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, released on April 17th. Justine’s first book (also Ever Upward) felt like a permission slip to walk through infertility my way; it made me feel like I was completely in charge rather than a prisoner to my circumstances– the distinction saved my spirit and my sanity.
On this incredible blog tour, 25 amazing women have and will share their stories of infertility and loss, because together we can shatter the stigma. Yesterday Kim shared her story over at Salt In The Womb and tomorrow we will hear from Sarah at Our Unexpected Journey. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide.
So…I have a confession to make. Awareness weeks and chain posts aren’t really my thing and I’ve used a hashtag like 5 times in my life. I rarely participate and if I’m caught in a particularly snarky mood I may even eye roll (I know…I’m an asshole). There is. Just. So. Much. I mean we only have a limited amount of bandwidth, only so much energy and emotional endurance. Am I right?
Yes. And yet… Here I am shamelessly promoting NIAW and am about to tell you why I think these weeks and hashtags (sorry, still no to chain posts) are also really important.
Aaaaand you’re eye rolling at me. That’s fair. But, indulge me…just for a sec. Because I think this is bigger than infertility and much more than my own struggle.
I am participating because the other day, a young woman declared my “life was so together” because my boot socks matched my sweater. And that made my heart hurt.
I wanted to pull her aside and say all the things. I wanted to tell her that no one’s life on the outside is indicative of the inside; whether they live on the streets or in a mansion; whether they are the CEO or the mail clerk; whether they are laughing or crying. I wanted to beg of her not to ever think her life is all terrible or that another’s is all fabulous. I wanted to explain the elements that have gone wrong in my world –extremely painful things, things that are still raw and hurt so much sometimes it is hard to breathe. I wanted to tell her the elements that have gone right in my world–things that motivate me and the people and memories I love so much sometimes it is hard to breathe.
What you’ll never see on the outside… In February we found out our third IVF transfer didn’t take and we made the decision not to continue treatments. Since I can no longer get pregnant without medical intervention, I’m struggling with the new reality that I will never carry my baby; never feel them kick inside of me and grab Jason’s hand so he can feel it too. I have a tattoo on my ankle with a star for every baby we’ve lost because it is the only way they can live on outside of me; I ache to never have been able to hold them and wonder all of the time who each of them might have become. We’ve spent the majority of our marriage trying to have a baby and made major decisions based on the assumption that we would. I have nerve damage in my ass from all of the shots. It is hard to live in a world where most people think getting pregnant is easy or that IVF is magical.
Next week, men and women who have experienced the heartbreak of infertility are using their collective strength to reveal the parts of themselves that hurt and the parts that love; the parts that have gotten burned but still bask in the beauty of the sun. Because that is where you start, where it is safest; next to those who most quickly and knowingly say, “me too.” I hope we spread courage by owning our truth and our pain, giving someone else permission to do the same, whether their story involves infertility or not. We will not all experience the same trials, but we will all have them. Your path likely looks very different from ours, but has been (or will be) hard also and feels similar.
Regardless of your particular brand of struggle or what things look like for you on the outside, on the inside…
Are you hurting? Me too.
Are you scared? Me too.
Do you feel like you failed? Me too.
Are you angry? Me too.
Do you feel overwhelmed? Me too.
Are you sad? Me too.
I want to understand and honor your struggle and I’m asking that you try to understand and honor mine. Understanding is connection and I want more of that – I am 100% addicted to connection. We are all in this together, doing this life side by side, and it is a helluva lot easier when we lean on each other–embracing one another’s heartache, wisdom, care and experience. But that also means sometimes we have to hurt out loud and let the world see our unmanaged selves – the selves having a tough time getting out of bed, much less coordinating socks and sweaters.
Cheers to everyone letting others in on their truth next week (and always), whether by using a hashtag, posting on social media or privately telling someone (maybe even for the first time!) how you feel. Thank you for your bravery. You inspire me. For those of you sharing infertility stories please include the hashtags #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward… But, even if you don’t share publicly, please tell someone. Do not hang on to the hurt all by yourself.