NIAW: flip the script

41Whooohooo! This week is a big in the infertility community world, as its National Infertility Awareness Week.

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There is SO MUCH fun stuff going on this week in order to raise awareness and start Flipping the Script on conversations that are taking place about infertility. To check out some of the stuff I’ve been a part of, you can look here:

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Now let’s talk infertility.

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The whole reason I started this blog back in 2012 was simple: we needed to start talking about the “I” word … infertility. There is a significant gap in the conversations that take place about this disease, and yet we know the 1 in 8 couples will face a struggle with either infertility or secondary infertility at some point in their lives. This isn’t just people who waited to long to start a family, these are couples who are young and old, have a variety of incomes, lifestyles, jobs, and faiths. And yet, despite the fact that it’s a disease, we are seeing significant barriers that still stand in the way to get care. The costs are excruciating and yet only 15 states require insurance companies to cover it. For those that don’t cover it? We are talking at least $20,000 for a single IVF cycle.

And the affects of infertility? Well, it doesn’t just crush the couple themselves, but its grips touch many parts of their lives. The themes I have experienced and see around me in others who are struggling are clear.

Infertility affects marriages. Medical bills. Treatments. Timed intercourse. All of those raging hormones resulting in mood swings. Heartache. Trying to cope. Navigating in-law dynamics and how supportive (or unsupportive) the family is. I am happy to say that many times, infertility can bring a marriage closer, but only was communication was made a top priority and grace was given freely during all of the emotional swings. For us, our marriage first and foremost had to be rooted on Jesus and even then, infertility challenged our faith and taught us so much.

And sadly, not every marriage makes it. The conversations go from being calm to erupting. Disagreements take place on when treatments should stop. People process miscarriages differently. Words are said. Hurt sets in. Resentment takes root. And it breaks my heart when I hear of these stories, but the truth is, marriages become a causality of infertility.

Infertility affects friendships. The way your friends handle your infertility makes or breaks a friendship. At times, friends fear saying the wrong thing and that silence builds and becomes unbearable. Resentment sets in – don’t they care!? – and you are left feeling isolated. Friendships are tested when someone else gets pregnant. Emotions like guilt seep in, creating division. And let’s not forget the social interaction divide that can happen. Suddenly friendships have to navigate how to handle jealously, bitterness, and resentment. Friendships can easily start to fizzle when intentionality is forgotten. Yes, friendships can also flourish in these seasons. Friends response with sensitivity, love, sympathy, compassion, and care. And perhaps new friendships emerge, based on similar experiences and others begin to validate the heartbreak.

Infertility affects your family. It forces couples who share to become vulnerable, and as a result, potentially grow closer together. However, it can also cause hurt as flippant comments are made. Tension can set in if a set of parents begins to give more attention to the siblings with grandkids and unspoken frustrations can build. A couple now have to learn to communicate their emotions gently and one can only hope its well received.

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So how do we flip the script? How do we stop the stigma of silence that surround it? I think

  1. Share your story. YES! It’s vulnerable. It’s scary. But it helps break the silence so that someone else can say “me too”. (In fact, that’s what my whole What’s It Like series is aimed to do!
  2. Stop putting words into someone else’s mouth and start asking questions. In order for any relationship to survive infertility we have to start empathizing and asking how we can support them during the struggle.
  3. Advocate for yourself. Speak up at your doctor’s office. Talk to your Human Resources department about insurance plans. Call your state representative. Get involved in Advocacy Day.
  4. Temporarily change your Facebook banner or image to one of these! Get the conversation going. Or start using #NIAW on posts and lets get this topic trending!
  5. For those not struggling with infertility, read up on my conversation guide post here on Fertility Bridge for some conversation tips!

What are some other ways you can start talking about infertility and breaking the stigma? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Together we CAN make a difference. No one should have to suffer alone.

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