niaw: listen up.

 

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April 23-29 marks an important week in the infertility world, as it is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). I know there’s a lot of months and weeks out there for so many great causes, and this one is near and dear to my heart, as it’s a wonderful time for people to start talking, begin uniting, work towards educating others about what infertility is, all it entails, and who it effects. I am a blessed one – as our story has been public for many years and we have an amazing community around us following along, asking great questions, listening when we need it, and walking through the highs and lows with us.

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Let’s get real about infertility for a minute: Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. Now, we throw numbers and stats out a lot in today’s society that they can begin to lose their power. But think about it. If you are sitting in a room with 16 of your girlfriends, there are 2 of them who are likely personally affected by infertility or secondary infertility. This reality doesn’t care what job you have, how much you want to be a parent, your income, race, or social status. It breaks the hearts of all parties involved and leaves many left wondering why me? Why can everyone else around me have 1, 2, 3, 4 kids and we can’t? Infertility may be woven into female diagnosis, male factors, or simply unknown reasons. It weaves in emotions like fear, shame, confusion, depression, heartache, physical and emotion ailments, jealously, brokenness, sorrow, anger, and immense grief.

When you are struggling with infertility, it isn’t a part-time battle. It wrecks your world, day in and day out. You are constantly caught off guard with triggers, whether it’s observing a mother and child at the store, watching tv and catching a precious, but heartbreaking Pampers commercial, passing a pregnant women in the parking lot, or receiving (yet another) baby shower invitation. Some couples choose to share their stories and other couples keep their battles private, suffering silently and feeling the immense need to constantly put on the “happy face”.

Now back to NIAW. RESOLVE is the association that manages this week ahead and the theme this year is “Listen Up”. (You can read all about their intentions for the theme in this link.) When I first heard the theme though, my mind didn’t jump to the need for legislature to listen up (although that is important). It didn’t jump to the idea that insurance companies or fertility specialists need to listen up, although again, important factors. My brain immediately recognized the importance of those around us – our intimate community – needing to listen up.

In a battle as tough as infertility, it is critical that we have the support of those around us – those who support us and those who are struggling themselves. Isolation will create only that, feelings of being alone. And with a statistic as staggering as 15% of couples struggling, you are anything but alone.

If you are reading this today as someone who has never been touched by the struggles of infertility personally, thank you for taking the time to increase your knowledge. As you go through life, it’s inevitable that you will cross paths with someone who is struggling with infertility and your desire to build your awareness is critical. Be willing to listen to them. Don’t force them to talk, but don’t minimize their emotions and feelings if they do choose to share. Do not use your time to offer advice. Telling someone that this is part of God’s plan, or that they need to relax and take a vacation, or that if they tried this herb/supplement/doctor/exercise/adoption agency, is NOT helpful. What this does is cause them to feel more blame, like they have caused their infertility, or are being punished for something, and despite your best intentions to offer them hope, will push them back into desiring to put up a wall and stop talking. JUST LISTEN.  Validate how hard this must be. Be interested, not uncomfortable, with what they have to say. Check in on them. Ask what you can do to help. Pray for them. Without your willingness to enter into the mess with us, we feel abandoned by those we care about.

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If you are reading this today and are newly diagnosed with infertility or are quietly struggling without sharing your story with anyone, know how truly sorry I am for you. Your heart is breaking and I wish there was something I could do to make it easier. Take the time you need to grieve. It’s okay to be scared and unsure of what’s ahead. Find a good doctor and be open with them. Sadly 91% of couples struggling with infertility wish they would have talked to a doctor sooner. Don’t be afraid to reach out – it’s your doctor’s job to listen and help. I encourage you to find someone to talk to – in real life or through social media (like instagram – it’s the best community out there!).  It’s a painful journey and without someone that can process with you and listen, the suffering will become unbearably heavy. I wish I could come wrap you in a blanket, offer you a cup of tea, sit across from you on a cozy couch and just listen. You deserve the right to share your emotions without judgment or opinions.

And lastly, to those of you who are public, who share your story loudly and ensure that others know about infertility, thank you. Thank you for advocating and being the voice of many. Thank you for bravely sharing your story. Thank you for putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to stupid comments, statements and stories. Don’t give up hope – keep up the good work! Because of people like you, there are others listening in who may not have otherwise. You matter and you are valuable no matter what your family looks like. Take care of yourself, offer yourself grace, and don’t allow yourself to become defined by your diagnosis. Try not to personalize the well intended “help” someone offers. Use it as a chance to help them hear what you are trying to say.

If you are reading this today, I challenge you to take a moment to pray for someone you know who is struggling. Perhaps there is no one that you know – in which case, can I offer up some of my friends to you to be prayed for? There are so many, but this week my heart is praying for C, E, J, C, C, K, S, J, K, C, N, G, A, and A. Pick a letter – God knows who they are, and pray for them. Each letter represents a couple still struggling, big time, with infertility and bringing a little one into their family. Your prayers matter. Pray for a healthy pregnancy to come their way, pray for healing of their bodies from diagnosis’s and illnesses, pray for wisdom for them as they navigate their treatment options, pray for peace to flood their hearts, pray for their spirits and their joy to be refilled, pray for their faith to be strengthened, pray for their marriage to withhold the stress of this struggle, pray for the medical team working with them and pray for those in their life that support them.

Ironically this year, Josh and I are celebrating NIAW with new lives coming into our family in the next 5-6 weeks, yet the reality remains that because of my diagnosis of PCOS, we will always be a part of the 1 in 8. My heart lies closely with those who are in this “club” with us and yet still, we know a number will never define us. We are not alone in the fight that we face, or the celebrations we have ahead. We are grateful for our Lord who stands with us in it all and fights for us, and for the most amazing community around us who have gone through so many ups and downs with us. You all make the difference, you matter, and you are a gift.

 

you are not alone.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week – a week focused on creating awareness that 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. You guys, that’s a lot. And I have to say, I am proud at how far we have come in the last few years. “Infertility” seems a little more talked about, people are responding with a lot more grace than discomfort, and more often than not, it invites others to say “me too”.

This year, RESOLVE is urging the infertility community to help spread the message “You are not alone.” Dealing with infertility can be isolating. So many people who struggle wonder why. We feel broken as we see our Newsfeed filling up with pregnancy announcements, gender reveal pictures, photo after photo of child-filled outings. The thing is though, there are others who understand how you are feeling. No one should have to walk through this alone.

If you are reading this today and are struggling, let me assure you of the fact that you are not alone.

You are not alone if you have never seen 2 pinks lines.

You are not alone if you have seen two pink lines but your arms are still empty.

You are not alone if you have to give yourself shots.

You are not alone if going to see the doctor (again) drains you of all your energy.

You are not alone if you are hopeful during a 2 week wait.

You are not alone if the thought of another 2 week wait makes your heart anxious.

You are not alone if you have ever laid in bed crying and wondering When? and Why?

You are not alone if you have felt like the only one who really feels like this.

You are not alone if you feel like you just can’t act like you have it all together one more day.

You are not alone if you are scared and confused.

You are not alone if you are questioning everything from trying to have your own child to learning about surrogates and gestational carriers.

You are not alone if you have heard that you are dealing with bad eggs.

You are not alone if you have heard that your partner has male infertility factors.

You are not alone if you are just giving it one more month.

You are not alone if you are afraid to say something to anyone because you anticipate a hurtful comment.

You are not alone if you need to seek a support group, find a counselor, take a break.

You are not alone if you engage in social media for support. (Instagram is the BEST group of ladies out there!)

You are not alone if you can’t remember the “pre-trying to conceive” you.

You are not alone if you aren’t sure when to seek help or talk to a specialist.

You are not alone if you are dealing with secondary infertility.

You are not alone if you are lead down a path to adoption.

You are not alone if you need to use donor eggs or donor sperm.

You are not alone if you feel like you can’t plan your life because you don’t know what the next 4 weeks will look like.

You are not alone if you have cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, red meat, vegetables that rhyme with “bale”, caffeine, anything with red dye …. all in hopes that this could be the thing that helps you get pregnant.

I could go on and on and on.

The point is, you are not alone. There are others out there with a similar story as you, feeling similar emotions, running down similar paths and wondering the same questions. Can I encourage you today to share your story? No, maybe it’s not going to be “coming out” on Facebook, but perhaps it’s telling a friend or a family member. Perhaps it’s starting the conversation with something like “What I am about to tell you is really hard for me because this is such a vulnerable and sensitive subject and I am just asking you to listen and be supportive …” I have a feeling that there will be many domino effects created as a result of your bravery to break the silence surrounding infertility.

Can I share one more thing?

I think that the greatest thing in the message You Are Not Alone is that you really aren’t ever alone because there is a God who loves you so much who is on the road with you, day in and day out. There are times and seasons where He seems so quiet. The silence of God is only temporary and I find it’s in the seasons of silence where I learn the most about Him and about myself. But apart from the seasons of silence, there are seasons of rich fellowship and community that is built by bringing our requests to His feet and trusting Him to walk with us down a path that is so hard, a path where we feel so weary.

God doesn’t always do exactly what we want Him to do, when we want Him to do it. I do believe though that even in the waiting and in the struggle of infertility, He is with us and because of that, we are never ever alone. We are never alone in the wee small hours of the morning when you’re hunched on the bathroom floor staring at another blank test. We are never alone when the ultrasound tech whispers “I am so sorry … let me get the doctor.” We are never alone when the emotions are bubbling.

I pray that during this week of Infertility Awareness, that others find deep, meaningful, rich relationships with other who are struggling so that they are reminded that they are not the outcasts, and even more so, I pray that others find the precious, peace-giving life that God has to offer in the midst of this battle.

Keep your chins up ladies, infertility does NOT get to beat us. We are not alone.

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Here are some resources for those wanting to learn a basic understanding of the disease of infertility, for those who want to learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week, or that wants to read more facts from my NIAW blog last year or the year before.

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resolve to know more.

This week marks an important week in the world of infertility as it is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). It’s a week where people can unite and help educate others about infertility and what it all entails. I have been so grateful that thanks to my blog and social media, we have been able to share our own story and build a network of support as we fight this.

Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. 1 in 8. That’s tragic. It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate – it touches men and women. The highs on this journey can be high and the lows can be devastatingly low. You can’t just dip your foot into this world. When you deal with infertility, you tend to be all in – invested fully with your heart and body. There are days when you feel fine and then without any warning, something triggers your emotions and you unravel very quickly. You learn to grieve as you are forced to face your own reality over and over again. Infertility is hard on relationships as you navigate feelings of brokenness, guilt, jealousy, frustration, sadness and anger. There are friendship causalities along the way.

This year, RESOLVE has set the theme for NIAW by spreading the message “Resolve to know more”. This can be taken in many different ways – for those supporting someone with infertility, it may be resolving to know more about what to say to your friend or learning more about the disease they face. For those struggling with infertility, it may be resolving to know more about when to see a fertility specialist or knowing more about the options ahead for your family. (Check out the links at the bottom of this page with lots of resources!)

To my readers that are supporting someone that is struggling with infertility:

Thank you. Thank you for reading this. Thank you for being interested enough to spend time investing in your knowledge of infertility. Thank you for trying, caring, and loving us. In the spirit of education, here are some great ways to support someone you care about: Let your friend know you care. Become educated in what they are struggling with, not to offer advice but to be more aware of what they are suffering from. If your friend chooses to open up to you, please act interested. Ask them what they need. If you are friends with the husband, don’t forget about him either. Often times it’s even harder for men to talk about how this is affecting them. Support them in whatever they decide, whether that’s pursuing treatments or not. You know Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Remember them on it. This is often one of the most painful holidays that we encounter and simple acknowledgement of us on that day means so much. Offer to come to doctors appointments with us if you can. We may not take you up on it, but it means a lot to know that you care to do so. Pray for us and offer hugs and simple words of encouragement. We truly are so blessed and lucky to have you in our lives. People like YOU make this struggle easier.

To my readers that are newly diagnosed or quietly struggling with infertility:

I am so sorry. I am so sorry that you have to go through this awful heartache. I am so sorry that your heart breaks as you navigate baby shower and listen to pregnancy talk without anyone being aware of your pain. I am so sorry that you are scared – not knowing what’s ahead and worrying about what your future may hold. If I can offer you any advice, please take the time to learn about when it’s time to talk to a doctor. 91% of people who struggle with infertility wish that they had sought medical attention earlier. If you don’t feel comfortable with your current doctor or the plan, find someone else. If you are uneasy about what you are being told, do some research yourself. And try to find someone to talk to, even if it is completely anonymous. Start an instagram account that is not linked to your facebook account or last name and search for hashtags like #ttc and #infertility. There will be an entire world of support available to you behind those doors. Or tell a close friend that you can trust. It is so difficult to suffer silently. I wish I could give you a hug. I completely understand the decision to be quiet about your battle but know you may receive so much more support than you realize.

To my readers who are vocal about their infertility:

Thank you. Thank you for being the voice of many. Thank you for being willing to share your story. Talking about infertility has become so taboo since it deals with sex and intimacy. Your bravery is shining. Please don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Continue to advocate for yourself. Be in tune with your emotions. There may be a time where the depression that is linked to infertility battles becomes too much and you need to reach out for help. Many reproductive specialists will offer the names and numbers of counselors to talk to. Take advantage of their professional support when you are feeling so overwhelmed by this. Do everything you can to not pick the scab on your heart. Don’t be afraid to grieve but also don’t be afraid to laugh. Speak up when someone has hurt you but don’t personalize everything. Remember to ask yourself what the person’s intentions were, as it likely wasn’t to inflict pain. Know that you are valuable regardless of what your family looks like. You matter.

To everyone reading this today, I challenge you to pray for someone that is struggling – even if you are someone struggling yourself. Maybe it’s someone you know or someone random. (Check out the hashtags of #niaw and #1in8 on Instagram or Facebook. Your page will be flooded with the faces of couples who are battling this fight.) Pray for a healthy pregnancy, pray for healing of their bodies, pray for wisdom for them as they navigate their treatment options, pray for peace to flood their hearts, pray for their spirits and their joy to be refilled, pray for their faith to be strengthened, pray for their marriage to withhold the stress of this struggle, pray for the medical team working with them and pray for those in their life that support them.

Josh and I are 1 in 8. We are doing everything we can to not let this disease define us and it’s one of the hardest and most heartbreaking situations we could ever imagine going through. Yet, still we have hope because we are not alone in our fight. We have a Savior who stands with us in it all, we have the love and support of many, we have the wisdom of doctors and we have each other – all of this certainly sets us up for success.

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Here are some resources for those wanting to learn a basic understanding of the disease of infertility, for those who want to learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week, or that wants to read more facts from my NIAW blog last year.

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