: y’all don’t really know the human reproductive system, do you? Just kidding, mostly. Nearly everyone we’ve talked to or interacted with has had tons of questions. What do the shots do? How many? Why so many appointments? WTF is an oocyte and why are you excited that there are 17 of them? At this point in our lives, we could be middle school health teachers. Though, maybe not – we probably wouldn’t use the Mean Girls’ Coach Carr approach to sex ed. When you talk about infertility, you’ll see that people are genuinely interested in the process. It’s freaking cool when it’s not your entire life.
“Don’t have sex. Cause you will get pregnant and … die.”
– Coach Carr
It’s also a great way to teach people how to interact with someone who is struggling with infertility. People don’t really interact with it on a daily basis, so they totally don’t know how much it hurts a couple to ask “Why the heck aren’t you pregnant yet?” at a wedding, or worse, a baby shower. You’ll see the instant “Oh shit, did I say something like that before?” look on their face. But it’s ok – we totally know you meant nothing by it. We were still mad at the time. We’re good now.
It’s A Learning Opportunity
The teacher has become the student. On the night we posted on Facebook about our struggles, we got SO many messages from friends saying they had similar experiences. Learning from them what worked, what didn’t, where they went and who they talked to; it was incredible. We learned so much more about our social network than we thought possible. And it was all talk about making babies without mentioning sex even once. Science, baby!
What Can You Do?
When someone you love is taking what you think might be a bit long to start their family, don’t just assume (and ask why) they’re being lazy or don’t want kids or are waiting for the exact right moment. You never know what’s going on, and that’s ok. And when they do finally talk about infertility: be there. Listen. Be supportive. That’s all we ask. And if you want to take it a step forward, join the fight for reproductive rights. The same rules that govern abortion can have unintended consequences for assisted reproductive technology.
This year’s National Infertility Awareness Week theme is Listen Up. Hear what people have to say about why infertility is not just a serious disease, but a fight for a dream. We got the first part our dream, but the journey isn’t over yet. So thanks for listening to us! And thanks for all of your support moving forward.