National Infertility Awareness Month: Why I’m an Advocate

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Ever since my husband and I ended our seven year battle with fertility treatments and decided not to pursue adoption, I have been trying to figure out what to do with my life.

I am incredibly grateful that we were able to have a baby with the help of intrauterine insemination, and that I have been able to stay home with her for the past five years. But my baby is no longer a baby anymore! My daughter is headed to kindergarten in the fall and I am headed back to work.

I have been trying not to think about all the what-ifs and could-have-beens with respect to our repeated attempts to have a second biological child. What if I didn’t have endometriosis? What if my pregnancies hadn’t miscarried? What if one, just one, of our embryos didn’t have a genetic mutation? What if the embryo adoption had worked out? Then I would have a baby right now. But I am trying to steer far away from the past and instead focus on the present. What now?

There is a perceived notion that when you struggle with infertility and then have a baby, you are done being infertile. Though that may be true for some people, it was not true for me and my husband. Many of our friends and family members wanted us to ride off into the sunset and never look back. They often said they just wanted us to be happy. But my husband and I wanted more children.

I remember, after my third consecutive miscarriage, sharing the news with a close family member, who responded; “Don’t be sad. Look at your beautiful daughter and just be grateful that you have her.” I can only imagine her own grief over what my husband and I were going through led to her dismissive remark. Maybe she told me what helped her make sense of our sad news. I wasn’t crying on the phone to her. I wasn’t angry. Not in that conversation, and not ever in my journey, have I uttered that what was happening to me was not fair. I have worked in homes for the dying in Calcutta and have worked with families in Mexico who had no clean water to drink. Those situations are not fair. What is also not fair is that so many people I love and have grown to cherish in the infertility community do not have their one miracle to hold and love.

But for a person to tell me to be grateful for the gift of my daughter is like telling my heart to beat. Of course I am grateful for my daughter! My gratitude is heightened by knowing how much the odds were against her coming into this world. Infertility is like wearing a permanent pair of sunglasses. It colors your entire world, including the way you parent. The love and the depth of gratitude I feel for my child is a richer, more vibrant shade, fashioned by the years of desiring her presence in our lives and by the long journey that got her to us. My infertility also causes my gratitude for my daughter to be mixed with a grief over my miscarriages and unviable embryos. Infertility teaches us all that anything can, and most often will, go wrong, that loss is a part of life, and that life doesn’t work out as we hope or plan. These darker hues are ever-present and constantly haunt the thoughts that occupy my mind. My husband tells me that infertility is something that will be with us always. I think he is right.

So the question still remains, “What now?” Where do I go from here? These last few months I have been taking a look at the things in my life that define me. I am a grateful mother to my daughter. I am a wife, married 11 years. I am a social worker who has helped people through therapy and advocacy snd I have been a campus minister at the high school and college level. I am an infertility survivor and endometriosis patient who is constantly trying to make more sense of this awful, chronic disease.

Lately I have been thinking about expanding my role as an advocate in the infertility world and starting groups for women going through infertility treatments. I have recently started a retreat program for women struggling with infertility. All my efforts make some of my family members a little nervous. They view it as my being stuck or wallowing in my infertility struggles. Maybe they are afraid I am missing my chance at that beautiful ride into the sunset? Paulo Coehlo, one of my favorite authors, writes “Don’t allow your wounds to transform you into something you are not.” I believe in my heart that my desire to continue to be a part of the infertility community is not dwelling in my past or transforming me in a negative way.

My hope is that my wounds will help me transform the lives of others struggling with infertility, which in turn will help me heal. I have always been an advocate. I have always looked to help others who are struggling. Now that I am no longer undergoing fertility treatments, I feel that I can be a light for others and help them navigate their own path through infertility. I hope to use my skills and experience to make a difference in the lives of other women who are struggling with what I have struggled with. I am excited for the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. in May, as part of an effort organized by RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, to speak with elected officials on many infertility issues. I am especially looking forward to meeting many of the strong, amazing women in the infertility community that I have come in contact with over the years, many of whom are still fighting hard for their miracle.

I will never forget the pain and hopelessness that I felt before I had my daughter and the feelings of loss that I still feel after the realization that after five additional years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, I will never have another biological child. I will never take my daughter’s life for granted. I will never take lightly the pain of others, especially those who are struggling to have their first child. I will never stop educating others about infertility. I will never stop fighting for answers. I have learned through my journey with infertility that I will never be the same, but hopefully, in my new reality, I can bring hope and comfort to others.

To find our more about RESOLVE and Advocacy Day check out: http://www.resolve.org/infertility101 and http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html

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