In the United States, this week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility is an important issue to me, as my family has struggled with it. According to national statistics, one out of every eight couples struggles with infertility. Anecdotally, most never speak about it.
It took Erin and me four years to conceive Declan, and we were only able to do so thanks to the help of science and medicine. Declan simply would not be here otherwise.
During this awareness week, a few things have come to my attention that are worth linking.
A friend of a friend has launched Fruitful, a fertility mentorship program. Infertility is nigh impossible to truly understand without having lived through it. Even those that have struggled with infertility may have had wildly different experiences: natural conception after simply tracking the woman’s cycle, conception only via intrauterine insemination, conception only with in-vitro fertilization, or perhaps conception only with the aid of donor sperm, a donor egg, or a surrogate.
Fruitful is—using their own words—“committed to making infertility suck less”. I would have adored having a group like this available to me when we were struggling. Though new, I have high hopes for Fruitful; it’s a real boon for those struggling.
A few personal stories have also been shared with me this week. All of them are truly and uniquely beautiful, and captured in their own way.
Our first wedding anniversary came and went, then our second and our third. There was always an excuse for why it hadn’t happened yet. Your mother was working a job she didn’t like, or I was working a job I didn’t like. Or else it was the both of us at the same time. There were two years when she went back to school for her Master’s degree, and two years where I went back for mine, and those years overlapped to boot. And when we went back to school we continued to work as well. So there was the issue of time. But in the back of our minds there lingered the horrible question: What was wrong?
Funny thing, that pronoun I just used. When my wife and I talk about our experiences, we always use the plural. “We” went through IVF. Because that’s what families do. They go through things together. That’s what being a family means, what being a team means.
But let’s be very clear — “we” didn’t do anything.
My day-to-day life, my body, underwent at worst a minor inconvenience. I had to reschedule a few things at work and school, get up earlier than normal, make a couple of awkward trips to the doctor.
My wife did everything.
My wife was warned of all the potential problems. She was given an explanation.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
Infertility is an extraordinarily difficult struggle, that can make you feel uniquely alone. Let this week remind all of you—those who aren’t parents, those who are, and those who wish so desperately to be—of one thing: