The Compulsion to Create

Today we share a guest blog post from Susan Fuller. Susan has been a longtime surrogate and you can learn more about her journey on her website, Twitter or reading her book Successful Surrogacy: An Intended Parents’ Guide to a Rewarding Relationship With Their Surrogate Mother. Thanks for sharing your story Susan!


I’ve always wondered if there’s something significant about my compulsion to send handmade gifts to the families I’ve carried babies for. And not just any handmade gifts, they have to be gifts that I’ve made myself. Like maybe there’s some kind of subconscious message I’m trying to convey –

“Hey – I created everything that is most precious to you – your child – and although that project has long since passed, look! I will still keep creating for you!”

The earliest memory I have of making something surrogacy-related is a handmade card for my first intended mother. I was mostly into paper arts at the time – card making and scrapbooking – because my kids were still very young and it was easy to manage in tiny stops and starts.

I accompanied my intended mother to her egg retrieval and wanted to give her a little something to mark the fact that our surrogacy experience was finally underway after a few months of stops and starts. I rubber stamped a card with a long row of flowers on tall stems, and added the phrase “lift your face to the sun” to it, hoping that she felt the same way I did about what we were about to undertake together – a joy so deep and penetrating that it felt like flowers in bloom under the blazing mid-August sky.

I made several other thing for her during my pregnancy with her twins, cards mostly, hoping that by acknowledging the significance of the events we shared together it would help her come around to they way I viewed the surrogacy – as something I wanted to share with her rather than do for her.

It never did work out that way.

And so after a sad and unfulfilling conclusion to that pregnancy and delivery, I set about trying to process my raw emotions in the only way I knew how – once again, by making things by hand. This time it was a scrapbook I poured myself into for months, showing the progression of the babies, inside and out, through monthly photos of my growing belly and detailed ultrasound shots. The challenge, of course, was to illustrate my difficult experience with authenticity while also not taking anything away from the birth of two innocent, beautiful baby girls.

Cover of the scrapbook.

Cover of the scrapbook.

I don’t think I ever achieved that balance. I know this because once I finished the scrapbook and I showed it to friends, the most common question I got was “Are you going to give this to the babies’ family?” which always felt like a punch to the gut. It was an unintended punch of course, but still, the question stung every time I got it. This big, beautiful, bursting-at-the binding scrapbook was all I had left to show for the surrogacy, and I was not about to give it away. Someone even had the nerve to suggest I make a duplicate book for the babies’ family.

Saying goodbye to the babies was tearful, not because I felt like I was losing them, but because of what I’d already lost with their parents. The babies I never wanted to keep. I did, however, want to keep them in my life through updates and periodic contact and visits, which I knew was never an option as I kissed them goodbye for the last time.

An image of the embryo transfer that Susan displayed in the scrapbook.

An image of the embryo transfer that Susan displayed in the scrapbook.

When I undertook my next surrogacy journey – the one I call my love story – I knew I’d met my match.

My intended mother Robyn was anything but crafty herself, but what she lacked in handmade skill she more than made up for in appreciation.

She marveled at each card I sent and gushed over the artistry – even the simplest of designs. For her, the thought and sentiment behind anything I made was deeply meaningful, and of course I found her appreciation to be addictive. The more I made for her, the more she gushed, and so the more I made.

Once I’d confirmed that I was in fact pregnant with her baby (we didn’t yet know that I was carrying twins), I asked the nurse to keep the results a secret for an extra day. That night I set about making a special gift for her that would announce to her that she was about to become a mother. Still into paper arts at the time, I used decorative paper, rubber stamps, clear plastic disks, and a metal jewelry form to fashion a bracelet for her that had our due date on it. I was proud of my work, of course, and she immediately dissolved into happy tears when I gave it to her. Mission accomplished.

What I didn’t bargain for, however, was a nine-month-long recurring repair job.

To say that she loved the bracelet is an understatement. She loved it so much in fact that she rarely took it off – only to shower, she said. She tried to move it out of the way every time she washed her hands, but more than once it ended up getting soaked, which weakened it. While my craftsmanship was fine enough for a souvenir gift, the bracelet was never meant for day-in, day-out wear. It was more of a decorative memento rather than a sturdy accessory meant to withstand daily use.

I told her this, but she would not be deterred. Despite me giving her my heartfelt permission to take it off from time to time, she refused. It was thoughtful and sweet, and most certainly gratifying to know how much the bracelet meant to her, and only slightly infuriating as well.

I made frequent repair jobs on her treasured bracelet – she’d tell me ahead of time what was wrong this time and I’d bring all the right supplies along with me to our doctor’s appointments or ultrasounds and fix it while we waited for our exam to start.

She wore the bracelet through the delivery of her twin boys and it was shortly after, probably in the recovery room at the hospital, that I implored her to please, please, for the love of all that is holy because I can’t fix this for you anymore, please take off the bracelet, and she finally did. Her babies now safely filled her arms and she no longer needed the bracelet wrapped around her wrist to feel close to them.

I had every intention of putting together a scrapbook about this surrogacy, just as I had done in my previous one. I had stacks of photos organized and ready – pictures of me showing off my belly every few weeks, carefully marked on the back with how far into the pregnancy I was. I had photos of Robyn and Chris, photos of our get togethers with my kids, photos with their family, and stacks of photos from the birth.

I had piles of pregnancy souvenirs as well – cards from flowers I’d received, napkins and decorations from Robyn’s baby showers that I’d attended, and more ultrasound pictures than I knew what to do with. I’d been collecting baby boy-themed scrapbooking supplies for months, stashing them away for after the delivery, when I could piece everything back together into an album that attempted to capture the love that we’d grown along with the babies.

But curiously, the album never happened.

Was it lack of time that prevented me from tackling it? Possibly, as I recall I was finishing my own kids’ first-year photo albums around that same time and maybe I was feeling a little burned out. But I don’t think that was really it.

The truth is that I really had no reason to make an elaborate memory album for myself because I knew that our first year together – the time we spent as a team, bringing the twin boys into the world – was not a finite journey as it had been in my first surrogacy. Instead, it was just the beginning of a shared lifetime together.

And I had no frayed nerves, no latent anger, no unresolved feelings of confusion and isolation once I’d delivered Robyn and Chris’s babies – in fact it was the contrary. They were constantly in touch with me, at first calling me every few days, then gradually tapering off, yet we still saw each other at least once a month for nearly a year. I would make the 2-hour drive to their house and spend the day with Robyn and the boys, holding them, feeding them, rocking them, until Chris would come home from work with dinner and we’d all eat together just like we did during the pregnancy.

This, the periodic and entirely natural inclusion in the everyday events of their lives, catching up month-to-month, watching the boys grow before my very eyes, was the true resolution to the pregnancy. The capstone was our lives moving forward and unfolding together, instead of the fixed memorial by way of scrapbooking the time our paths crossed. For in fact our paths did not cross, rather, they converged.


As I wrote in a blog post not long ago, Maria and I recently had a conversation about how our homes have taken on a different purpose and meaning due to our infertility and living in them as families of two. It got us thinking about nesting, which inspired me to create some artwork around that theme. I made one piece, my “Inhospitable Nest” around the memory a dream I had years ago.

Choosing the materials for that piece and setting aside time to create it was very calming. Weaving the wire in and out was a meditative process and, while I don’t always end up with a product that looks like it did in my head, this one did. Better even. It made me want to create more nests. I’ve since created two more that I’m sharing with you today.

The first was created around a painful experience I had while my sister was visiting with her two youngest children. My four youngest nieces and nephews were having a sleepover at my parents’ house. My mother bought them all matching pajamas and they were wearing them, sitting in a row on my parents’ couch. I was overwhelmed with sadness. I knew that if my twins, conceived after our first embryo transfer, had survived, they would be sitting in the middle of the line up.

Cousins by Elizabeth Walker. Mixed media - copper and aluminum wire, coral, moss.

Cousins by Elizabeth Walker. Mixed media – copper wire, coral, moss.


The second was inspired by a conversation I had with my husband, Scott. We have pet Zebra Finches at home. The birds laid five eggs. One was kicked from the nest, one never hatched. However, three baby birds were growing well. Sadly, they died one by one, the last just days from being ready to leave the nest. Scott mentioned that we shouldn’t let them have babies anymore because it was a lot of work for them without the babies even surviving, to which I responded, “They did better than we ever did.”

Five years, five Clomid with timed intercourse cycles, four IUI hybrid cycles, one IVF cyle resulting in the transfer of three embryos and the furthest we ever got was an early miscarriage. Still, I’m grateful for that brief time I was pregnant.

Better Than We Ever Did by Elizabeth Walker. Mixed media - copper and aluminum wire, pearls.

Better Than We Ever Did by Elizabeth Walker. Mixed media – copper and aluminum wire, pearls.



Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth


Chas’ story was featured in the exhibit on Thursday night at The Turek Clinic in San Francisco. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

If you logged onto Facebook this past Sunday, you could not help but be reminded of two cultural events. One, the Warriors vs. Cavilers game. Two, the fact that it was Father’s Day. Both events though shared images and remembrances of healthy, strong men.

Yet, the reality is that in the American men are dying at epic numbers because of their reluctance to see the doctor and be screened for preventable disease (see Men’s Health Network). The suicide rate of men is nearly four times that of women (see AFSP). And, yet,  the United States still does not have a National Office for Men’s Health (see Men’s Health Magazine).


Attendees at Picture Your Fertility transform specimen cups using duct tape and alphabet stickers. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Last Thursday, the ART of Infertility took a moment to draw attention to this gap in American men’s attitudes towards health and medicine. “Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth” featured stories and artwork created around issues of infertility and men’s health. Below you will find some of the pieces of art created at the event, as well as some of the stories that were featured at this unique event celebrating Men’s Health Month.

A special thanks to The Turek Clinic for hosting, our media partner, Men’s Health Network Reproductive Science Center for their sponsorship, Janet Reilly for wine, Rob Clyde for his Q&A of If I Could Tell You, and all those who donated to The ART of Infertility before, during, and after the event. We’ll be sharing more photographs from the event soon. See the photos below for a little sneak peek from Rebecca Wilkowski Photography.
Dr. Paul Turek welcomes guest to the clinic.

Dr. Paul Turek welcomes guest to the clinic. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Guests could create their own comic strip. Photo by Maria Novotny.

Guests could create their own comic strip. Photo by Maria Novotny.

Rob Clyde talks about his film, If I Could Tell You.

Rob Clyde talks about his film, If I Could Tell You.

Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Artist Jamie Turri with her piece, What It Takes. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Artist Jamie Turri with her piece, What It Takes. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Living Childfree on Father’s Day – Reflections from Angela and George

Today’s blog post is a reflection on living without children after infertility. It comes to us from Angela and George. Angela attended Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. in May and participated in one of our mini-interviews for the project. Thank you George and Angela for sharing your story.

Angela – When I first read the email about doing a guest blog I got really excited. A chance to finally tell our story as a couple. I’d long planned to do a blog from the time we started our infertility journey. I was looking forward to sharing our good news after our long struggle to get pregnant. I’d picked out a name, written a couple of entries and even shared them with some close friends. Sharing our pregnancy progression with our friends and family was a dream of mine. Unfortunately, we never had any good news to share. After a couple of IUIs, an unsuccessful IVF and countless tears and prayers, there just wasn’t anything positive to say. I had no interest in writing a blog about our “failures.”

Fast forward two years and we now have a new normal. While we haven’t talked about this officially, I imagine that we’ll be child free. We haven’t discussed our 8 frozen embryos, our dwindling infertility insurance coverage (which ends when I turn 44 in 4 days) or any plans to adopt or foster to build our family. We no longer have the funds to put toward those options. My husband has also been concerned that yet another BFN will devastate me emotionally and put me back in that dark place that I’ve fought so hard to come out of. To be honest, we really don’t talk about this at all. That in itself is somewhat painful to me, but it may be more about self and marriage preservation than anything else.

image3What is there to say about living child free on Father’s Day? I guess we could write about our current life and all the child free fun we’re going to have in the future. Traveling, burning through our kids college money and just living a life of leisure. It also meant that we’d have to actually sit down to discuss this topic that is always in the back of my mind, but very difficult to bring up.

George – I had never thought about having a Father’s Day that was childless until we were offered this opportunity to be on this blog. To me it’s not easy seeing my wife go thru the struggles of being infertile. It hasn’t been an easy road for either of us. With Father’s Day approaching, my silver lining is the fact that I’m lucky to have my own father around still and I get to celebrate it with him in person this year. There’s always that thought of, “what if I had a kid of my own,” but to me the fact that there is still something to celebrate makes things a little easier. I embrace the fact that we are infertile as though it’s what God has planned for us. We can go out and tell our story to let others know they’re not alone in this battle, and we can all come together on tough days such as Father’s Day and celebrate life, with or without kids. The bottom line is that we will always have something to celebrate even if we end up celebrating child free. We will always have each other and family to lean on during the tough times, and we can also be that shoulder to lean on for others who are just starting the struggles of infertility.image4

Angela – I’m smiling as I read his piece. I’ve often wondered what our future will look like. For so long, we talked about our babies, our plans for them and our life as a family of three or four. This is such a difficult topic to have. Wanting something so terribly and trying to accept that you may never get there. I’m delighted to know that George sees a future for us as a family of two. This journey has definitely put a strain on our marriage. I often felt like I was alone to deal with this. Reading my husband’s words prove that I’m not alone and never will be.

As George mentioned, we will continue to share our story. We want to remind people that there is life after years of dealing with infertility. Time hasn’t necessarily healed old wounds. While I’m not sure this is something you ever “get over,” I agree with my husband when he says we will continue to be a source of support for others. The two of us can be an example of what a happy, healthy, child free family can look like.

While my husband may never hear these words from our own child, we will take today to celebrate our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and all the dads in our lives. Happy Father’s Day to each and every one of you.

Infertility and Him: Staying Mobile

June 13 – June 19 is Men’s Health Week. As a week that highlights the importance of men taking care of their health, we are focusing on male perspectives and infertility. Today, we share some of Kevin’s perspectives. Last week, Kevin shared this short piece with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. In this post, he talks a bit about how he has turned to running with his dog, Mason, as a routine that has not only helped him deal with infertility but has helped him take healthier steps towards his future. We invite you to read Kevin’s short story and remind you that if you will be in the San Francisco area this week, to join us, on Thursday June 16 from 7-9:00pm at The Turek Clinic for our capstone Men’s Health event. The event is free and you can register here:


Kevin, with his wife, Maria, and their two dogs: Gia (spaniel) and Mason (black lab). Stella (their first puppy) is not pictured as she passed away in January 2016.

As my wife and I delved into the IF journey about 5 years ago, one element that came to the forefront, and still remains, is health. Suddenly, we were critical of so many of our lifestyle choices: what we ate, how often we exercised…were we not respecting our bodies?

Understandably, I think it is easy to get obsessive when it comes to IF, but that is not the solution either. A healthy balance is what is needed. One avenue I explored, and still require in my routine, is running. I run off of my stress. When we first encountered IF, I just started running. I ran two half marathons and a full marathon in one year’s time…it might have been obsessive.

But it worked. I still use it for my mental & physical strength, and for other topics too: when we put our first canine, Stella, down. She was very symbolic of what our first child meant to me and I know very few will ever understand that truth. But I ran that off too, cherishing her memory in the miles I run, with her close friend and my canine boy, Mason.

Running has evolved to other hobbies, including woodworking and renovating a garage to living space since September 2015, when we purchased land to serve as a legacy. And I am in the process of finalizing the design of an art piece for The Art of IF.

When we began our support group search, in a conservative city for that matter, we found the existing groups to be more exclusive, and sometimes not even including men! We knew a group that included all IF backgrounds would be a necessity beyond our needs, but also benefit others struggling to find support. This is how we realized we had to start our own RESOLVE support group in Michigan, and we met good friends that we are still close with today, even outside the group.

The takeaway: I have always found it crucial to stay mobile in life; it will carry you through life’s hardest times and make you invaluable to those in need around you.

Kevin’s Recommended Links:

Expression through Poetry

Sharing poetry today from Jeffrey Tucker. This poem and other artwork and infertility stories of men and their families will be on display at our pop-up art exhibit on Thursday June 16 in San Francisco from 7 – 9 pm at The Turek Clinic. Free registration at our Eventbrite listing.

We’re excited to be partnering with The Turek Clinic and Men’s Health Network for this event in honor of Men’s Health Month which will feature art making stations, food, drinks, and a peek at the new film If I Could Tell You and a Q&A session with director, Rob Clyde. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Email for more information. Please join us!

Jeffrey Tucker
Artist’s Statement

kill-february_Page_1I believe that writing – especially poetry – is an act of confession. Whether the thoughts expressed in art are joyous, sorrowful, or somewhere in-between (or both, in some instances), the act of comitting pen to paper builds a bridge between the reader and the writer’s psyche, often with an intimacy eschewed in normal conversation.

Which is the say that I tell secrets in my poetry. This poem, in particular, allowed me to express something I would never say out loud. It was both liberating and terrifying to write – an experience (in sentiment, if not in practice) that I have heard many people describe passing through in the journey of infertility: on one hand, you want to scream; on the other hand, you want to hide. Thus, this poem – whose writing process inspired the same feelings in me – in an apt form to convey my emotions.

“On Geography and Biology and the Meeting Thereof.”

(Excerpted from Kill February, forthcoming from Sage Hill Press)
– Jeffrey Tucker

My brother-in-law and his wife: gone,
off to cruise Mexico: siesta
or Fiesta, la Riviera Maya, salted latitudes
south. I picture the two white-footed Utahns
quick-stepping down a burning brown beach,
silver hawkers at hand. They have not heard the stories
I have, of endless squatting in jails
for a wrong U-turn, an unpaid bribe.
Yet I am unconcerned. It’s a cruise,
after all, staffed with smiling deckhands
so eager to pass out Turkish towels
or spray palms with alcohol. If they
died, my wife thinks aloud, they would not
leave our nieces – the four girls – to us.
Since we don’t live in Utah, I say,
and she nods. No family nearby,
not for two thousand miles. And I knew
that my body does not allow us pregnancy, morning
sickness, any of that
lovely fecund wreck. But I did not know that geography
conspired against us at the same time
(not that I ever wish for a death).

Teaming up with Hollywood for Men’s Health

By now, I hope you all know about our pop-up art exhibit next Thursday, June 16th from 7 – 9 pm at The Turek Clinic in San Francisco. Tickets are free but it’s important that you visit our Eventbrite listing to reserve your spot! We’ve been extra busy this week getting our artwork, portraits, labels, and supplies around and working out last minute details. I have some exciting news to share as there’s been a new development this week!

if i could tell you movie posterDr. Turek is the Executive Producer of a new film about infertility called If I Could Tell You. Earlier this week, I had a chance to speak with the film’s director, Robert Clyde, about how the film was inspired by his own experience with infertility. We bonded over our shared passion for the arts and using them as a creative outlet for dealing with our own emotions around being diagnosed with the disease. So, a decision was made that Rob would fly up to San Francisco from Los Angeles to share a preview of the film at our pop-up and host a Q&A session.

The Turek clinic, If I Could Tell You, and The ART of Infertility all intersect on the importance of creativity and healing re: infertility.

– It was because of their personal experiences with infertility that Rob and his cast made this film.

– Maria and I began creating art and writing around our own infertility diagnoses, which led to the creation of The ART of Infertility.

– Dr. Turek is passionate about both projects because of the creative expressions they represent and the opportunity for dialog that they invite.

I’m excited about this collaboration for creative expression, the awareness it has the potential to create, and the conversations it will start about infertility, particularly about Men’s Health. So, please join us at The Turek Clinic on the 16th (remember, you can get your tickets at our Eventbrite listing. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Aftermath of a Male Factor Infertility Diagnosis

While we have more men sharing their stories with us through artwork and interviews these days, they’re still underrepresented in our project and in the media as a whole. By participating in Men’s Health Month, we’re hoping to shed light on how infertility affects men and encourage more men to use art as a tool in coping with their disease.

In this post from the blog archives, originally posted in July of last year, we hear from ART of IF interview participant and artist, Chas. We’re sharing his artwork at our pop-up exhibit at The Turek Clinic in San Francisco next week, and I just confirmed that he and his wife, Audrey, will be attending as well! Please plan to join us to check out the show, create something of your own at our art making stations, and enjoy food, wine, and the company of others in the infertility community, like Chas. You can get your free tickets here.
– Elizabeth

 “We would have cute kids!”

That was the line I said to my wife while we were in college. Forward? Sure. Did I mean it? Yes. Did I know it would take 3 years and 7 IUI’s to finally have a child? Definitely not.

My wife and I wanted to do the things that we felt we had to do before we had kids. You know: get married, careers, buy a house, travel, etc. It wasn’t until my college roommates had their first child in May of 2012 that we sat down and said, “We want a child. We want to experience that kind of love.”

Flash forward 3-4 months of trying, we both felt something was wrong but due to our medical coverage we had to wait a full calendar year of trying to conceive before diagnostic tests could be run. In June of 2013 we were finally referred to our reproductive endocrinologist and the tests began. All of my wife’s tests came back with nothing wrong with her, but I was a different story.


Low motility and low sperm count. That is what my semen analysis (SA) read. I was angry. How could this happen? I have never done illegal drugs, I can count on one hand the times I had smoked a cigar, I workout, eat well, take care of my body, What the hell? Did I do my fair share of the college bar scene? Sure, but it’s not like I drank a fifth of Jack Daniels a night. This had to be wrong. Then the next SA three weeks later had the same results. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why me?


I was diagnosed with unexplained male factor infertility.  When I was diagnosed with male factor infertility I truly did go though the 5 stages of grief. At first I wanted more SA’s because I was a red-blooded American male and nothing could be wrong with me. Denial. Then when all 5 those SA’s came back the same I was angry at myself, and my body for failing me, with my anger directed towards anyone who crossed my path. I would snap at the littlest things and pick fights just to fight. The anger really stayed for a long time. After that came the bargaining: if I take these infertility vitamins and change my diet that should do the trick. It worked for other people it had to work for me. When the vitamins and diet change didn’t work the depression set in. This is when things got pretty bad. I was truly numb to the world. I disconnected from my wife. She would ask me a question about my day and I would give one-word answers. I couldn’t find the joy in the things I use to love doing. I didn’t want to be around anyone, I just wanted to stay home in the dark. After our 6th IUI failed during National Infertility Awareness Week 2014the acceptance finally started. My wife had posted something on a social media site that she didn’t know other people could see, outed if you will, our struggle to have a child to our friends and family. The cat was out of the bag so to speak.  After that only love and support followed from our friends and family. With that love and support we did a picture for NIAW and we also made a team for the Northern California Walk of Hope.

Chas_NIAW Having to watch my wife take pills and get injections probably was one of the worst parts of the whole IUI process.  The pills gave her hot flashes and I handled that pretty well I think. I always had something to cool her down. The injections were hard to watch. I know IVF injections are more extensive but watching her give herself Menopur injections sucked. Watching her do the pain dance, as we called it, always got to me, but the bruises afterwards would bring tears to my eyes. I had to helplessly stand by and watch as my wife had to go through this for something my body was failing to do.

The infertility community as a whole has been so amazing. My wife and I have met so many amazing people going through the challenges of infertility. I don’t think I have ever met that many people that truly pull for you to succeed in that capacity. There is such a kinship in the community that you really do have to experience it and cannot be qualified into words.

If putting my story out there can change one man’s mind for the better about Male Factor Infertility I would feel I accomplished my goal for this blog. Unfortunately, there really isn’t research and support out there for MFI. Why is it on rise? Chemical age? Maybe, but there is no concrete proof. This is especially true for unexplained MFI. There is no need to feel ashamed and disconnected from your partner no matter the diagnosis you are in this together.


Men, Infertility, and Depression

We hear a lot about how infertility affects women’s emotional well being and less about how it affects men. It’s important that we pay some special attention to how men’s lives are impacted by the disease, especially when, according to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for all men in the United States and there are 4 times as many deaths to suicide for males than females.


We have found that art and writing can be a great outlet for dealing with the stress of infertility and are excited to team up with The Turek Clinic in San Francisco for Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth. It’s an opportunity for men to let out some frustration through guy-friendly art and writing stations, get information about health and well being, and learn they aren’t alone in their infertility through the artwork, portraits, and stories of other men and their families dealing with similar situations. This free event is open to the public and will be held on Thursday June 16 from 7 – 9 pm. You can get your tickets here. We hope you will join us! In the meantime, check out this great info, below, from Austin Klise’s HuffPost Healthy Living Blog 4 Strategies to Help Men Get through Depression.

4 Strategies to Help Men Get Through Depression
by Austine Klise
HuffPost Healthy Living Blog

Tip #1 Understand His Depression “There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” ― Laurell K. Hamilton

One of the largest misconceptions about depression is that it is a feeling – which is part of the reason men are so reluctant to talk about it. Yes, it is a feeling but it is also much more. Not only does it effect people on an emotional level but it also drains them physically and psychologically. The chemical imbalance in the brain slowly causes the body to shut down. That is why if your partner is depressed, he will be lacking the motivation to hit the gym or to pursue a once cherished hobby. With this in mind, the first thing you can do to help is make sure he is eating a balanced diet and is exercising. Buy fresh food, avoid stocking the fridge with highly caffeinated products and booze, and see if he will go walking with you. These are all easy and are tremendously helpful, but won’t necessarily combat the depression itself. For that, we go to Tip #2.

Tip #2 Acknowledging His Depression  “Never ignore the elephant in the room. That’s rude; play with it and introduce it.” ― Donna Lynn Hope

Confronting his depression will be tough but is absolutely necessary if you are going to help reverse its course. What you’re going to be doing here isn’t confronting him and telling him he is depressed. Trust me, he knows he depressed or at least that something is wrong. The goal is to show him that you acknowledge he is going through something and that asking for help is okay. I’ve broken it down into
four steps –

  1. Approach him where he is comfortable, at home or maybe your favorite date spot. Make sure you have privacy and enough time to talk (at least an hour).
  2. Tell him you noticed he has been “feeling down” lately. I would avoid using the word “depressed” because it could trigger the walls to go straight up. Bring up examples – but do so in a gentle way.
  3. Explain your mutual goal – you BOTH want him to feel better.
  4. Depressed men feel isolated in their pain and hopelessness. Explain that asking for help is a sign of strength not of weakness.

Tip #3 Self Care  “The Best Health Care Plan Is A Self Care Plan” ― Nina Leavins

“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your own mask first, and then assist the other person.”

If you’ve ever been on an airplane you’ve likely heard some iteration these words. While growing up they confused me because it seemed like it would make more sense to help the helpless and vulnerable first, but with age I realized that if you are incapacitated you won’t be of any help to anyone. The same goes for caring for a man with depression. You need to secure your own mental stability before you can help him.

The difference in a situation with male depression as opposed to other diseases is that the frustration and stress isn’t going to come in the traditional way. You won’t be stretched thin providing medical assistance to him or running back and forth from a hospital. But, rather the emotional connection you have with your partner will be taxed. Because of the nature of depression he won’t be as connected or invested in your relationship as he was when he was healthy. He might become more combative or more withdrawn, depending on how the depression affects him. Don’t get pulled into this or take it personally. Do what you need to do to stay healthy. Connect with friends, exercise, or shop – you have an identity outside of your relationship.

Tip #4 Involve the Professionals

Getting professional medical personnel involved is the most critical step as it is the most effective way to cure the depression. I understand it can be incredibly hard to get a guy to see doctor, for even the most routine of checkups, let alone getting him to see a therapist or psychologist for depression. Here are some ways to make it easier:

  1. Ask him to do it for you or your family. Tell him it will bring you peace of mind if he sees someone.
  2. See the right doctor – Ask if you can set up an appointment with your family doctor so they can go over the problem. It will be an easier push for him to see a family doc as oppose to a “shrink.”
  3. Call ahead – Tell the doctor what his symptoms have been. Your testimony might bring up things your partner could miss or will neglect to share.

3 Powerful Visualizations of Infertility

The name “The ART of Infertility” has a double meaning. The artwork, created by women struggling with infertility, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies, the medical treatments that help those struggling to become parents. It is also a play on the word “artifact” and the numerous medical objects that can accumulate from going through infertility. IF also has a double meaning. IF is the acronym for infertility. It is also a common word that infertility patients use as they live the limbo that infertility forces them into as their schedules are controlled by fertility treatments.

Today we feature some art that reimagines, reinterprets and repurposes some medical art-i-facts to tell part of their infertility story. When the exhibit travels, these are always some exhibit favorites. They are powerful and tell the truth – infertility hurts and infertility is hard. But going through infertility reminds you also of what matters, what is important, and what is inspiring. We hope a few of these pieces will leave you inspired.

“Letting Go.” This mixed media piece created by Denise is made from ceramic, glass vials, gauze, q-caps and glue. It tells the story of how she now feels like she is trying to put together the pieces of her life that have been shattered because of infertility. The materials used to make this installation are from previous failed fertility treatments.

“Letting Go” by Denise Callen.

Denise explains “Letting Go” as: From childhood,, we are brought up to believe in a traditional fairytale of how our lives will unfold: meet the handsome prince who steals the fair maiden’s heart, marry and have a beautiful family. It can be a rude awakening when life veers from that path. Every plan I made revolved around this traditional view of how life was to play out. I married a wonderful man; we bought the perfect house with room for the traditional 2.5 children, and then the dream took us down a very dark path we never anticipated. Years of trying, expensive treatments over and over and over and over again, took their toll. Just when we would get good news, our hopes would be dashed with miscarriages and no heartbeats. I reached a point when it was time to stop crying, injecting, treatment and pouring money into a dream that wasn’t to be. I needed to let go of the fantasy and find a new dream. I am now putting the pieces of my life together. Like this work, it is still beautiful and holds parts of the past, but it is very different from the original plan. No matter how hard I try to patch it together, it, and I, will never be the same. I am stronger. I am wiser. I am happy. I am sad. I am living child-free.

Failed IVF #1 (September 10, 2015 - October 9, 2015) by Sara Nelson. Mixed media. Part of the ART of IF permanent collection.

Failed IVF #1 (September 10, 2015 – October 9, 2015) by Sara Nelson.

Sara explains “Failed IVF#1 (September 10, 2015-October 9, 2015)” as: I often use my own body in my images. Molding it and adhering it to my canvas. Creating forms that are not perfect yet are perfect in their own right. In “Failed IVF#1 (September 10, 2015-October 9, 2015)”, I strive to bring the viewer into the overwhelming world that is infertility at its most extreme, the process of in vitro fertilization. It is an insanely overwhelming process, full of medications, needles, doctor visit, surgeries, extremely high highs, and often extremely devastatingly low lows. In this piece, I have used the needles I used throughout my entire IVF treatment. I have pierced them back into a cast of my own body; in the locations I put the initial injections, day in, day out, day in, day out, hoping to help my doctor to create a perfect, viable embryo to become my child. Unfortunately, the process resulted only in the picture you see; one tiny dot of an embryo that was probably not healthy, and did not make it to become a viable human being. I am still grieving that loss and that failure. After finishing the piece, with the help of my amazing and wonderful husband, I could not help but think, I have to do this again. I have to try again. I am not ready to give up. I WILL have an IVF#2, however emotionally and financially draining it is. Hopefully this will end in success.

“Infertility Armour" (Elizabeth Walker, artist). Amber and pearls are my go-to gems. While I was trying to conceive, I developed some superstitions. One was that I had to wear amber every day or it may change my energy and decrease my chances of getting pregnant. This was unusual for me because I strongly put my faith in science. However, while undergoing treatment for my infertility, science was letting me down.

“Infertility Armour” by Elizabeth Walker.

Elizabeth explains “Infertility Armour” as: Amber and pearls are my go-to gems. While I was trying to conceive, I developed some superstitions. One was that I had to wear amber every day or it may change my energy and decrease my chances of getting pregnant. This was unusual for me because I strongly put my faith in science. However, while undergoing treatment for my infertility, science was letting me down. I created this piece of infertility armorusing needles and syringes identical to the ones my husband used to give me progesterone in oil shots. The shots were one of the things I feared most about IVF but it turned out they weren’t as horrible as I imagined they might be. The amber, while a fashion staple for me, is also a nod to the amber teething necklaces for babies that became popular while I was trying to get pregnant. I felt slighted because amber was MY stone and everyone else was buying it for their babies when I couldn’t have one. The pearls are also the bead that I assigned to progesterone shots in previous projects. When cycling, progesterone keeps your uterine lining in check for your embryo to be able to implant and grow. I imagined this like the lining of mother of pearl inside a shell, or the protective layer that oysters form around a foreign object which becomes a pearl.