SEA-ART-HEAL

Nearly two years ago, I received an email from Annie Kuo that said simply, “What would it take to bring the exhibit to Seattle?”

The answer turned out to be a bit more complicated than I anticipated :). However, due to Annie’s tireless work on the ground in Seattle, I’m happy to announce today that we are curating a collection of infertility artwork for a month-long exhibit at the Art/Not Terminal Gallery in Seattle in April. 

The exhibit will include infertility artwork and stories local to Seattle, as well as pieces from our permanent collection.

We’re accepting artwork for this exhibit, as well as upcoming exhibits from coast to coast. Interested in sharing your infertility artwork with a national audience? You can learn more and download an entry form.

So, here it is, the official press release for SEA-ART-HEAL: The ART of Infertility in Seattle!

-Elizabeth

Contact: Elizabeth Walker                                         FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
  Phone: 517.262.3662
Email: elizabeth@artofinfertility.org

The ART of Infertility Announces SEA-ART-HEAL, an Exhibit at Art/Not Terminal Gallery in Seattle

SEATTLE, Wash., February 15, 2017 – The ART of Infertility, an international art and oral history project and traveling exhibit based in Michigan, will display SEA-ART-HEAL, a month-long exhibit at the Art/Not Terminal (A/NT) Gallery in April. The free exhibit is sponsored by Pacific NW Fertility, Seattle Reproductive Medicine, Embryo Options, and the A/NT Gallery (located at 305 Harrison Street, next to Key Arena in the Seattle Center International Pavilion).  It will feature artwork, portraits, and stories portraying experiences of infertility. ParentMap is a media sponsor of the event.

The exhibit will premiere on April 1st with an opening reception from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.  A film screening and Q&A session of the family-building movie, One More Shot, will also be held opening weekend. Created by Bainbridge Island native Noah Moskin and his wife, Maya Grobel Moskin, One More Shot follows the struggles they encountered when trying to have a baby. The Moskins explain, “Though we are both in our early 30’s and in good health, we have had to begin a quest to build our family through alternative means and medical intervention as we try to find our own personal answer to the age-old question ‘Where do babies come from?’ We expose the relational impact infertility has on a couple and a family in a raw and honest way.”

An art workshop at A/NT Gallery will conclude the month-long exhibit. The public is invited to attend all events.

This exhibit is timely as it coincides with National Infertility Awareness Week, a movement that began in 1989. This year, National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) runs April 23 through April 29, 2017. The goal of NIAW is to raise awareness about the disease of infertility and encourage the public to understand their reproductive health.

In Washington State, nearly 150,000 people are living with infertility. “We are thrilled that Seattle will host The ART of Infertility exhibit this April, culminating in NIAW,” says Annie Kuo, a Seattle-based volunteer with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. She met the art exhibit’s co-directors at RESOLVE’s annual Advocacy Day in 2015 and worked to bring the exhibit to the Puget Sound region. “This event blends art and story to create an emotionally-compelling exhibit sharing the multiple challenges – medical and cultural – individuals must navigate on their infertility journey.”

“The ART of Infertility was founded as a way to process my own grief with infertility,” states Elizabeth Walker, Founder & Co-Director of The ART of Infertility. “Our mission is to break the silence around the experiences of infertility.  We  recognize the diverse voices and perspectives that represent infertility and aim to raise infertility awareness and connect women and men with infertility resources. Now entering our fourth year, we are ecstatic to bring the project to the Seattle area, where support and advocacy for the infertility community is starting to flourish.”

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My family may not look like yours, but it’s still a family.

Sandra & Octavian Braxton have been married for 18 years and met while serving in the U.S. Air Force.  Like most married couples, they wanted to start a family and share their life and love with their children.  What they found out was that they would not have an easy go of it.  Infertility was their truth; a difficult journey that they traveled for 12 long years.  The frustration they felt from not knowing where to turn, having to figure it out on their own, all while experiencing the worst emotional roller coaster of their lives made them want to make it better for the next person coming after them.  So they decided to pen their first book “Why Not Us: Our Story of Infertility, Loss, Pain and Overcoming it with Love.”

In today’s guest post, Sandra and Octavian share their perspectives on living as a family of two after infertility. Thanks, Sandra and Octavian, for sharing your story!

My family may not look like yours, but it’s still a family.

Sandra’s Perspective

Society is so cruel and doesn’t even realize it sometimes.  It is customary to project your feelings of what is considered the perfect family on others.  You are supposed to get married, buy a house and have 2 to 4 kids…right?  Well it’s not everyone’s dream nor is it everyone’s reality.  So is their family not perfect because of this?  My answer is a resounding NO!!!

So “Why haven’t you had kids yet?”.  The most dreaded question that a woman can be asked, especially if she has recently experienced a miscarriage, a failed pregnancy attempt or months of fertility treatments.  Yet, still so many of us are faced with answering this question to family, friends, co-workers and strangers.  This question.  This question right here has been the bain of my adult existence.  Since the day of our wedding back in May of 1998, we have been asked this question so many times that I lost count.  Well, it has always been my thinking that some thought a pregnancy was the reason we were getting married in the first place…WRONG!!!  We wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and isn’t that the way marriage is supposed to begin?  Of course as time went along, we desired the same thing as most of other couples.  We wanted to start our family.  I was coming close to that dreaded birthday…30…and was getting anxious.  We always put time frames on these things.  Well, weren’t we all taught that?  We should be married, own a house, have a career and have kids by the age of 30.  Otherwise, we feel in some way as if we have failed.

If you see a Childless Couple, do you assume that they do not want children?  If they consciously made that decision together, what business is it of yours?

A couple of years ago a co-worker made a comment to me that was so far from the truth.  He said that my husband and I were “selfish because we didn’t have children”.  This idiot had no clue that we had spent well over $100,000 attempting to become parents while enduring some of the worst emotional pain in our lives.  It was none of his business.  But it infuriated me that he thought that he KNEW our story looking from the outside.  What he saw was us making the best of the hand in life that we were dealt, pain and all.  We had recently returned from vacation and I had shared pictures with other co-workers.  So he took it upon himself to make this assumption purely based on speculation.  Are you NOT supposed to find happiness in the midst of your journey?  Of course you are.  Being the sensitive person that I am, this statement hurt me.  Unbeknownst to him, I went into the restroom and cried.  Why?  Because inside I still saw this as my “shortcoming” in life, my inability to conceive.

Perfect families come in all shape and sizes.  Some consist of step-children and step-parents.  Some consist of adopted kids.  Some consist of no children at all.  Ours consists of a loving husband and wife surrounded by nieces, nephews, god-children and kids that we mentor.  Does it need to be legitimized by the approval of others?  No, nor does it make it less of a family.

Octavian’s Perspective

I know what you mean, but I experience judgment from a different perspective…a man’s perspective.  For example, when I interact with single men, I don’t get the side eye looks of sympathy and pity that some women may judge you with a glance, a glance that speaks that you have not lived a life worth having without the benefit of children.  And that may be true, but in my case I am looked upon as lucky or even blessed that I do not have a child simply because to them, children are expensive and, at times, burdensome when introduced into their lives unexpectedly.

They are not ready to deal with the full weight of fatherhood, sacrifice and responsibility that is necessary for the development of children.  To them children represent an ever growing constant and variable that tests them to no end.  Some men, however, have children to the left and right of a city near you with as much effort as breathing, with little conscious thought of what joy they are missing in the contribution of their lives.  They jealously guard their individuality from challenges, and relish their freedom from the tyranny of parenthood.  That’s fine, though; that is their choice.  Some men find it intoxicating to do what they want, when they want without the structure that having a kid claims on you.  I get it.

As a married man of 18 years, as I would believe most men in my loving predicament (got to keep a happy home); you have to stoke that inner “single man” that we left in the pursuit of happiness and family. Trips to the gym, boys night out, and video games, sometimes…devoid of a dream of homes surrounded by white picket fences, a lovely wife, and the laughter of children if just for a moment. For me that moment of restless selfishness may be long and permanent since we are unable of conceiving a child of our own. And though we have the means to adopt, at our approaching third act in life, I am at an age where for as much as what we have been through before, I am not sure I am comfortable with going through those trials. Trials of lost money and the emotional toil of rejection that I am willing to take and experience again between you and I.

On one hand, I love our life that we live now.  We positively influence other children, not of our own but from within the family and from without.  We travel where we want at just about anytime we want.  We buy things what we want with little consequence.  Together, we live a single man’s…or woman’s life.  But there is another side to this that married men with children have the benefit of…the blessing of legacy.  Think about it. Men subconsciously crave immortality; they seek to extend the life of who they are, their name and family to the next branch on the tree.  They want nothing but the best for their child; a better, stronger, smarter version of whom they once were to take into the world and make their mark; the kings of old understood this, and knew that their children could be the descendants of greatness if they have the chance to influence their lives.  That is the benefit of a married man with children, and the crux of my argument with myself if not others.

Is my selfishness denying the world my name?  I know, it sounds arrogant, but hear me out.  I have three other brothers that can and have carried the name of Braxton beyond the scope of our birth places of Farmville, Virginia and Hinesville, Georgia. As I am the eldest of the four, am I not entitled to be heard too with the shout of a child I sired? Or, am I to be cast in silence when I leave this plane of existence?  Surely, my wife and I will leave some part of ourselves in our siblings’ children, but we hold no right to a legacy lone left to them.  In a world where so much for so long has been denied to us early in our loving lives; do we continue living our lives footloose, or do we seek the blessing of immortality?  I am caught between freedom and the blessed burden of a family’s potential legacy.

Sandra M. & Octavian M. Braxton are Co-Chief Executive Officers of The Braxton Agency and Co-Authors of “Why Not Us” NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon/Kindle.

Redefining Infertility Success Stories

Infertility art work

Infertility success stories. We’ve all heard them. We all want to be one.

No one would argue that a journey that includes a baby and parenting is a success story. However, we at The ART of Infertility (ART of IF) believe that it’s not the only definition of infertility success.  Sometimes we find success in unexpected and beautiful ways.

In an effort to challenge perceptions of successful infertility outcomes, we’re publishing the first of what we hope will be a long line of non-traditional infertility success stories.

Reflections on Infertility Success from The ART of IF’s Elizabeth and Maria

“A successful outcome of my own experience with infertility has been the ways in which it has advanced my career. At one time, I worried about how my morning monitoring appointments might negatively affect my work. The frequency of doctor visits and the on-demand scheduling made me feel completely flaky and unreliable.”

“However, coping with my infertility by using art and writing, I started The ART of Infertility project. Working on ART of IF, I’ve had the opportunity to gather and share stories internationally. I also gained the experience in communications that allowed me to be promoted from Biomedical Photographer to Communications Specialist at The University of Michigan Medical School. I love my teams at ART of IF and at U of M and the work that I do. I wouldn’t be where I am today professionally without infertility” – Elizabeth

“When I first enrolled in college, I wanted desperately to become a physician’s assistant. In fact during high school, I spent my summer’s working at my grandfather’s urology clinic – often times accepting semen donations – an ironic memory that continues to make me laugh. Yet, as my first semester in college progressed, I found myself anxious and stressed. My science classes, while interesting, were difficult. During this time, I was also enrolled in an English writing class. Writing seemed to come naturally to me and I found happiness (and thus) success with writing.

Today, as I finish the last semester of my PhD in Rhetoric & Writing, I find myself feeling as if my higher education journey has come full circle. Studying what I call “rhetorics of infertility” and situating The ART of Infertility as a research site, I find my initial interest in health and medicine come to fruition. Here, with as a Co-Director of this project, I use our research to make arguments for more patient-centered practices of care. This work is personal and meaningful. I believe this is my new definition of success, doing work that matters and everyday has deep personal meaning. I’m pretty sure that while my infertility led me to this point, I still lucked out.” – Maria

An Infertility Success Story from Our Archive

Leanne Schuetz was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome as a teenager. Even though she and her husband were in their early twenties when they began to try to conceive, it took five years, experiencing multiple miscarriages, and undergoing a series of intrauterine inseminations, before their daughter Olivia was born. While Leanne and her husband dreamed of having a lot of little ones, Olivia will be an only child.

Just over three years ago, Leanne first began creating artwork. Mixed media pieces of women who she calls “my girls”. Through this, she’s found a community outside of infertility and has truly become an artist. She’s found out first-hand how art heals. Listen to Leanne’s story, or read it, below and browse a mini gallery of her pieces to see how she’s progressed as an artist over time.

“It all started because I was really depressed because we weren’t going to do treatment again for infertility. Olivia’s going to be an only child, and I know that sounds really selfish. That we have her, you know. Like I should be so thankful that we finally had her and here I am depressed that we can’t have more kids. But I always imagined my life with lots of little ones for a really long time.”

“So, Olivia was in school full time and I still couldn’t go back to work because I wouldn’t make enough to cover the day care, even when she WAS in school. So I had all this time on my hands about what am I going to do with myself. And so, I just started doing the CitraSolv papers, which led to art journaling, which led to my girls.”

Leeanne Schuetz has used art to find out who she is outside of infertility.

“Their proportions aren’t always exactly right but that’s okay. It’s about celebrating their imperfections, and lately I’ve been thinking about, you know. I like the idea of courageous hearts – of facing where they’re at, who they are. I’m talking about them like they’re real but they’re real to me. And being okay with who they are and everything that makes them different, and special, and unique, and… Some of my girls are sad and some of them are happy. It just kind of depends on how I’m feeling that day and how they come out.”

“It’s not all about infertility. You know, some pieces definitely are because I certainly still have bad days where a pregnancy announcement will knock the wind out of me. Or the days that I remember my miscarriages and for me, I’m using art as a way to move on past infertility. It’s trying to really have a life beyond the fact that I’m infertile.”

“For so many years, I mean, years before Olivia was born, the years after Olivia was born, my whole life was revolved around infertility. So really, for me, I’m using art as a way to try to find out who I am apart from that and to discover what I like and what I don’t like.”

“I like doing mixed media, I love collage, I love acrylic paint, I love water color. I really love doing collage and I love layering. All my pieces have a lot of layers to them.”

“For the most part I never know what I’m going to make before I start. I know it’s probably going to be a girl of some sort but I don’t know who she is or what she looks like, So, just whatever I’m feeling, you know. Happier days tend to be brighter, more fun colors. I went through this phase with a lot of browns. You know, I was in a funk and I was really drawn to the browns. I love purple. Purple always ends up in my colors, I’m not really sure why.”

“I was inspired by some other artists who I met online who were really encouraging and they’ve really just been amazing. The artists online that I’m friends with, you know, because for a long time, ‘I’m not an artist, I’m not an artist,’ you know, ‘I can’t, I’m not creative, I’m not really an artist, it’s just a hobby.’”

“They’re the ones who just encouraged me saying, ‘No, you ARE an artist. This is a part of who you are and it’s okay to call yourself an artist. Even if no one ever sees your art, it’s okay to call yourself that and it’s okay to want to grow as an artist and to learn new techniques.’”

“I mean, I’m definitely a baby artist. I still have a lot to learn, but yes!”

“I’d love to be able to do some sort of workshop, teaching other women who think they can’t draw and have no skill. I’d love to be able to do something like that I’d love to, I don’t know. I have a little Etsy shop. I sell art once in a while but I know eventually I’d love to teach it to anyone who would want to learn. You know, especially I think I have a special place in my heart for people who think that they’re not artistic, for people who think they can’t do art. Because I always said I’m not artistic. My step-mom had to kind of drag me along in starting doing it and I’m really thankful for her for that because I would have never attempted it because, ‘I’m not creative’.”

“Everyone is creative. They just have to find what that is and what makes you happy, and what you like to create. And even if your art isn’t considered “good art” by anyone else, if you enjoy making it, then just keep making it.”

View more of Leanne’s work on Facebook. We’d love to hear the success, outside of becoming a parent, that has come from your own infertility journey. Share it with us and you could be featured in a future post. Help us bring inspiration and hope to others on their infertility journeys.

IVF Miracle Song – How a conversation with God led to writing a rap and finding community

Andre and Yolanda Tompkins have waited eight years to have a baby.

After a recent unsuccessful IVF cycle, Andre turned to prayer and music to cope. He created the IVF Miracle Song which you can listen to below.

Afterwards, watch our video interview to hear Andre tell the story behind his music.

This post does include images of babies and the topics of pregnancy and ultrasounds.

Thank you, Andre and Yolanda, for sharing your story with us! We’re thrilled to have it in our ART of Infertility oral history archive.

The Story Behind the Song

“Well, you know, I’m kind of passed the prime age to be pursuing a rap career so let me just throw that out there. I’m a military guy, I’ve been in for 22 years now so this is, that is my career proudly serving my country. But when I was younger, me and one of my best friends, he was actually the best man in our wedding, we used to try to get into the business so from doing that I kind of got pretty handy with the software, making instrumentals, and you know recording yourself.”

“It was thanksgiving week. We were coming off of the disappointing news that the first IVF cycle was unsuccessful. That first failure was so…it was devastating it literally was. I think both of us just sat in the house and we just really just wept all weekend.”

“You know I think going through something as painful as that, you’re obviously are going to have an external reaction but then there’s also that internal reaction that sometimes you just don’t know how to get out.”

“I just started writing. And I was like you know what I’m going to just go ahead and plug the microphone in and just start getting it out. “

“You probably heard how the chorus goes, you know, ‘we’re going to have a baby, we want to have a baby’, and that was really the conversation that I was having back and forth with God. You know, we are Christian. We are firm believers. We were both raised in the south in the Bible Belt and talking to God is something that we both do on a daily basis.”

“So this was almost out of a conversation like you know, ‘I know that I’m hearing you say, Lord, we’re going to have a baby but why did we just experience this?  Why is that?’. So I just couldn’t let that go. I refused to give up. I refused to say, well, this is the end. So it was almost like it was more of an edification for myself.  We’re going to have a baby, just keep telling myself, we’re going to have a baby. We’re going to have a baby.”

“When I originally heard it, it brought back you know the pain and the feelings that I had originally and it kind of made me feel like you know we’re definitely on the same page. We’re both like okay we knew that this is what we believe God had laid in front of us.”

“It brought hope for me and it became my, I say my theme song because I’m like okay we’re going to do this. I’m not going to give up on this process. So every time that I would listen to it I was like, okay. We’re going to have a baby, you know we want to have a baby, we’re going to have a baby, you know and I think it’s those positive affirmations that you know you tell yourself and eventually, I believe that if you talk yourself long enough, something’s going to happen.”

“So, I wanted to put it on You Tube because I saw that there were IVF playlists but when you would scroll through there was really nothing that would probably be considered urban. So I put it on You Tube and then after that I said, let me just go paste it on a few Facebook pages. I was pasting it on pages in Africa and in India and while I was reading a lot of these posts, I was like, wow, this is really something that a lot of communities just don’t talk about.”

“I can’t speak on behalf of the African American community but as an African American I can tell you that this is something that within our own community, we don’t really talk about a lot. So when you do have these times when you really want a baby but you can’t have one, you feel like you’re challenged in having one, who do you turn to? Who do you talk to? Who can you be transparent with? We tell people all the time, hey this is what I’m praying for but in these areas we don’t be as vocal as we should because we feel like people will judge us or see me as less as a man or maybe less as a female. And that’s not fair.”

“It’s almost like if you’re yelling out into a Grand Canyon, you’re like, ‘Hello out there,’ and you’re just hoping that someone yells back, ‘Hey, I hear you’ you know? And that’s kind of like it was to me. I just wanted to see if in this big open Grand Canyon of doubt and worry and frustration, is there anyone out there that can hear what we’re going through and they can relate and to get all of those responses back was just so positive and so comforting and just encouraging.”

“I actually started thinking maybe I should make a whole mix tape full of… but right now I’m just enjoying this time you know we’re 6 weeks 2 days pregnant today. Yesterday we saw the heartbeat, the little flickering on the ultrasound. My focus right now is just to take care of my beautiful wife, make sure she doesn’t have to lift a finger, and just prepare our family.”

“The fact that I was able to really open my eyes to this community that we’re in just thinking it’s just me and her in this by ourselves and in that moment of pain and in that moment of feeling lost, I found out that I was actually part of a family so to speak, that we’re all in this together and I think that’s just one of the beautiful things that has come out of this.”

“I know everyone is not religious and everyone has different religious preferences but if you can relate to what we’re saying, then don’t lose faith in that message. If that’s what you heard, push through the pain, push through the self-doubt. Push through the failed results, and just believe and trust and know that at the end of the day, God is going to be there for you and your family, and he will keep his promise. That’s the main thing I just want people to take away from it.”

Have you created music or put together an infertility playlist to help you on your journey? We’d love to hear about it! Learn how you can share your story with us. We always welcome your emails to info@artofinfertility.org and your phone calls. You can reach Elizabeth at (517) 262-3662.

 

 

20 Days After Miscarriage

Today’s guest blog is from Lindsay Mader. In it, she gives us a glimpse at each of the 20 days after she learned she was miscarrying. I love this post because it’s a great reminder to us that everyone handles grief in different ways, that grief isn’t linear, and that there is no time line for grief. Thank you, Lindsay, for sharing your post with us. We wish you peace and healing as you navigate your infertility journey.
– Elizabeth

20 Days After Miscarriage

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We got the news on Friday, October 28th. That Friday is Day 1.

Day 1 – We got the bad news. We had tickets to a show we’d been looking forward to for months. We got dinner before. The hostess said “Just two?” Yup. There’s only two of us now. I cried twice while at the show. Once into Joe’s chest and once in a bathroom stall. I wanted to die.

Day 2 – I didn’t brush my hair or my teeth. I did put on pants and went outside. I cried, a lot. I ate a lot and drank lots of wine.

Day 3 – I did some cleaning. Had to get groceries in public. Made it all day, no tears.

Day 4 – Back to work. I’m glad I had the weekend to process. Cried on my way to work. Today should have been our first ultrasound. Cried three times at work. Joe makes me laugh on the darkest days.

Day 5 – I feel like I’m in a fog of sadness. This is my favorite time of year and I worry that it’s ruined.

Day 6 – I’m making a lot of terrible jokes. Guess I’m coping. Tonight, I fall asleep with tear filled eyes. So many opportunities are lost.

Day 7 – Started my morning off crying sobbing at my desk. I’m angry and I don’t know where the anger needs to go. I’m sad. Tears flow freely. My friend rolled over and hugged me. An act of kindness goes a long way. Someone knocked over my “hope” sign. That’s reflects my life pretty well today.

Day 8 – Blood draw. HCG was 12.4. I’m less pregnant each day? I guess. We did receive an Edible Arrangement from family. That was so thoughtful and made us feel so loved.

Day 9 – Fun day with Amanda! At lunch, directly next to us were two couples celebrating a pregnancy. They opened gifts at the table. Guys, I think I’m being followed by pregnant people.

Day 10 – I’m sleeping enough but I feel exhausted all the time. Doing everyday things is hard. Met with Nicole for some BFF time. I’m grateful for people who invest in me even though I’m not always the best company.

Day 11 – We met with the doctor today and determined next steps. More meds this time around but we are optimistic. Support group met today. They give me life❤

Day 12 – Election Day. I had a pretty good day.

Day 13 – My anxiety has heightened for several reasons but I’m doing better than I thought I would at this point.

Day 14 – Another good day. Spent some time with a friend who encouraged me.

Day 15 – I received surgery and transfer dates today. Also, the cost. About $6,000. The guilt I feel is heavy. I also got the news that I’m officially no longer pregnant. I got to see my Mom today! I broke down when I saw her. Overwhelmed by the cost of IVF again and that fact that I thought I’d be pregnant when I saw her next and I’m not.

Day 16 & 17 – I had a wonderful time with my Mom. It was just what I needed.

Day 18 – It’s always hard to get going after a fun weekend.

Day 19 – While struggling with my own stuff, it was brought to my attention that my infertility makes some uncomfortable. That hurts.

Day 20 – I’m hopeful. I’m excited for Christmas. Our transfer is right around the corner. Today, the clouds have lifted.

The ART of Infertility – 2016 Year in Review

Men's Health Month Pop-Up Exhibit at The Turek Clinic, San Francisco

Men’s Health Month Pop-Up Exhibit at The Turek Clinic, San Francisco

A Holiday Thank You

Throughout this year, you supported The ART of Infertility. Perhaps you sponsored an art workshop, invited us to speak at an event, or attended an art exhibition. Whatever the form of your support, we thank you.

We have come a long way since the project began in 2014. Without your collaboration, The ART of Infertility would not be the success that it is today. We are honored to count you as s supporter of the project. As we move into 2017, please know that your desire to raise infertility awareness inspires our work.

Becoming a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit

To support the project’s growth, we are becoming a non-profit organization. We filed our articles of incorporation in June and are working with our attorney to wrap up the rest of our paperwork before the year’s end. We are excited about our soon-to-be non-profit status and invite you to consider The ART of Infertility in your end-of-year donations. 

Your financial support directly impacts the project. It helps us cover storage fees for the collected artwork, transcription of oral histories, and also supplements art workshop supplies. We welcome donations of in-kind services as well. You can make a donation to the ART of IF via our secure Square checkout.

New Artwork

A panel from Infertility is the Worst by Zechmeister-Smith

A panel from Infertility is the Worst by Zechmeister-Smith

We added 17 new pieces of artwork from 4 artists to our permanent collection in 2016. Have artwork you’d like exhibited? Learn how here! Included among these works is the series Infertility is the Worst by Kelly Zechmeister-Smith. Kelly created this piece using micron pen and watercolor paint and says, “This work began with an inexplicable creative urgency to represent my layered feelings surrounding my own unexplained infertility (UI)–a maddening diagnosis.  Creating small, cartoonish self portraits highlighting my daily experiences as a childless artist and teacher quickly became a therapeutic outlet for me.  My hope is that the viewer finds these pieces a playful yet raw glimpse into the life of someone struggling with UI.”

2016 Highlights

Joining Forces for Men’s Health

In June, Men’s Health Month (MHM), we teamed up with The Turek Clinic’s San Francisco office and Men’s Health Network to raise awareness about the unique challenges men face when dealing with infertility, as well as other barriers to men’s health care. We displayed artwork and stories from the project’s collection and attendees were invited to visit make and take art stations. Plans are underway for a MHM event in Los Angeles for 2017. Contact us if you’re interested in collaborating!  View event photos here.

Presenting at ASRM

In October, we visited Utah (one of two new states this year, the other Texas) to present the talk ART of Infertility: Curating Patient Centered Perspectives Via an Artifact Oral History Methodology at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’sAnnual Scientific Congress. We were excited to be both first time attendees and first time presenters.  It was fantastic to see members of our infertility family from around the nation and make new connections as we attended sessions and visited the expo hall.

ART of IF goes International

In November, the The ART of Infertility went international when we received an invitation to do a pop-up art exhibit for a staff education day for Merck KGaA Darmstadt, Germany (known as EMD Serono in the states). The event, held in Coinsins, Switzerland, also included a presentation during which we shared our own stories and stories from the oral history archive. We also participated in a Q&A for the medical deliverables team, which later continued with lively discussion around the water cooler.

Visit our website to learn about the other places we visited, exhibited, held workshops, and collected stories in 2016.

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Presentations, Publications, and Podcasts

Cultural Rhetorics Conference, Michigan State University

Cultural Rhetorics Conference, Michigan State University

– 7  Presentations

– 3 Forthcoming Publications

– 2 Podcasts
      Beat Infertility, January
     Imagine Otherwise, August

Looking Ahead to 2017 and Beyond

– We will continue raising infertility awareness and education with several events across the country that are in the planning stages. Details will soon be announced on our website. 

– We will continue our mission to collect and distribute diverse stories of infertility and the stories of those who use assisted reproductive technology to build their families.

– Due to the popularity of the ART of IF, we are also working on plans for 2018! However, there are still plenty of opportunities to bring the ART of IF to your city for an exhibit, workshop, presentation, or to collect oral histories in both 2017 and 2018. Please reach out to us if you’d like more information.

We look forward to your continued support of the project and encourage you to follow our work on our blog and The ART of Infertility’s social media pages. Wishing you much success in 2017 as we all work to advocate on the behalf of millions impacted by infertility. 

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With gratitude, 
 
Maria and Elizabeth
 

Interested in sharing your story through The ART of Infertility? Check our website to learn how to participate! 

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A Man’s IF Holiday Perspective: It’s All Relative

Kevin shares his thoughts on dealing with infertility and the holidays. As a guy, he finds solace in dealing with infertility through his work – whether that is intellectual or hands-on. Read more about the inspiration Kevin took from deer hunting this past year.

This November, I went deer hunting for the first time. While sitting in the woods, patiently waiting for a deer to walk past my blind, I began to read Einstein’s biography.  The book discusses in detail Einstein’s two theories of relativity – general and special. His special theory of relativity is what challenged Newton’s long held traditional concept of absolute space and time. Through a series of mathematical equations and experiments, Einstein disproved Newton and instead demonstrated that space and time were relative to the observer – not an absolute concept. For example, someone moving inside of a train will have a different experience than someone standing on the side of the road watching the train go by.

Kevin, sitting in his blind, deer hunting.

Kevin, sitting in his blind, deer hunting.

Reading this in the woods, I couldn’t help but see how much of this theory also relates the experience of infertility.  My wife and I have were diagnosed with infertility 5 years ago. That moment was life altering and brought upon itself a host of questions we never imagined we would have to think about. Today, we often have to remind ourselves that there is no absolute right interpretation or method of dealing with infertility. Just like Einstein’s theory: infertility is relative to the observer. Every year around the holidays, this topic comes up for us as a couple. Often we may be experiencing things differently, and we may have different ways or methods to make the holidays work in our minds. Let’s face it, this holiday is all about the birth of a child and it’s a tough one for the infertility community.

For me, and I would imagine many other men out there, talking explicitly about infertility is not really our way of coping and channeling our energy into something positive. Personally, over this year I have focused a lot on work and have been afforded some unique experiences to travel and live my passion of being a medical physicist. I have also poured myself into renovating our house that we bought as a symbol of our love and what we share together, even if we never have children of our own. This is extremely important to me.

A garage entrance that Kevin remodeled into a living room.

A garage entrance that Kevin remodeled into a living room.

I do not think we should despair over having different ways to make these holidays doable, but we should rejoice in that we share in this experience together. There is somewhat of a beauty in thinking about Einstein’s theory and that there is no absolute correct way to interpret and cope with infertility. However, it is comforting to know that a common thread is that the infertility community all shares this experience together. I hope everyone else out there can use this as a bit of consolation and uplift as we head move into a new year.

Five Tips for Holiday Self Care

Embarking on the next couple of weeks of holiday celebrations, we offer you five tips that we find ourselves practicing as a method of surviving the celebration of a miraculous conception while dealing with infertility.

#5 Send a holiday card. Really! Tired of getting pictures of new babies and growing families in the mail? Send your own card! Remind others that you are a family! Maria does this frequently sending cards featuring herself, husband, and two puppies. For her, this is a form of infertility advocacy.christmasphoto_2016

#4 Treat Yo Self! Take time out and pamper yourself. Get a massage. Get your nails done. Make yourself feel good!

#3 Talk with your partner and ask, “What are we going to do to make the holiday special for us?” Maria recommends this especially as much of the holidays revolve around the excitement of nieces and nephews waiting for Santa to come. Maria tries to go out for a Christmas Eve brunch with her husband to block out a set time for just the two of them.

#2 Remember it’s okay to just say “no”. Not everything is going to be something that you are going to want to attend. Just like baby a baby shower, remember you don’t need to attend every holiday party or every family event. Sometimes you just need to say no. And that’s okay! Elizabeth said no to her extended family Christmas party this year and spent time with child free friends instead.

The lone decoration at Elizabeth’s house, which wasn’t put out until 3 days before Christmas.

#1 Try to step back and enjoy the simple things. To say infertility is complicated is an understatement. Balancing infertility with the holidays can sometimes increase anxieties. We suggest taking a night and escaping. Make a fire, turn on some holiday tree lights (or don’t if you’re on a decorating strike like Elizabeth), cozy-up with a cup of tea, blanket, and a good book to escape. Sometimes taking a moment to remove yourself from it all allows you to better process and handle the ups and downs that will no doubt come with your infertility diagnosis.

We hope some of the suggestions we have implemented over the years will help you navigate the holidays and new year. Most of all, we want you to know that you are not alone.

Wishing you peace this holiday season,

Elizabeth and Maria

The Holiday Blues

 

This short reflection is a few years old. I wrote it after being recently diagnosed. The holiday season was fast approaching at this time, creating a lot of anxiety.  Re-reading this reflection, I am quickly transported to a place of deep pain. The reflection seems like a distant memory, yet, also hauntingly familiar. Many of the feelings and thoughts are still there. The only difference is that they appear less frequently and not in the same velocity as they did when I first wrote this reflection. Today, I wonder, when did I stop fighting my infertility and begin to embrace it? And why did I choose surviving infertility over fighting for a family? – Maria

The Holiday Blues

The holidays have always been special to my husband and I. This is when we first met. When we first started dating. When we got engaged. When we told our families we were getting married. When we bought our first house. When we got our first puppy.

An image of our first puppy, Stella. We picked her up from the shelter the on New Year's Eve. She was symbolic of a new year, new life.

An image of our first puppy, Stella. We picked her up from the shelter on New Year’s Eve in 2010. She was symbolic of a new year, new life.

Lately though, we’ve been needing to rely on those memories in order to escape feeling the holiday blues. Now, as we find ourselves in this new place, this new understanding of what it means to be a married childless couple, we have needed to question what this means.

This year we decided to volunteer for Thanksgiving. To visit with the elderly. We thought this to be a great idea as it avoids feeling the constant reminder of this childless lack. And by volunteering we felt a great bond with Bob, Mary, and Ethel. All three did not have a family to visit them. They were very much on their own. Feeling many of the same emotions we felt. Not sadness, not loneliness. Just acceptance of this is how life was to be. Finding meaning and special joy in little things. Little things like having the café at the nursing home open and simply visiting with those who silently felt the same acceptance towards life.

But Christmas and Thanksgiving are two very different holidays. Thanksgiving is reflective and about the food and blessings that you have. Christmas is projective. It is very much about “another year.” And more often than not it is about children. Baby Jesus and manger scenes. Promoting a redemptive and celebratory message about the power of the baby.

It is also about kids and the “magical joy” of Christmas. Kids waking up Christmas morning and running to the tree. Screaming at the excitement at finding an Xbox or Easy Bake Oven – but more often simply screaming because Santa arrived and provided.

This has become clear to us over the years that we’ve been married. Each year, it seems harder for us to embrace the spirit of the holidays. We know this and often comment on it. “What are we going to do to make the holiday’s special for us?” we ask each other.

We come up with different ideas to make it special. Often times it is simply going for a drive to see the lights and reliving the memories of us doing this when we were younger, before we were married – when we looked to the future of family with hope and excitement.

Now though, it is more common than not to experience the holiday blues.

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While we still find it difficult to celebrate the holidays, we make sure to send out a holiday card each year. This card is from this year. We make a point to stress that while we may not have children, we are a family.

In fact, the puppy that we got around the holidays is no longer with us. Five years have past since I last wrote this reflection. Her passing reminds us of how we could have our own 5-year-old at this point in our life. Our own child eagerly waiting to find presents under the tree. Instead though we are still trying to make sense of it all. Still trying to find joy in the little, non-traditional family we made.

When I hear “Blue Christmas” by Elvis on the radio, I am transported to the moment I wrote this reflection. Sometimes it is nice to be reminded that while the holidays can be a time of joy, they can also heighten personal pains.

“A Map to Us” – Stephanie McGregor

Today’s guest blog post is from Stephanie McGregor, a Canadian teacher and artist. Read her story and how she is using her art to help her deal with infertility.

blogpost6 My name is Stephanie McGregor. I’m an artist/teacher and have been struggling with infertility for two and a half years now. Until several months ago, my husband I kept quiet with our struggles, until I did a blog post called “The Monkey in the Room”. You can follow this link if you’d like to read it:

http://www.stephaniemcgregor.ca/blog-montauk/2016/1/3/the-year-of-2016

I knew that I wanted to start a project that I could turn to whenever I feel sad about not yet having a baby.

I bought a very large, blank canvas and hung it up in the room that I hope will one day be a nursery. It sat, white and untouched for a while, until an intriguing thought began to unfold.

I could make a map!

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A piece of Stephanie’s art work.

As  I started sketching out places that are important to me, a little story started forming and it speaks of all the places that our “lost” child can find us.

At first I began painting our little cedar bungalow and my childhood home (which is actually next door!) I added depth with colour of the trees and wildlife wandering across the canvas. Then, the memories started to come trickling in. Like the way my three sisters and I would run after my dad as he mowed the lawn and the pool parties we once had. My childhood dog still scouts around, a protective light glowing.  Our lost pink paddle boat chugs down the river, leading to the cottage where we spent every summer. The more I continue to work on this painting, the more saturated with memories my “map” will become.

As I’m painting, I also think of my mom and dad’s struggles. They tried for seven years to have children. Eventually, they had in vitro fertilization, which was successful and they had three five pound baby girls (including me). My younger sister came 15 months later, an unexpected, wonderful surprise!

A McGregor family portrait

A McGregor family portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cannot express how wonderful my childhood was and this is what I focus on as I’m painting. All I want is the chance to have a family of my own to create new memories with. I plead with my future child, saying that here there are:

Adventures unnamed

Creatures to befriend

Discoveries undiscovered

And possibilities to pretend….

 If only he/she could find us!

Some days I am feeling so overwhelmed with emotion that I aimlessly wander over the canvas, dabbing paint with no direction. What am I doing this for?

I’m sure anyone going through infertility can relate to some of these feelings.

Other days I feel hot anger and will brush an orange red sunset across the canvas. What is wrong with me?

 A lot of times, as if in meditation, I spread translucent layers of blue to form soft waves. I can accept this path I’m on. Then again, once in a blue moon, I feel hideous green envy. Why her and not me? I allow myself to paint without worry of ruining this piece.

Other times, I focus my attention to one small part of the map and then revel in the feeling of creating something beautiful. This feeling anchors me.

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Other days, I simply sink to floor, my worries weighing heavy and crowding my mind. It sometimes strikes me that this room is supposed to be a nursery, but it is filled with only paintings. I am hit again by fact that besides a paintbrush, my arms are empty.  The fact that I so badly want to make new memories with a family of my own and I don’t know when that will happen.  It’s been two and half years and how much longer do I have to go? Why does it feel so lonely? Does anyone really understand how I feel?

I am also struck by how this journey has changed me. I find that I’ve put myself at a distance from friends and family. I’m afraid to dream too big or wish too much.  Instead of bounding carefree down the road, I step cautiously, looking out for rain. I wonder where this road is going.

But then I glance up and I see what I am in the process of creating. This map is part of my story, one that I can share with my future child.  It really is beautiful. At the end of my story, I wrote to my little lost one:

I can’t map out a life for you that:

Leads you always the scenic route

Away from sadness and pain

I can’t promise you won’t have to walk

Through the dark forest even for a little while

 The very least I can do

Is make this Map to Us

And hope, wait, and dream

That it finds its way to you.

 So I stand up and keep on painting my map. I don’t know exactly where my road to becoming a mom is going yet, but I still have a lot of hope.

I have a few suggestions for anyone who is looking for a project to work on. Why not think of something big that will take a while for you to work on? You can plan out your idea and then whenever you feel like you just need to take your mind off of what you are going through, you can do a small part and not have to think about it very much.

I wish you well on your journey!

To read more about Stephanie’s story and to see more of her artwork, visit her website at; www.stephaniemcgregor.ca