#startasking How creating art can bring healing on your infertility journey.

For the last day of #NIAW, we wanted to reflect on why we find creating art helpful in our journeys.

Elizabeth

I’ve had a complicated relationship with my house over the past couple of years. My husband, Scott, and I bought it shortly after we married nearly 12 years ago and made the move across town from the house I purchased as a single woman, to this one where we imagined we might raise a child one day. We chose it because of the school district and because the walk out basement was reminiscent of Scott’s childhood home, and the archways and poured plaster walls reminiscent of mine. We walked in and immediately felt we belonged there.

Several years later, when it became apparent that having a child wasn’t going to come easily, I had a dream of recurrent house flooding. Water seeped in through the roughly textured walls and pooled on the hardwood floors. I was in the upstairs hall and trying to keep the water at bay when I heard a chorus of whispers. A chorus I soon realized was the voices of my house itself, resentful of us and acting out because we weren’t filling the house with children.

Even though I still love my home for many reasons, I started resenting it and the fact that it wasn’t fulfilling the purpose we thought it would when we first moved in 11 years 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 this piece, my “Inhospitable Nest” around the memory of that dream years ago. Choosing the materials for this 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 will share with you in the coming weeks.

Inhospitable

Inhospitable Nest. Elizabeth Walker. Mixed media – copper wire, crystals.

Creating artwork around my infertility experience has allowed me to have tangible proof of my diagnosis. My disease is so invisible to those around me and making artwork that represents it has made it real to me and to those who see it. That’s been invaluable to me in coming to terms with my diagnosis and to explaining it to others, and why I’m so grateful we get to help others create pieces around their own infertility experiences during our ART of IF workshops. So, I encourage you to #startasking how making art might help you in your journey and would love to see what you create.

Maria

This September my husband and I will both turn 30. We actually were born exactly 2 weeks apart – Kevin on the 15th and me on the 1st. Since I was little, I remember the story of my birth. I was the first granddaughter to be born on both sides of my family, so my birth was rather exciting. My uncle always told me how it was a hot day in September and how ironic it was that I was actually born on Labor Day. For years, I grew up assuming Labor Day was about women giving birth — never considering how it was actually about the US labor force. I just assumed that I was special because of being born on this day.

As I have come to accept my infertility, though, I have come to think less and less that it was special that I was born on Labor Day. I actually think it is some kind of bad joke. This year, my actual birth day won’t happen on Labor Day. But as I turn 30, I have been thinking about how I now longer fit in with so many of my friends and family members who are now entering their 30s and having their own families. Kevin and I both talk about this, trying to develop strategies to cope with the increasing feeling we are loosing our closest friends.

I wanted to use the last day of #NIAW to share some pieces of art that reflect these feelings of loss. Many of our friends and family members post pictures of their family outings and announcements. In the height of my infertility, this would have enraged me. Now, with some years past, I am no longer angry but instead just deeply sad — knowing this will most likely not be our story, knowing that we are growing more and more distant with these friends and family members, knowing that there are days that its hard for me to recognize that deep desire I had to have a child. Below are some images I am using to create shadow boxes. I am trying to “play” on the other types of family photos that often fill my Facebook and Instagram feeds. The captions articulate the sentiment I feel in each of these images.

image1

This photo was taken right when Kevin and I started realizing we were having trouble conceiving. We had been living in Cleveland and decided to make a trip back to Wisconsin to visit family. Here, I am pictured actually with my little brother. We are 18 years apart and when I would babysit him and take him to restaurants or run errands — people often assumed he was my child not my mothers. I think back to the times when I would carry him in his baby seat and think that is quite often the closest I will come to feeling like a mom.

 

image3

I love this picture. While it looks like Kevin is holding a baby who just finished a bath, it is actually a cut out of him holding our new puppy — Mason. We had just picked up Mason from a farm in Southwest Michigan. He was smelly , dirty and had proceeded to throw up all over the car on the drive back to our house. We was so timid and tiny. Today, he is our 65 pound black lab. But he remains so gentle and eager to please. His presence in our life has made our whole navigation of infertility so much more bearable.

image4

This picture was taken in September 2013. I had just started my PhD program. Meanwhile, a friend of mine from my MA program had just had a baby. Kevin and I went over to their house to meet the newborn. I remember holding that baby and posing for that picture feeling so incredibly sad that we would never take our own family picture.

#startasking How can we better support those living childfree after infertility?

When traveling for the ART of Infertility, we are often asked how we manage to have full time jobs plus develop this project. We have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about this. Both of us have found healing through our involvement with this project, which has served as motivation for our commitment to the ART of Infertility. Yet, for both of us, we have also had to acknowledge that our commitment to this project has also impacted our family-building plans. Whether consciously or not (at this point it’s hard to determine), the ART of Infertility has become our metaphorical child in which we have dedicated our own resources, time and emotional energy into sharing the stories, art and voices of so many who have been able to complete their family. Yet, as we continue to work on this project, we continue to feel more or less poled to our own childfree resolution. Honestly, though, we both have felt some hesitation with disclosing to others that we are childfree. Truth is, it changes on a daily basis. Below we share with you some of our personal reflections on coming to think of ourselves as infertile and childfree. We also include perspectives from some of our peers who have been supportive throughout this process — allowing us to talk openly and honestly about the day-to-day struggles of figuring out if childfree is right for us. 

-Elizabeth and Maria

Elizabeth’s Reflection

My husband and I discontinued treatment a little over two years ago. After five years, five surgeries, ten treatment cycles, and one miscarriage, we were emotionally and physically exhausted. We needed time to grieve the biological child we would never have and regroup. After spending so many years focusing on infertility, we needed to relearn how to focus on ourselves and each other. We’re still relearning.

In the meantime, we decided we’d prevent pregnancy and give living childfree a go. It’s the resolution and infertility subset that I currently most identify, but, since we haven’t made a definite decision yet, I often feel like an imposter. I want to be 100% respectful of those who have truly reached that stage in their journey and are learning to navigate and living their lives childfree.

We’ve started looking into possibly pursuing using donor embryo and I’m conflicted. The part of me that still longs to parent one day says to give it a try. The part of me that has come so far in healing over the past two years is reluctant to open myself up to the roll of a dice it would be. What if it doesn’t work? What if I get pregnant and miscarry again? What if I become a parent and can’t devote the time to ART of IF that I want to be able to? What if?

I’ve spent a lot of my infertility journey coming to learn and accept that I can’t let society pressure me into thinking I haven’t done enough, that I haven’t tried enough, that I didn’t want parenthood enough. Instead, I need to make the best decision for my family of two. I’m comfortable now knowing that, in the end, I will do what’s best for us. That if I don’t choose to further pursue parenting, it isn’t about giving up, but choosing another path.

Those living without children after infertility have far too few resources for support and, perhaps, face some of the biggest stigma. I’m constantly trying to find an answer to how we can improve life for this group of those with infertility. So, I’m hoping you will all #startasking what you can do to help those living child free after infertility. Let’s get the discussion started with some insight from just a few who have reached this resolution.

Maria’s Reflection

“Am I infertile enough?”

This question lingers in my mind quite often. Five years ago, my husband and I began to come to terms that we were going to have difficulty conceiving. At the age of 24 and the oldest of two large Catholic families, coming to understand that we weren’t going to magically get knocked up was disorienting and isolating. For years, I had been told by numerous people that we should be very careful because we come from two very fertile families. I think back on these statements now and can only laugh at irony of it all.

In fact, I often think that all of these cautionary tales – to protect our fertility – actually has prevented our fertility. Now, I am not really superstitious, but sometimes that’s really what I think happened. You see, when Kevin and I were told that our next options were for me to undergo an HSG, our steps towards building a family were put on hold.

For years prior to my infertility, I have had difficulty undergoing OBGYN exams and treatments. And so the proposal that I do an HSG — with no anesthesia  — seemed (and still does) impossible. Kevin knew that an HSG would be extremely challenging for me and so we put IUI and IVF off the table. We focused on our marriage, we started a RESOLVE support group for couples, and we both went to graduate school. For the past four years, we have really put off next steps in our family-building journey. And often, when asked where we reside in the infertility family scale, we say “we are leaning towards childfree.”

Yet, this past year, Kevin and I have privately been revisiting our inclination towards childfree. This past June, he got a new job with stellar infertility coverage. On top of that, in September 2016 both of us will be turning 30. And finally, this year will be the last year that I am in graduate school before I transition to a job. This forced us to rethink our options. And it forced to talk about guilt.

Both of us have attended Advocacy Day and have heard the stories of so many couples that would do anything to have the health insurance that we have. We struggled with this deeply. How do you say no to something so many would say yes to in an instant? But as we talked, we shared how far we have come to accepting ourselves as being infertile and childfree. This I do not think was intentionally done but simply kind of happened through a variety of choices we made in our journey. And so while we have agreed to not pursue any treatment or even adoption at this point, we also feel a bit hesitant to claim “childfree” as our resolution.

Truth is, saying that you are childfree and not quite 30 is a hard thing to swallow. I feel like I was never “an infertility warrior.” I feel like I wasn’t able to give it my all. I do — at times — feel like an imposter. But I hope that during #NIAW we will #startasking about how we can work towards more acceptable notions that being childfree (and even the need to do ALL of the treatments) isn’t a last resort — but a valid choice.

fork-in-the-road

Thoughts on Inclusion

“Refer to us as a family. We ARE a family.” Brooke Kingston

“I would say invite us to things (like birthday parties, showers, etc), even if you think/know I won’t come. It can be so hard – sometimes we want to be included, and sometimes it’s too painful.  My big fear is being left out. I want it to be my choice if I don’t participate, not to be excluded and forgotten.” Brooke Kingston

Discussions on Choice

“I would like to see you include think some discussion about choice. It is not a usual choice you wake up to – often you reach the limits of your treatment options or finances – so the decision or stopping point is chosen for you. I think choice makes it sound like we have more agency than we feel we do. I feel that when people say I made the choice to stop treatment, they minimize the extent of my grief.” Anonymous

“On the flip side, it’s been very important to me to phrase this as our choice. Our situation is different though and I acknowledge that. But we feel that we took power back when made our choice. “So we – even as a community – see this very differently, but it’s important that people know that we do not come to this resolution lightly or easily.” Brooke Kingston

“What is choice and what is making the best of a shitty situation? Ultimately we all want to feel whole and ok with our lot in life.” Anonymous

 Ways to Help and Comments that Hurt

“People can help by understanding that I’m going to be grieving my whole life, as friends experience milestones with their children.” Brooke Kingston

“One of the most hurtful and misunderstood things I have heard about being childless after infertility, is that we didn’t want to be parents bad enough. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We endured more treatments than most precisely because we were so committed to conceiving our children.” Anonymous

“It is heartbreaking to have to let go your potential children. It is a pain that goes far beyond integrating an infertility diagnosis.” Anonymous

“And for me, you know my biggest trigger is the whole “never give up” type sentiments that are in tons of IF posts so those of us that chose to move on (or the choice was made for us) – those statements add to the feeling of failure. Like, if I *really* wanted a child I should have gone further in debt, risk more heartache and physical pain than I already had and what? Just kept going until bankruptcy or menopause, which ever came first just so I could say I never gave up?” Kati K.

“I also hate when people continue to tell us not to give up now that we have chosen. What I needed to move on and live my life included closing that door (with birth control). I was NOT in a good place when that door was still open and I was on the roller coaster. Don’t tell me that you’ll keep hoping for me. Hope for what I want: a loving, full, and fun life with my husband, amazing relationships with our nieces and nephews, and continued peace with our decision. The best way to support us is to hope for what we’re hoping for and help us achieve it.” Brooke Kingston

If you’re living childfree after infertility, what would you want people to know? What would help you feel supported? We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

#startasking About Parenting After Pregnancy Loss and Infertility – Lauren’s Perspective

Lauren of Rainbows & Unicorns, a site about parenting after pregnancy loss and infertility, reflects on mothering her daughter who was born after donor egg IVF. This story does include an image of parenting. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Lauren!

I scoop up my toddler and carry her upstairs to begin our bedtime routine. Diaper, pajamas, teeth, goodnight Daddy, books, and then — my favorite part — songs and cuddling.

She lies on my belly, her head against my chest. “Saaah!” When one song ends, she looks up and asks for another. And another. And another. Eventually my little ball of energy goes limp in my arms. I hold her for a few minutes, treasuring her chubby cheeks and the smell of her sweet, malty little head before kissing her goodnight until she wakes up to nurse at four in the morning.

Lauren with her daughter at bedtime.

Lauren with her daughter at bedtime.

Although singing the same limited repertoire until my throat hurts and not having more than a five-hour stretch of sleep for almost two years grate in different ways, I remember how it wasn’t always like this. In the tough moments — like trying to console a teething child having an hour-long exhaustion tantrum at 3 am — I somehow find inner strength. I get to do this.

I am a mother thanks to many people, including a younger mom who donated her eggs so that I could experience the same joy she felt when she held her son for the first time.

It wasn’t joy that I felt when I met my daughter. By then, I’d been through too much to let myself feel anything so big. After miscarriage, infertility, being told I would never have a healthy genetic child, and a high-risk pregnancy requiring me to deliver via planned cesarean, I couldn’t allow myself to believe that I was finally a mom. Not until I heard my daughter’s first cries. Not until I held her. Not until she was furiously suckling did it dawn on me that I was out of the trenches.

But am I really a regular parent now? Parenting after infertility is a strange place to be. As I like to describe it, “I’m no longer in the trenches, but I’m covered in mud.”

The grief of infertility is hard to remember. Like the face of someone you loved a long time ago, it’s hard to recollect its features in detail. That is, until a whiff of their perfume, or a pregnancy announcement, or an innocent remark from someone who has no idea why the question “When are you having another baby?” causes your heart to quietly crack a little.

“I’m no longer in the trenches, but I’m covered in mud.”

For many parents like me, we’ve left Infertility Island but we’re moored offshore somewhere else. Play dates with other parents — so many blissfully unaware of everything that can go wrong before, during, and after conception — can have moments that are hard to navigate. How do you relate to another parent who casually announces she plans to get pregnant in March so the baby is born before Christmas? What do you say when someone asks when you’re having another baby? How do you casually explain egg donation when asked where your daughter’s red hair comes from? In time, the answers come.

Don’t misunderstand; none of this is as hard as trying to have a baby. But when you’re a graduating member of a club you never wanted to join, you’re caught between two worlds: the one you had to leave once your child arrived; and the other everyone else assumes you’re in.

I have my “rainbow unicorn” (if a “rainbow” is a baby born after loss, I surmised one born after infertility would be a “unicorn”) and she fills my days with more joy than I thought possible. But joy and pain aren’t mutually exclusive. What a lot of people don’t realize is that having a baby resolves childlessness — not infertility.

You’re caught between two worlds: the one you had to leave once your child arrived; and the other everyone else assumes you’re in.

Even though we’re parents, we’re still infertile. Unless we fall into a small lucky statistic of spontaneously conceiving after infertility, if we want a second or third child we will have to submit to the invasive, sometimes painful, and always expensive tests and protocols we endured a few years before — this is equally true whether you do infertility treatment or adopt.

If we want a second child, we’re lucky to have eight chromosomally normal frozen embryos to choose from. All we have to do is pick a date for transfer. Most of my infertile comrades don’t have leftover embryos, either because they didn’t do IVF or, if they did, they didn’t have any embryos left over. It struck me the other week that some of my friends are going to have to go through the whole TTC thing all over again. They have my full support and admiration.

For me, parenting after infertility has given me some unexpected blessings. First and foremost, I have this amazing little girl in my life. She’s affectionate, smart, talkative, mischievous, and healthy. We might not share DNA, but we share a sense of humor, a love of Marmite, a dislike of tomatoes, and we’re both pretty tall with big feet. Most importantly, she’s here, and she couldn’t have been created any other way. My journey to motherhood was filled with more pain than I thought I could bear, but I’d do it all over again to have this sweet child that I get to call my daughter.

Eighteen months into this parenting gig, I am more or less at peace with a whole lot of stuff that I never thought I’d be able to accept.

I have a chromosome disorder which means genetic children aren’t possible, so I chose egg donation to build my family. I can say that openly and joyfully now that I’m a parent. I can be open about the way my daughter was conceived because the irrational shame of not being able to reproduce has dissipated.

Breastfeeding has been tremendously healing in this respect. I wasn’t expecting much, so I was surprised that it came to me so easily. Being able to feed my daughter they way I hoped has restored faith in my otherwise broken body. My body can’t make a baby that will live, but it’s pretty damn good at growing and feeding them!

Over the last year and a half, I’ve spent days looking into my nursing daughter’s beautiful eyes fixed on my face — the same eyes I admired in our donor. Not recognizing any of my family of origin’s features in my daughter was, at first, strange. Sometimes she looks like her dad, sometimes she looks like our donor. To my surprise, I like seeing our donor’s influence. It’s reassuring to see something of the special woman I chose to replace my DNA reflected in my daughter.

Eighteen months into this parenting gig, I am more or less at peace with a whole lot of stuff that I never thought I’d be able to accept.

You might say I had a crash course in comfort levels, though. My daughter’s hair is a deep red, and every time we’re out three people, on average, stop us to admiringly ask if red hair runs in my family. At first the question made me wince. I didn’t know how to answer the question without also sharing the circumstances of my kid’s conception. I’ve got good at saying, “Nope! But isn’t it beautiful?” When pressed, I explain, “Red hair is a recessive gene, which means both genetic parties have to carry it.” In this way, I’m able to acknowledge my daughter’s genetic origins while not divulging too much to a stranger if I don’t feel like it.

I guess that’s what parenthood is about: constantly being surprised and having to readjust expectations, all the while practicing patience, kindness, and even finding the funny side when something’s gone wrong.

And in that sense, my infertility journey prepared me well.

Lauren is a mother via egg donation, after miscarriage, infertility, and a massive postpartum hemorrhage. She is a writer, editor, and designer at Rainbows-Unicorns.com, a community blog for parenting after pregnancy loss and infertility. Originally from London, Lauren lives in San Diego with her husband and their toddler. Follow her on Twitter at @DEIVFmama.

 

#startasking: How Infertility Prepared Me to Be a Mom – Camille’s Perspective

Camille Hawkins, MSW, LCSW is the Executive Director of Utah Infertility Resource Center. She reflects on her experience with infertility and shares 5 ways her infertility struggle taught her to be a great mom to her daughters. This post does contain images of babies and parenting. Thank you for sharing your insights, Camille!

I was recently part of a discussion in a “Pregnancy & Parenting after Infertility” Support group. The question was posed: Would you change the fact that you struggled with infertility?

How would life be different if I didn’t struggle with infertility? Even though this was the most difficult experience of my entire life, would I change it? It brought more heart ache, more tears, took more energy, and also more money than any other trial I’ve faced.

The consensus as each group member deeply reflected on this question was a resounding no. If you would have asked each of them in the heat of the struggle, the answer would have been different. But the common theme was that they had gained so much from their infertility journey, and there were still some very difficult parts about it, but they wouldn’t trade it.

IMG_2695

Camille pictured with her infant daughter.

My husband and I met at Utah State University in 2007. Once married, we waited a year to start trying to have a baby. We quickly learned it wouldn’t come easy. After 5 years of tracking monthly cycles, timed intercourse, surgery, fertility medications, injections, intra-uterine inseminations, in vitro fertilizations, a miscarriage, and being completely broken down emotionally, we became parents to two beautiful girls through the miracle of adoption. Becoming a mom was the best day of my entire life. I will never forget that feeling.

Even though my life is now consumed of changing diapers, making bottles, and rocking crying babies during the night, my infertility will always be a part of me. My diagnosis makes it so I will always be infertile. The wound of infertility may be healed in my heart, but the scar will always be there as a reminder of all I went through to get my girls. This journey has shaped my life more than anything else has. It helped me be the best mom I could be.

Here are 5 ways my infertility struggles taught me to be a great mom to my daughters.

  1. Peace – coming to accept my situation was difficult and took a lot of time and energy. I had to grieve every time I had a failed cycle, a failed treatment, grieve the death of my embryos, and the loss of my only pregnancy. I had to grieve having a biological child –the one I always dreamed of looking just like my darling husband. As a woman, I had to grieve not being able to experience pregnancy, child birth, breast feeding, and the things I was raised to most closely associate with womanhood. Through this process, frustration and resentment for my imperfect body eventually turned to peace and acceptance. I learned that things aren’t going to be perfect in life, but I can still be okay. I will teach my daughters their bodies are unique and special, and don’t have to be perfect in order to be beautiful. I will help them find peace and acceptance with the situations they find themselves in so they can look for the happiness and joy that surrounds them.
  1. Balance – I grew up in a culture that taught my most important and divine role would be that of a mother. Everything should revolve around that role, even my education, my career choices, everything. When I realized I was unable to conform to that norm, I was forced to either sit around and do nothing while the time passed, or do something productive with my time. I decided to get a master’s degree in social work and begin a career in counseling. I worked at a nonprofit community mental health center helping children heal from trauma. I volunteered with an organization running kids grief groups. I fell in love with my husband over and over again, traveled the world, and I became a dog mom, enjoying the beautiful outdoors hiking with my two retrievers. Infertility tends to consume you completely, like a black hole. The lows were the lowest I could ever imagine. Learning to keep balance in my life was crucial to surviving the black hole of infertility, and I’m learning that balance as a mom is crucial to being the best mom I can be to my daughters. I would like my daughters to have balance in their lives too, and to know it’s okay to be lots of things, do to lots of things, and most importantly to take care of themselves.
  1. Patience – Infertility makes you wait…….and wait……..and wait some more. It makes you cry night after night, feeling hopeless and that all is lost. False hope is sometimes the only thing you have left. I learned that things don’t work out necessarily in the way I expect, but it’s possible for them to work out in some way. My mom told me I was a very impatient child. I wanted things NOW! Patience is something I was forced into learning through my infertility journey. Now as a mother, patience is my saving grace. Motherhood is not easy; I never said it was going to be. Having patience shoved down my throat during infertility has allowed me to see things in motherhood through a different lens. I can make it through my baby’s crying spell. I can make it through my daughter refusing to sleep throughout the night. I can make it through two babies crying at once……Infertility helped me learn the patience for these moments.
  1. Appreciation – When you yearn for a child, you yearn for the good and the bad. Being a mother isn’t easy, but I realize I appreciate all the moments so much more than I would have because I worked so hard to get there. My girls will grow up knowing how much they were wanted, how much they were sought for, and how special they are. I know I am so lucky, so blessed, and so fortunate to be “Mamma” to my sweet baby girls. I have so much gratitude for their birth families for entrusting us to raise these little girls.

    IMG_6310

    Camille with her two girls and husband.

  1. Determination –I have met many women who struggle with infertility and I have found that these are some of the strongest women in the world. My husband and I experienced failure month after month, year after year, and still we pressed on. We did this because family is so important to us and we would not stop until we became parents. I learned I can do hard things, and my daughters will learn they can do hard things too. When I face failure and frustrations in motherhood, I remind myself of the obstacles I have overcome and rely on that strength to get me through hard times.

The journey of infertility is treacherous. No one deserves the pain that comes from an inability to get or remain pregnant when that is their deepest desire. The wound of infertility often runs deep. But there is hope. There is a lot we can learn. And we can have tremendous growth which can prepare us to be great parents when that glorious day finally comes.

 

 

 

#startasking When to start thinking about your fertility.

If you’re trying to conceive, it’s important to know when you should seek testing for infertility. If you have any previously know conditions that might contribute to infertility, it doesn’t hurt to consult a physician for advice right away. Otherwise, the guideline is after a year of trying to conceive for those under 35, and after six months of trying to conceive for those over 35. In today’s post, Danielle reflects on pros and cons for thinking about your fertility before you’re ready to start trying to have a baby. 

When to Start Thinking About Your Fertility

by Danielle Bucco

It can never be too early to think about any potential health concerns. For many health issues, early detection can sometimes be key to a quicker and easier treatment. However, thinking about things too far ahead of time can often lead to more stress and take away from living in the moment. When it comes to infertility, there is never going to be a right or wrong time to start thinking about it, it all depends on each individual and what they are comfortable with. For many, you don’t think about it until you are trying to conceive and are running into complications. For others such as myself, it is a constant thought even if there is no plan on conceiving any time in the near future. So what are some of the pros and cons of thinking about infertility early on?

Pros:

  • If there is a problem, you can detect it early and have more time to try and heal. As many people know the earlier an illness or issue is detected, the better the treatment will be and the more likely for a full recovery. There can be many different issues that can affect someone’s fertility. Getting regular checkups and making sure everything is functioning properly is going to be the best way to prepare for any future complications. Of course problems can develop, but getting regular checks should help put the mind at ease until it comes time to start conceiving.
  • Live a healthier lifestyle. If someone is worried about any potential health concerns, one of the best ways to try and avoid the concerns is to live a healthier lifestyle. This can mean many different things for different people. For some it could be changing their diet or to exercise more, while for others it could be to quit smoking or cut back on drinking. Whatever it is, if it is going to lead to a healthier body it will also lead to a healthier mind and hopefully help to relieve some of the stress of thinking about infertility.
  • Gives time to accept and/or consider other alternatives. For those who have gone through infertility, healing is a constant process that takes time and support. If it is discovered earlier on that there are going to be some complications when trying to conceive, it gives the individual more time to come to understand this fact and begin the healing process. It is never going to get easier but hopefully the time will help the idea of potential treatments that are right for them or alternative forms of becoming a parent.

vectorstock_1068869

Cons:

  • Worrying about something that might not be true. Someone who has not gone through the more extensive check ups might still be worried about whether or not they will be able to conceive. One of the problems with this is that there could be no issue and someone can spend a lot of time and energy worrying about something that they don’t have to worry about. If anyone worries the way I do, it can sometimes be an all-consuming event that affects sleep, diet, or even social situations. Worrying like this for no reason can really affect a person’s state of living and would be hard to accept if it was all for no reason.
  • Creates stress that could stop you from noticing all the happy things in life. Thinking about infertility so far in advance could lead to missing out on all of the positive aspects of your life that should be celebrated. When energy and focus is spent on something stressful and negative, it can sometimes take over the mind and cast a shadow on so many of the great things that life has to offer. Many people tend to miss opportunities because their minds are constantly occupied with stressful thoughts that bring their mood and emotions down. By trying to lessen the stress, you could be opening yourself up to countless experiences and opening the mind to new ideas and thoughts that could help make life even better.

Overall, there are pros and cons to thinking about infertility earlier on in life and that is something that each individual needs to decide for themselves. I am one of the people who worries about infertility way before I plan on having children and I have run into these pros and cons personally but that does not mean that others will experience the same things. With this week being National Infertility Awareness Week, now is the time to consider whether or not it is something you want to start thinking about or think about later when you want to actually have children but being aware that infertility issues exist is half the battle.

If you know you want to have children one day, you may want to consider having a “baby deadline test”. Click here for more info.

#StartAsking: What is #NIAW?

Over the course of this year, we, at the ART of Infertility have been busy generating new content to connect you with stories and artwork representative of infant loss, miscarriage and infertility advocacy. We have been grateful for how many of you have shared these stories on your social media pages and have engaged through commentary with this content.

This week, though, it may seem that we are a bit quieter than usual. And this is for a reason — we will be prepping stories for National Infertility Awareness Week (#NIAW).

NIAW-CMYK

Beginning April 24 – April 30 (#NIAW week), we will be featuring a host of stories asking the general public to #startasking about issues and topics related to infertility — a topic that often isn’t thought of until you find yourself going through it. Given how so many fail to really realize what infertility is until they are confronted with it in their own lives, our mission during this week be to reach out to those who often have very little contact with the topic of infertility.

While many of us in the infertility community frequently share our stories and try to make infertility more visible to the general public, we believe that #NIAW offers a unique moment to connect with those who often are not infertile and ask them to join us in becoming an infertility ally.

To provide a little preview we are sharing with you all a little more information about what #NIAW is and how to begin #startasking. We ask that you, too, share this across your networks and invite future allys to engage in the conversation!

Danielle, our social media college intern, provides some #NIAW info on how others (like herself who are not infertile) can join the conversation:

2016-niaw-hands-image

Why #NIAW?  This week is all about spreading awareness of infertility issues to people who may not be sure of what it exactly it means. Not only is it a time for people to bond over their stories and situations, it is also a time to create a conversation that can educate people on all different aspects of infertility. Many people go through issues when trying to conceive and this is the week to spread the word. You can learn more about how support the infertility community here.

What does #NIAW talk about? One message that is important to spread to others during this week is that many people go through struggles when trying to create a family and that it is okay to talk about it. When I first joined this project, I was an outsider who did not realize how many people are affected with these issues. The amount shocked me and I wondered why I didn’t know it before. It seems that many people do not feel comfortable sharing their stories because they don’t want to admit to people that they are going through fertility treatments because it would make them feel judged or “less than”. This is completely understandable because when people don’t know anything about a topic they usually resort to myths and stereotypes that are not true. This is the week to challenge those stereotypes and to give people a better understanding of the reality of infertility.

How can I become an #NIAW ally?  Ultimately, this week is all about community. It is a time where many people connect with others and create lifelong bonds and friendships that they might be lacking in other aspects of their life. Going through infertility is something that many people can’t possibly understand or relate to because they have not gone through it themselves or are uneducated on the topic. This week allows people the opportunity to meet others who understand exactly what they are going through and can talk about their situations free of judgment. It is also creating a new community with family and friends who may not be aware of the anger, frustration, and many other emotions linked to fertility problems. By starting the conversation with them, they will have the ability to learn about the emotional rollercoaster and the medical terms and conditions that surround infertility. You can check out RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s website for a list of tips and resources for individuals to become better educated on the topic of infertility.

How Can We Keep the #NIAW Conversation Going? Once this week is done, it is important to not let the conversation about infertility die off until this time next year. By continuing to talk and raise awareness for the issue, many people are going to feel better about discussing their own issues, allowing the infertility community to grow and expand which will give people the courage and support that they might need. Taking the opportunity to talk about infertility in your daily life will help relieve the stigmas and bring attention to the important matter. And, remember, you can always #startasking!

We look forward to launching #NIAW with you on April 24th and invite you to always #startasking!