Saturday, April 20, 2013

Join The Movement

   I can think of very few things in this world more isolating than being infertile in a fertile world. It's an incredibly lonely place to be. In this ‘bump’ obsessed culture where the term ‘family’ is only awarded to those who reproduce, many of us are silenced by the unspoken message that we are an outlier because of our infertility, lesser even. It is a secret that we often work so hard to keep hidden, and we're good at it.  So many of us actually go through incredibly invasive medical procedures and heartbreaking losses without so much as a whisper escaping us.  We go to work and somehow muster a false smile, leaving the tears for when we are locked inside the bathroom stall.  We are the ones at your family reunion who stand amongst you wondering the whole time whether we will ever be given the gift of helping grow the family tree, but you wouldn't know because many of us leave our confessions for the ride home. Infertility just isn't a topic that crosses many family dinner tables, or any tables for that matter.  And this is to our great detriment.
So, when people are surprised to learn that infertility affects 1 in 8 couples, I can understand that. We are one of the quietest large groups out there, but we are getting louder by the day. The world-at-large must be informed of how common this disease is and most of all, this message must reach our infertile brothers and sisters, so many of whom are fighting this battle from a lonely corner. We need to affect change, bring down the barriers to accessing family building and let every single person facing infertility know that they are not alone and that there is strength in our great numbers, but the only way any of this can happen is if you join the movement.  Whether you are a friend, family member or co-worker of someone facing infertility or you yourself are facing infertility, I invite you to come along!

What should I do?

How you join the movement will be a deeply personal decision. Not everyone will take to Good Morning America about Male Factor Infertility as my husband and I did. Not everyone will stand at the Capitol and share publicly what the heartbreak of infertility and being prevented from building their family because of a lack of insurance coverage looks like, but everyone can contribute.  Everyone, and in multiple ways.

However small your contribution is will not be overlooked by our community. Every voice is valued. Each step we take is a step closer to breaking the stigma, supporting each other and helping gain access to medically necessary treatment. Below are some ideas on how you can join the movement and help those within the infertility community who are working so hard to build their family:

Infertility forums: Not everyone is ready to be public about this very personal journey for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is cultural and religious beliefs surrounding the use of reproductive technology and/or the stigma and shame about infertility. This is the beauty of the internet. You can post anonymously and in doing so, both receive and provide life changing support without compromising  'real-life' relationships. We get it and with your help, we know you get us, too.

Blogging: The issues that surround infertility are multi-faceted. I've been blogging about infertility for five years and still haven't run out of topics.  And this community is really quite large and always at the ready to lend an ear! We welcome you to the fold (and this can be done anonymously, too!).

Speak: Speak out loud. Confide in a trusted friend or family member. Find a safe place to let the reality of what infertility looks like be heard.  You never know. Perhaps they too have walked a similar path and your words could begin some much-needed healing.

Social media: If and/or when you're ready to join the movement, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are ready for your voice. I guarantee that if you have more than eight followers, at least one of them has been there and would feel relieved to know they are not alone.

Join a RESOLVE or infertility support group: This was a life changer for me. This is where, after four straight years of silence and heartbreak, I uttered my first words about my own infertility to a small group who finally understood exactly what I was saying. To this day, I am still close friends with those members. I still turn to them for the type of understanding I can't quite get elsewhere.

Start a RESOLVE support group in your area: RESOLVE is always looking for new leaders to help bring support to the infertility community. If you're at a place in your journey where you're ready and able to give back, this can be a greatly rewarding, and again, healing place to begin.

Media outlets: If you're feeling especially bold and are comfortable enough to go forward, there are often many opportunities to share your infertility story with media. Do you know how healing (and normalizing) it is to see a regular couple on my TV screen relating struggles that we've faced when for so many years I felt like a pariah? It's powerful!

Lend a Hand: If there is someone you know of who is struggling to access insurance, needed medical assistance or workplace rights related to infertility and you have the tools to help them, take that opportunity.  Turn your own heartache into a meaningful experience by helping someone facing similar hurdles.

Become an infertility advocate: Joining the movement can be as simple as writing your senators and representatives regarding a variety of legislation that will affect the lives of those living with infertility, including: making the adoption credit refundable, fighting anti-family bills and/or supporting the Family Act tax credit when it is re-introduced.  Invite your friends and family to do the same. 

Volunteer: To become even more involved, RESOLVE is always seeking people who can become Project PROTECT advocates.  Meet with your local legislators to address bills pertinent to family building or simply to educate them about the lives and needs of those living with infertility. 

 The ways in which you can join the movement are endless.  And this is just the beginning.
  The very real loss those of us facing infertility experience-the loss of adding to our family in the way we dreamed or even the loss of possibly parenting a child at all is often misunderstood and most importantly, underestimated. The experience of infertility can put us on an island, a place whose painful experiences feel unique only to us. That is, unless we find a way to each other and eventually, to the world-at-large to share our experience. So, please, join the movement and spread the word. Let us see that we are not alone in this.  

To learn more about infertility and how you can join the movement, go to RESOLVE.
This post was written to honor National Infertility Awareness Week, April 21-April 28.


Jess said...

Excellent thoughtful, respectful post--I loved how you broke out all the ways that you can be a part of the movement, even if you are not ready to share your story. I am looking forward to reading more about your donor egg journey past and present, as I have recently begun down that path myself.

Em said...

You're so right. We are a "bump obsessed" culture. What's that about anyways? Thanks so much for this informative, powerful, and practical post. I love the way you broke down all of the different things people can do to join the movement - infertile or not. Thanks for being a voice for all of us!

Aaryn Rubin said...

I truly hope people decided to embrace their journey and speak out about it-as a way to many people are ignorant on such a prevalent issue...

I honestly have never understood the desire to keep quiet about it...

Thanks for helping to spread the word :)