Sunday, April 21, 2013

join the movement

How exciting-- it's our week! 

Orrrr....not. Exciting, that is. No one wants to be part of a group that gets an 'awareness week' (or month). Being a part of those groups never means anything good, as far as I know. There's no awareness week for being awesome, or having a lot of cats, or not stubbing your toe for a third time today on that stupid coffee table. You know. Things that would be worth celebrating for a week or month. It's always the crappy stuff that needs awareness-raising.

So here I am, waving my flag: It's National Infertility Awareness Week! Let's celebrate?

(Side note: Who picks the weeks for these things? Because if it were up to me, I would have picked the week before Mother's Day. THAT is Infertility Awareness Week de facto, my friends. Ask anyone who's in my club. May as well call it like it is. So now we get TWO weeks, I suppose.)

 As I mentioned during Endometriosis Awareness Month (wait- endo gets a whole month, but infertility as a whole only gets a week? Seriously- who DOES plan these things?)-- if you're afflicted with it (endo, infertility, breast cancer, whatever) don't need an 'awareness week/month' to remind you. It's your whole life. I guess the point of the month is to remind everyone else what it's like. Or raise money. Or something.

The theme for this year is 'join the movement.' 

I feel like I've done that over the last few years. Not necessarily even intentionally...but I've been blogging pretty openly about our infertility for a number of years here, and somewhere along the way I've connected with a lot of other women doing the same thing. And though I've never joined any kind of real-life support group, I feel like we've established the same sort of community through blogging and social media. And having the support of these girls has given me the braveness and strength I've needed to be bolder and more open in my "real" life, where I know far fewer fellow IF-ers. I don't know that I've started any 'movements,' but I think I've at least established myself as the designated go-to girl for infertility in most of my real-life I guess that counts for something.

And just in case anyone wasn't aware, I put changed my FB header thing to be this. Awkward.

I don't exactly know what direction to go with this post. Am I supposed to be raising up an army of people, convincing you to join our movement? (LIKE LES MIS?!?!?! Do you hear the people sing?) If you're not experiencing infertility yourself, what can you do to 'join'? I feel like I'm preaching to the choir here-- pretty much everyone who reads my blog is either a) infertile themselves or b) has heard me ramble on ad nauseum a million times before about how miserable IF can be and how to not be one of the people that makes it even worse. But just in case you're new or you have a short memory, I'll throw out an easy-peasy #1 way you can be a friend (and not a foe, or One Of Those Whom IF Girls Send Nasty Emails To Each Other To Complain About. You don't want to be one of Those.) to the IF movement:

Give our disease(s), and consequently us, the respect you would give anyone else with a disease you deem 'legitimate.' It blows my mind to hear (both first and second-hand) the flippant write-off that infertility gets. I can't imagine people treating other diseases with such lightheartedness. Upon my friend's diagnosis with breast cancer, I heard no one suggest that she 'just relax' and it would go away...I heard no one laughingly complain about what a pain bra shopping is and tell her she is lucky she won't have to deal with that anymore...I heard no one suggest that it just wasn't God's will for her to be healthy. Why? Because breast cancer is a devastating, life-altering, and potentially life-threatening disease and people generally treat it as such. I'm not trying to suggest that an infertility diagnosis is equal to a cancer diagnosis- don't get me wrong. But what I am saying is that the diseases behind infertility (even the unknown ones that people with unexplained infertility suffer from) are real, they are medically explainable and sometimes medically treatable, and the effects of our diseases in our lives, both physically, emotionally, and socially, are very real. Just as you would not probably offer helpful suggestions about medical protocol (based on an article you read online or something you heard your sister's boyfriend's aunt did) to someone with epilepsy or kidney disease (unless you happen to be a physician, researcher, or have suffered it yourself), the men and women of the infertility community appreciate you biting your tongue before doling advice out to us, too. My endometriosis is caused by the growth of endometriomal tissue in areas outside of my uterus. The growths (and subsequent cysts and adhesions) have not only caused a huge amount of pain, but mangled one of my ovaries and my Fallopian tube, making it unlikely that a fertilized egg could ever implant there. That is a medical problem. My diminished ovarian reserve means that I have fewer eggs left, and those that are left are of diminished quality. Lower-quality eggs are less likely to be fertilized and less able to implant into my wonky Fallopian tubes. No amount of relaxing will fix these issues, and suggesting that it might only makes you look foolish. My husband's poor sperm quality with damaged DNA is unable to fertilize eggs. It is caused by vein abnormalities that developed during puberty. A tropical vacation will not fix this (although hopefully his surgery did). Propping my hips up on a pillow after sex isn't going to fix this. Trust us-- if the thing you read on the internet or saw on Dr. Oz was the cure we were waiting for, we wouldn't spend thousands of dollars on reproductive endocrinologists, experts, and surgeries. Trust me.

I have many friends who do not suffer from infertility but whom I still count as 'in the movement.' These are friends who recognize the physical and emotional pain caused by infertility and offer emotional and practical support wherever they can. They educate themselves about our diseases and ask thoughtful questions in an effort to understand better. They offer optimism and hopeful anecdotes when they sense those things are needed-- they offer a beer and a shoulder to cry on when those things are not. They jump to our defense when people brush over the pain of infertility by informing us to 'just wait, it'll happen', and they help steer conversation back to neutral ground when they find us growing teary as people share tale after tale of labor and delivery stories. I am so thankful for these friends who have perhaps unknowingly joined our movement, who understand when we dread baby showers and baptisms, who send us cards on Mother's Days, who give us first dibs on holding their babies (if we feel like it). Friends who text while we're at doctors appointments to let us know they're praying, who follow up with us afterwards, who rejoice in our small victories (OVULATION!! WOOO!!!!) and mourn with our losses...they've joined. I don't care if they donate to the research fund or join a walk-- the support they offer in real life is worth more than all of that. 

Chances are that you know someone in your real life who is dealing with infertility-- it effects 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age. Many of these couples may not be public with their status, but if they are, I hope you know how much you can help them in their journey. Treating their disease with the proper amount of disease-respect (I'm pretty sure that's a thing) and offering the same degree of concern you would to someone suffering from any other health problems is an easy way to start. Don't underestimate yourself-- even women brimming with fertility have been valued supporters and allies in my own life. You don't have to share a disease to support someone with it.

So there's my spiel. Join the movement, people. 

In case my plea wasn't strong enough for you, let me borrow the words of the original movement-makers:

Will you join in our crusade? 
Who will be strong and stand with me?

 Hint: It's a song from this book/play/movie (my favorite ever), and describing infertiles as 'les miserables' (the miserable ones, roughly) is quite apropo. I wanted to splice a picture of my face into the picture above, but I don't have Photoshop on this laptop and I'm rather lazy, so just use your imagination and pretend it's my face instead of Cosette's, ok? Thanks!

For more information about infertility or National Infertility Awareness Week, please check out Resolve's webpage.


  1. Favorite NIAW post of the day because you linked it to Les Mis.

    Do you hear the people sing?
    Singing a song of angry men? (Errr, and women)

    Awesome stuff. I was actually watching Les Mis last night and when everyone told me to shut up, I thought of you. You sing along, right?

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  3. I've always wondered the same thing...who the heck decides what week or month to celebrate ____. I want to create something to celebrate now.

    I suppose it's the denial part of me, but I don't want to be apart of any groups! Not to offend anyone who is...and it's not just infertility. It's everything that I struggle with: infertility, losing a baby at 14 weeks due to an ectopic, childhood sexual abuse. AND it's not that I'm in denial of what happens/ed to me either. I don't know what it is.

    I do think it's great that there is such awareness because I think infertility/infant loss/miscarriage, etc. is such a taboo topic for TOO many people, myself included. I rarely talk about any of those things mentioned.

    UGH. MD. Not looking forward to that either!

    You are awesome though.

  4. As always, a though-provoking and sincere post. I love you!! Praying and supporting... This week and all the rest! :)

  5. Girl I just wanted to say I love your blog and am happy I stumbled upon it from the Nelson twins, or should I say Joiners and Olivers? Anyways, I saw that you had posted comments a few times on my blog which made me elated! I need to be better about responding to comments (I hate that people don't get notified of the responses) as well as commenting on other people's blogs! Just wanted to reach out and say "hey" and "thanks"! :)

  6. I have always wondered the same thing. .. who in the world decides when _____ Awareness week should be. I love your perspective here and the encouragement you give to those who are not struggling with infertility. Couldn't have said it better myself. Thankful we've become friends via blog land! :)

  7. If I weren't infertile and I just read this, I'd absolutely join the movement. Love it! But, unfortunatel, I am infertile and so, I'm right there with you on this bandwagon. Tear :(

    I totally agree, the NIAW should be the week of Mother's Day- I'm already bracing myself for May 12th. And, thanks for making the comparison to breast cancer - though I know our disease is much different thant that of cancer, there is a lot of research that has connected IF to cancer, in that the people suffering from both diseases go through similar amounts of stress and depression... Interesing. Oh, and finally - did you really change your FB Header?! You go girl! Thanks for being so open and willing to share your story with the world!


  8. Great post. And thanks for getting the Les Mis song stuck in my head for the rest of the day. :) Thanks (non-sarcastically) for making me feel like I am able to support you and be part of the movement despite my fertility, which is often shoved right in your face. Love you!

  9. Thankful as always for your perspective... I would say that I wish a week like this didn't even have to exist, but if infertility didn't exist, we probably would not have found each other!

    Will be thinking and praying of you again at the second NIAW in a couple of weeks!

  10. I struggle with watching the idiots of our world procreate like rabbits while my friends and family--truly good, responsible, God-fearing people who would make the BEST parents--struggle. It breaks my heart to see a child born into a situation that is less that what he/she deserves...and know that there are people out there that would give him/her the world if he/she was theirs... I don't know my fertility status, but as I don't desire children, I wish I could just hand my child bearing abilities to someone who crave motherhood. I've never been one to whine about fairness...but this is SO unfair.

  11. love you. there's too much to try to say in a short comment, but know that we pray for you guys, and we love you.

  12. As always...genius post. Loved it. I am especially glad that you have people in your life who are fertile but who are part of the movement. EVERYBODY needs some of those. Thanks so much for spreading the word about validating our cause because that's all we really want...validation (and a baby). (-:

  13. This is so good! The Les Mis connection is just icing on the cake. Which reminds me, cake should be a bigger part of infertility week!

  14. Thanks so much for this candid post. I do not struggle with infertility but have some many close friends and colleagues that do. I want to support them and let them know that I think of them often.
    I have no idea if this is helpful or not but I usually do not bring up our daughter or my current pregnancy unless they initiate or ask.
    I have learned SOOO much by reading yours and others blogs about infertility, I am truly thankful that I found this site on the "blogworld".
    Thinking of you this week and praying as always!

  15. I love, love, love your post. I love the analogy between what a pain parenting can be and bra-shopping... perfect comparison to show just how insensitive it is when people tell you, "Just you wait--someday you'll be wondering 'What was I THINKING wanting kids!' when this is all behind you." Someone actually said that to me this week. I agree-the perfect time for NIAW would be the week before Mother's Day! Thanks for your thoughts, your honesty, your sense of humor, and your excellent taste in musical references.

  16. Great post Erika. You are always so transparent with your thoughts and give a real voice to something you don't hear a lot of people talking about. Know that the Goldens love & support y'all in your journey to parenthood!

  17. Thanks for the great post and for making me laugh. :) Yes, infertility awareness week for me was always the week leading up to Mother's Day.


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