Today I am dedicating my blog to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker's latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.
Do you know what is the strangest part about infertility? The other side of it. Whether you have a child of your own, you use a surrogate, you choose to adopt, you become foster parents, you use an egg or sperm donor; no matter how you get to the other side, that other side seems to be more foreign then being in the throes of infertility.
You become so accustomed (almost obsessed) with your cycles and when they'll be, and what meds you'll be on, and who your transfer buddy will be, that it really becomes a lifestyle. You become part of a community of others who are also actively trying for children via assisted reproductive technology, you download countdown apps on your phone & religiously check it and post on Instagram how many days left until X, Y, or Z. You take the obligatory photo of all of your IVF meds, the ultrasound machine, your transfer socks, and your embryos. All of this becomes your norm, and for me that was my norm for 3 years.
Finally after 2 IUI's, 7 IVF cycles; 3 fresh transfers with my own eggs, 3 FET's with my own eggs, an egg donor, a donor IVF cycle, (a partridge and a pear tree) we were blessed with a pregnancy and subsequent baby. She was A LOT of work. Like seriously, thousands of miles on my car traveling 2 hours in one direction between 3 different doctors over 3 years, hundreds of needle pricks, vaginal ultrasound prodding, 9 BFN's, blood, sweat, and tears, we got our miracle, and what a miracle she is. She's E V E R Y T H I N G.
But, I will always be 1 in 8, and still, at this point, with a 2 month old baby, I still feel more in common with my infertility sisters than I do with other moms. So much of the heartache of our journey has completely faded away. She was 110% worth all the time and effort that we put into having her, but motherhood is still something I have so much to learn about and infertility is something I'm a goddamn expert on. I'm not sure motherhood is ever something I'll be able to all myself an "expert" at. Parenting is a lot like yoga, it's a practice that you're always working at, you never come to the end of your learning (although I highly doubt parenthood is ever as relaxing as yoga) and you're constantly learning.
This years NIAW theme is Listen Up! There are lots of ways that you can "listen up", there are so many facts out there to know and learn about infertility such as when to seek treatment, the policies and legislation that can impact family building options, and how to support someone who is going through infertility.
What "Listen Up" means to me and what I've become so passionate about in regards to infertility is that there are several ways that families can be built. It's not just about my eggs and my husbands sperm and if that doesn't work then there is no hope. No, not even close. Egg donation is what gave us our beautiful daughter, but there are many other options including sperm donation, embryo adoption, surrogacy, gestational carriers, fostering, adoption. The word "traditional" and "family" really don't go together at all these days as there are so many ways to build families beyond a man and a woman procreating. There are same sex couples, there are single men and women with desires to have children, there are couples who prefer to adopt, there are couples who need someone else to carry their baby. To me it is so important to understand the options available if you're someone who is struggling with infertility and feels as though you might be at the end of your journey because of failed attempts. It's also important to me to be an advocate for family building options. Breaking the silence about how families are made today and shattering the stigma and the shame that some people might feel about how they created their family is what "Listen Up" means to me and why I openly share our story as much as I possibly can.
If you or someone you know is struggling silently with infertility, please know that there are so many wonderful resources and a beautiful community of people who can help. Please check out the NIAW website for more information.