Sewing for Healing

The ultrasound photo from the embryo transfer that resulted in my one and only pregnancy has been hidden away for years. It’s been tucked inside a green folder from my clinic alongside other important papers and favorite books on the desk in my home office. I’ve thought about it from time to time. It’s one of the few mementos I have of the twins I lost to miscarriage. However, it’s not the kind of photo I want to frame and put on a shelf for daily viewing.  What exactly do you do with this kind of object? One that is sometimes a painful reminder but too important to discard.

Last weekend, I collected some materials and sat down to make some hearts for the HeArts for Baby Project Fiber Arts Workshop we’ll be holding with Art Therapist and Counselor Raina Cowan in Evanston, IL on September 30th. It was then that I knew what to do with my ultrasound photo. I’d sew it inside one of my fabric hearts and give it a resting place of sorts.

We’re inviting those who have been impacted by infertility, miscarriage, or pregnancy loss, and those who want to support those who have, to join us for a sewing circle of sorts at the Open Studio Project in Evanston on Sunday, September 30 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. You don’t need prior sewing experience and this event is free and open to all. It’s an opportunity to join together with others and create a heart in remembrance of a baby lost. Those attending will also make a heart, or hearts, to be included in an art installation that will be included in our upcoming exhibit, Challenging Conception: The ART of Infertility in Chicago. The installation will include an antique baby carriage filled with hundreds of fabric hearts, those made at the workshop and those made by the community.  Visitors to the exhibit will be invited to choose a heart to honor their own experience of reproductive loss and take it home with them.

You can find more info about this community project, including the pattern and instructions to make your own, at Raina’s website. Visit Eventbrite to reserve your spot at the workshop. All the materials you need to make your hearts will be provided. However, you’re welcome to bring your own meaningful fabrics, embellishments, and, if you’d like, your own mementos for inclusion. We hope to see you there!

Elizabeth

Perspectives on Reproductive Writes from Juliette Givhan

An intro to our Michigan State University (MSU) Undergraduate Research Intern, Juliette Givhan, and her take on our recent Reproductive Writes workshop at MSU. 

Hello,

My name is Juliette Givhan and I’m a new addition to The ART of Infertility team. I joined Elizabeth, Maria, and Robin with the goal of helping them organize, analyze, procure, and ultimately anthologize the creative materials surrounding infertility and reproductive rights generated for this project.

I study at Michigan State University where I’m near the end of the pursuit of an English degree with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in African American and African Studies. I’m a poet and I write from my individual experience as a Black American. My writing has been shaped by this focus and I’ve come to realize that this has often involved an erasure of my experiences as a woman. I find that where I am proud to be Black and have always felt a strong need to express my Blackness, I rarely uplift and take pride in my identity as a woman.

When I think of what it means to be a woman I think of the stereotypes of femininity sculpted by patriarchal influences: the mother of many children figure, the stay at home domestic goddess figure, etc. Since I have never fit into any of these roles I have rarely thought about or processed the reality of my own identity as a female, one defined by my own experiences. My goal with this project, then, is to embrace the fact that my actions- the daily experiences that collect as my identity- need to also have a stage on which to be addressed. I think working on The ART of Infertility Project is going to offer the space for my writing and thinking to take this first step.

Infertility as a topic of research is something that I am interested in learning more about because of how much I don’t know. I have had connections with IF before in the women on one side of my family, who have repeatedly experienced complications with pregnancies and conceiving, but I don’t know the facts or figures. I don’t know the emotional toll IF has on people, or how to accept that a reality might exist in my own life that means one day I might not be able to have the children that I don’t even know if I want.

I find how this project uses art to express these difficult, diverse, and complex issues to be extremely comforting. Art is the medium I have personally used to express myself, so I believe in its power of expression and healing. I’m looking forward to helping create an anthology of this projects work because a tangible and accessible collection could potentially connect so many people who could benefit from this community of support.

Participants at Reproductive Writes, February 28 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI

The Reproductive Writes workshop that took place in the LookOut! Gallery on Michigan State University’s campus was the first time I’ve been to a workshop that addressed the issue of reproductive rights. When I started working on The ART of Infertility Project I knew very little about reproductive rights because it was not something that I ever heard talked about. Our society censors information about the human body, especially the female body, and this gap of information has largely left me ignorant to the issues that exist and affect the people of this country. I came to the event excited to deconstruct my own ignorance in these topics and nervous at admit to how much I didn’t know.

We started the evening with a question: what does reproductive rights mean to you? After having time to reflect those who chose were able to share their definitions. This moment was particularly interesting for me because no two definitions were the same, though parallels certainly existed. One woman defined reproductive rights as wanting to end the stigmatism she felt from outsiders who expected her to be pregnant because of her position as someone’s wife. Another’s definition was having the right to choose whether to have a child and letting that option belong to the individual it affected. My own definition of reproductive rights was having access to affordable healthcare to support a fetus and later a child. I realized that as a broke college student, my definition of reproductive rights was bound to be different than someone who was married or someone who was diagnosed as infertile.

Realizing that the definition of reproductive rights was fluid was as empowering as it was obvious… after I’d given it some thought. Though the room only held about fifteen people, several diverse backgrounds were represented. There were undergraduate students new to the conversation like myself, a graduate student, a nurse familiar with the medical side of working with IF, women from the MSU and Lansing community, even a man who used a penis shaped poem to portray his interpretation of reproductive rights. Each voice had its own story to tell and interpretation to make and I appreciated hearing all of them.

Having had some time to reflect on the workshop I think my main take away was that more spaces like these need to exist, where people from diverse backgrounds can come together and talk about the realities that exist for them. Being in a space to talk about these things and make poetry and have discussion was a relief after so many years of silence. I think more people need to have the chance of experiencing something like Reproductive Writes because spreading awareness of issues is the best way, in my opinion, to end ignorance.

Reflections on Reproductive Writes

Last week, we held our Reproductive Writes workshop at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Our marketing and communications intern, Kristen Mahan, attended the event and shares a reflection on that experience with us today. On Wednesday, starting at 7 pm, we’ll hold our Reproductive Writes workshop at Michigan State University. We have some spots left and would love to see you there. You can find out more and reserve your seat at http://bit.ly/reprowritesmsu2018tickets

Reflections on Reproductive Writes
by Kristen Mahan

As a new ART of Infertility marketing intern, attending the Reproductive Writes workshop at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh was extremely eye-opening. I have been working with The ART of Infertility for over two months, but I was never able to see the nonprofit in action. Viewing and reading the captions of the artwork from infertility patients was saddening and it gave me a different perspective of eventually having kids. I brought my two roommates to the event and we all agreed this is something that has barely crossed our minds. We realized as young women, that we are so worried about taking the pill or getting an IUD and trying not to get pregnant, that in all reality there’s a high chance that when we finally do want kids, it may not happen.

Maria speaks to a group at Reproductive Writes, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh on February 21, 2018.

I consider myself to be someone who is fairly up-to-date on political issues going on in our country. However, I had barely considered the impact of the regulations regarding infertility. Listening to a male speak out at the event on his infertility journey of paying out of pocket for five failed IVF treatments was astonishing. For people suffering from infertility and then not being able to afford treatments with no help from the government is heartbreaking.

Attending The ART of Infertility’s Reproductive Writes event pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and confirmed that my energy being put into this organization is for an amazing cause for an agonizing disability that can affect anyone.

Oh the Places We Go (Like Houston, TX): Reflections on the Relatability of Art, Poetry & Medicine

Lots of our followers and contributors to this project have a personal connection to the ART of IF. Many of you have either faced your own infertility journey, suffered from infant loss and/or even perhaps miscarriage. We love sharing pieces of art with the vibrant infertility community that exists in the world. Yet, our mission at ART of Infertility is also very much about expanding audiences – beyond the infertility community – to raise awareness and understanding about infertility, infant loss and miscarriage to a more general public.

Art workshops, we find, are an accessible, low-stakes activity that can help facilitate conversations about these topics of loss with others who may have little or no experience with the topic. Our event in Houston, TX last week is one such example of how we use the project to raise general awareness about the reflective power of making art with medical objects.

We made connections between art, poetry and medicine more apparent by participating in a Feminist Action Hour hosted at the annual College Composition & Communication Conference. This conference attracts a wide array of professors and graduate students teaching and researching writing at the collegiate level. For many of these attendees, their research and teaching interests pertain to social justice and interdisciplinary issues – such as communication practices between physicians and patients, gendered communicative experiences of medicine, and even tensions of being a mother/father while working in the academy.

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Participants and materials at the Feminist Action Hour workshop in Houston, TX.

Given these diverse interests, the Feminist Action Hour hosts pedagogical workshops to create space for engaging and teaching about these important topics with our students and our colleagues. Examples from last year can be found here: http://cwshrc.org/newwork2015/ 

As a Writing and Rhetoric graduate student, Maria Novotny’s (project partner with the ART of Infertility) research examines the ways in which infertile men and women make meaning and share this meaning making through art and writing. Given this, Maria invited the ART of Infertility to participate in the workshop by making pieces of blackout poetry with medical consent forms.

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Maria instructing participants and answering questions at the blackout poetry workshop in Houston, TX.

Why medical consent forms and why blackout poetry?

This workshop was inspired by the artwork of Jo C., one of our ART of Infertility participants. Jo created this beautiful piece of black out poetry, titled My Consent which she gave to us to share through our permanent collection. To learn more about the piece, you can read about it on Jo’s blog.

My Consent by Jo C.

My Consent by Jo C.

Medical consent forms and treatment procedures serve as central technical documents, frequently studied as genres in professional and technical writing. Rhetorically these forms reinforce depersonalized medical practices and the greater public’s perceived objectivism of medicine/science.

Medical and feminist rhetoricians have increasingly called for shifting the object of study – beyond “how health and medical texts get produced” to inquiries examining “what embodied users bring to these encounters” as health artifacts (Scott, 2014; Bellwoar, 2012). This workshop serves as pedagogical moment attending to the embodied interactions between medical documents and the user/consumer of these documents.

What happened?

During the workshop participants were invited to select a consent form and a stencil. Consent form options included: a sperm donation form, a fertility treatment form, and a mental health form. Stencils included: a penis, a uterus, and a brain.

The ART of Infertility’s objective was to present the “trifecta” of infertility: mental health, men’s health and female health.

We then spent 15 minutes with groups making pieces of poetry. Many who participated described the activity as “meditative.” Some wanted to play with the idea of one consent form for one stencil – so they incorporated both a penis and uterus within a mental health consent form.

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“signs, process, normal, mass. abnormal, expected, normal, normal, normal, not perfect, normal, abnormal, selection, best, abnormally, accident, prevent”

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“attempt, understand, risk, arise, could be born, might also produce, agree, support, maintain, understand, Birth”

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Special protections, conversation, medical record. Diagnosis, prognosis, release, release. Disclosure, all information. Health Care.

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“special protections, documenting or analyzing, start, the, subject, allows, the patient, disclosure, invalidate, authorization, Address”

 

 

 

The workshop was well-received and allowed the ART of Infertility to talk about issues of infertility and loss to those who may not necessarily recognize the physical and mental weight such a diagnosis has on the body.

If you would like the ART of Infertility to host a blackout poetry workshop (or another art/writing workshop), you can contact us at: info@artofinfertility.org

 

 

Infertility Reminders in the Mailbox – Reframing through Art and Writing

Elizabeth Walker

The mailbox can be a dangerous place for those dealing with infertility. Receiving a baby shower invitation or a baby announcement can feel like a knife in the heart, or a punch in the gut. At least you usually have some idea they are headed your way. It’s the other random pieces of baby, child, and mom mail that give me the most trouble. One in particular.

mailbox_webI don’t have a problem with catalogs from Justice and American Girl or coupons from Babies R Us. I have 6 nieces an 2 nephews so those are places I shop. Every now and then I get an offer for life insurance from Gerber or an invitation to enroll my daughter in National American Miss pageants. I’m guessing that I just fit the demographic for Gerber and I imagine some of the stores I frequent with my nieces are responsible for the pageant requests. However, my blood pressure rises each time I open the mailbox to find an issue of Working Mother magazine.

If it weren’t for infertility, I would be a working mother now. When I pictured parenthood, I always saw myself balancing my children and my career. Sure, it would be a challenge but I was up for it. I get great pleasure from my work and envisioned my dedication to my career aspirations as a great model for my children and their future success, just as I feel my parents’ dedication to and love for their work influenced me. Working Mother magazine would be right up my alley. I’d likely read it cover to cover and check out any bonus content online.

I’m not sure how I got on their list. Again, maybe I’m just the right demographic, or maybe they are affiliated with one of the retail outlets I spend my money at. Maybe I even inadvertently signed up for it at some point when I neglected to read the fine print when I signed up to receive email notices. I tried for awhile to get off their list. An email to the publishing company, a comment on their Facebook Page. When that didn’t work I just started giving them to my working mother friends.

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Recently, I decided to reframe my relationship with the magazine by using it to make black out poetry. If you’re not familiar with the technique, you take a page of text and do a quick scan of it, circling any words or phrases that jump out at you. Then, you go back through and can narrow those down, and use them to create a poem, blacking out the rest of the text around those words. It felt great to cut a page out of the magazine and circle words with my pencil, later using black paint to isolate the words that would form my poetry. I decided to cut the page out in the form of a woman holding a baby and then decoupaged it onto canvas. Here’s the final result.

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Committed, worthy, successful, non-mother.

Shouldn’t have to win acceptance.

My own positive impact.

Maria and I will be leading a workshop on black out poetry hosted by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (CWSHRC) at the 2016 Conference on College Composition and Communication (4C) in Houston, TX on April 6. If you’ll be attending, please consider coming to our session.

If you live in the Houston area and are interested in sharing your story with ART of Infertility via an interview while we are in town, email us at info@artofinfertility.org. We would love to hear from you.

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone – A Post by Elizabeth

I spent last weekend in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. I love California. So much, in fact, that it’s gotten to the point where I nearly cry when it’s time to leave. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic but it IS true that I am always super excited to travel there and sad to leave. I have to admit though that I was really nervous about this trip and while I was happy to enjoy the beautiful scenery, meet up with friends, and visit some favorite establishments, I was NOT looking forward to what I was going there to do. Attend a retreat with Xtraordinary Fertility’s Renee Waggener, to “revive my baby making mojo”.

Redwood lodge, on the grounds of the Quaker Center, where the retreat was held.

Redwood lodge, on the grounds of the Quaker Center, where the retreat was held.

 

It was nothing against Renee. She’s fun, vivacious, and as I said, I was looking forward to seeing her again. We met at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. in May, where she first told me about the retreat. My first thoughts were, “Hey, Renee seems cool, and it’s in the Redwoods, I’m in!”

Shortly after returning from D.C., she asked if ART of Infertility would be willing to present a workshop during the retreat. I couldn’t say no. However, as the time to fly across the country came closer, my anxiety was building. I was going not only to lead the attendees in making prayer flags around their infertility journeys, I was going to be participating in Renee’s Fertilicious Living Program myself.

My prayer flag representing the different paths my life could take and the treasures I hope to collect along the way.

My prayer flag representing the different paths my life could take and the treasures I hope to collect along the way.

I was finding a few problems with that. One, I’m not currently trying to make any babies. Renee is pretty clear that she broadly defines “baby making”. It could be literal, but it also could be moving on to adoption, or finding and nurturing some other passion, something like ART of IF, which I definitely consider my “baby.” Still, I’m at a weird point in my journey. Not trying to conceive or adopt. Not resolved to live child free. I’m just kind of hanging out. While there are others hanging out in this space with me, it can still be lonely in the broader infertility community.

It seems there are so many resources for those who are shooting up with Lupron and Menopur or dealing with background checks and home studies and not so many for those living without children after infertility or on extended breaks, living in the limbo land of still figuring out where this journey will take them. I was worried about spending a weekend surrounded by people who were still in that world of “trying”. How would it make me feel? How it might make them feel to hear my story, learning that I am 6.5 years in and not yet resolved? I’m often immersed in the world of infertility but this felt different. Almost like I might be invading their space.

Had to throw in a pic of the food because it was AMAZING.

Had to throw in a pic of the food because it was AMAZING.

Another problem was that I was finding Renee’s message about the retreat to seem a little too much like a get rich quick message of magical thinking. It seemed to me like I was going to arrive and be told that, if I was just positive enough, unblocked myself, and practice envisioning my spirit baby, I would achieve my dreams. While that’s fine for some people, I’m totally not into that. I’m a realist. I’m into science. I don’t even like the messages, “don’t give up!” and “follow your dreams”. I’m much too practical for that. I don’t think I’ve always disliked those messages but infertility has taught me that there are some things in life that just aren’t possible and sometimes we have to redefine our goals as a result, and that’s okay!

However, the biggest problem is that there are some things around this infertility experience that I just having a hard time really talking about and dealing with. Not only is it hard, I’m totally out of practice talking about it in the infertility community on a deep enough level. I host a peer-led infertility support group and I’ve interviewed dozens of men and women about their own experiences for the project but I’m so used to being the one who is listening that speaking out has become much harder than it once was. I’m now used to being the one, in a group setting at least, who is making sure no one monopolizes the conversation and that it moves along. The one who is silent so that others can talk their hearts out. I knew that, as a participant in the retreat, I would be in a very vulnerable place. A place that, frankly, I’d rather not go at the moment because I’m afraid of what I’ll find.

View of the tree canopy during our hike.

View of the tree canopy during our hike.

I was pleasantly surprised by how different the reality of my experience at the retreat was than I imagined it would be. While the others at the retreat are still pursuing medical treatment, I felt I easily fit in. They are an amazing group or strong, insightful, compassionate women who made me feel at home, even though I’m at a different point in the journey than they are.

It’s true that Renee’s message is ultimately positive. However, it wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and magic like the website made me believe it would be. Instead, it was much more profound. She offered a safe space and really asked me the tough questions I needed to be asked and, not only asked them, but held a space for me to answer them. To really get to the bottom of why it was I didn’t want to answer them, or to understand what my answer meant to me. She’s pretty amazing at what she does, and, even though It was as hard as I thought it would be to go to a space of such vulnerability, maybe even harder, by the end of our time together, I felt more peace and clarity than I have in a very, very long time.

I’m glad I chose to attend the retreat, opening myself up to entering a space that I knew wouldn’t necessarily be fun, or comfortable, or relaxing, so that I could really dig deep, answering questions and learning tools that will help me get closer to resolving my infertility. The experience, and Renee, reminded me that these feelings of pain and discomfort are temporary, and that by allowing myself to feel them, I can find so many paths to, and opportunities for, feelings of peace and happiness.

So, I encourage you to step outside of your own comfort zone to do something this weekend that allows you the same opportunity. Whether it’s something big, or small, you might be surprised by what you find.

 

 

My Spiritual Awakening: Thoughts from Renee Waggener of Xtraordinary Fertility

I’m constantly amazed by the opportunities for meeting those dealing with infertility, and helping them on their journey through art and story telling, that ART of IF is allowing me as the project grows. One upcoming opportunity is to present a prayer flag art workshop at the Revive Your Baby Making Mojo retreat in Ben Lomond, CA. Ben Lamond is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the Redwoods meet the ocean. Sounds awesome, right?! It’s an incredible experience any time there’s an opportunity to get together with others living with infertility so I hope you’ll consider joining me in California to create some art around your infertility experience. There’s still room at the retreat and it’s an amazing value ($197 includes food, lodging, and all activities when you register by September 1st) with a great line up.  This event is being hosted by Renee Waggener of Xtraordinary Fertility October 2-4. Maria and I met Renee at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s Advocacy Day this year and she is sharing as our guest blogger this week. Thanks, Renee, for inviting ART of IF to share through art making at your retreat and for sharing with us through your blog post this week!

Elizabeth

My Spiritual Awakening

I just got done listening to 13 speakers in the Meditation your way to Millions Master Class lead by one of my super hero’s Lisa Cherney.  It was awesome.  Each speaker gave away super cool tools and insight into what “spiritual Practice” has lead to their business success.  I found so many parallels in how you integrate your spiritual habits into building a business with how each of us builds a family.  This sooo doesn’t surprise me, because the same section or chakra of our bodies… the root chakra is all about “Creation”.  Whether it’s a creation of a business or we are creating a baby thru our bodies or adoption… we still need a spiritual “Practice” to help each of these succeed.

I’ve never really tooted my own spiritual horn because I really believe that we each need our freedom to choose for ourselves what works for each of us.  And one of the things that really hit me in the summit is that I need to start speaking more from my heart when it comes to spirit and the message that I’m spreading with Fertility.  I believe deeply that each of us is surrounded by a team of angels, guides, God, Universe, Mother Earth… and sometimes I call all of that “Spirit”. You call it what feels right for you.

My personal spiritual practice has gone in waves through the years.  Sometimes I do something and sometimes I don’t, which is when I’m hiding or scared to connect.

This past year, I’ve put into practice a journaling exercise that I’ve been consistent with and it has opened me up to more possibilities, new relationships and deeper growth on my own personal purpose path in helping all of you in the fertility community.

Now that I’ve listened to these awesome speakers and what they do; I’ve realized it’s time to step up my practice.  This is so much more than thinking positive, or prayer.  It’s building a life practice that will not only help me help you, but more than that it will deepen my connection to spirit, give me more confidence to “Let Go of the outcome” (harder to do) and Really Trust in the process so that I can reach more people and help them (YOU) have babies and ultimately live a Fertilicious Life well into parenthood.

With that I really want to give to you today’s tips:

Knowledge is Power. There are many treatment options available for your infertility, so the more you know about each procedure will help you to make an empowered decision for you and your partner.  There’s no one size fits all solution here. Don’t compare your decision based on what others do.  Also, when you do the research, you don’t have to make a decision right away. Let it sit and let your intuition guide you on your “next best” choice.

Tick-Tock. Determine how long you will try to conceive. Being on the same page as your partner is important and you should agree on this.  There is no right or wrong decision here.  Choose a reasonable length that is comfortable for you and your partner. Also, know that this can be subject to change at anytime.  Maybe even schedule in some breaks to where you are NOT thinking of your fertility.

Cha-Ching! Determine how much money you are willing to spend on treatment. As you may already know, fertility treatments can be costly.  It’s important for the health of your relationship to determine how much money you are willing to part with. Again, this number will be different for each couple. It has to work for you! Also, look at your relationship with money. Do you have some beliefs around money that inhibit you? (I.e. I’m broke all the time = I’m unworthy) Notice this, then call me because I can help with this at the Revive Your Baby Making Mojo Retreat October 2-4.

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Register Here

I look forward to seeing if this touched you at all.  Please post a comment on FB if it did.

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With Peace and Light,

Renee

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The Stories We Tell: Reflections from Northern California

This week has been another busy moment for The ART of Infertility. We are in Northern California, reaching out to local infertility support groups and meeting local infertility professionals to help us host an art exhibit in 2016. These meetings have been going well and we are excited about how the project has been received so far.

Maria got this great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from the plane.

Maria got this great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from the plane.

In preparing for this trip, we finally made a “FAQ” sheet. This sheet provides a bit more detail about the project, our history and future goals. We encourage you to download it and share it with those who may be interested. And if you are interested in having us come to your city to either interview you, host an art/writing workshop, or an exhibit, please reach out to us!

Some of the participants at our cigar box collage workshop busy at work.

Some of the participants at our cigar box collage workshop in Citrus Heights busy at work.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have been (yet again) reminded of how powerful all of our meetings can be during our travels. For example, this past week, we met @Brave_IVF_Mama. She shared with us a bit of her story. Talking to her, we were reminded of the continued need for infertile wo/men to be advocates and resources for each other. @Brave_IVF_Mama embraces her infertility identity and serves serving as a resource for those in the infertile community. We were particularly struck when she told us about a comprehensive book review she did on children’s books about egg donation. This blog post posted a complete list of relevant books on the topic but also — pretty honestly — examines their positives and negatives. We encourage you all to check out this blog and @brave_IVF_mama as a useful and relevant resource.

Most of all, in talking to @brave_IVF_mama, we were reminded of the importance of stories. Of how having your infertility story is important. But in finding your own individual “resolve”, there are multiple stories. Stories about how you frame your decision to your friends/family. And, perhaps most significantly, stories about how you talk to your future children about their own conception story.

We left leaving this meeting feeling empowered about the ways that The ART of Infertility continues to teach us – Elizabeth and Maria – the multiple ways our own infertility network can teach us and serve as resources for honoring our own stories. We leave this blog post asking all of you, how has your infertility story evolved and changed over the days/months/years and who now is a part of this story? For Elizabeth and I, our infertility story includes all of you – our loyal and supportive followers. Hearing and sharing your stories have helped us heal and cope with our own infertility stories. We are thankful and grateful for all of your sharing. We hope that we continue to learn and grow from these experiences throughout our years.

In gratitude,

Elizabeth & Maria

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Our first night in the area, in Nob Hill.





Kickstarter – Help us take the ART of IF to Washington, D.C.

As I began writing this, Maria was somewhere up in the sky or enjoying her layover in Minneapolis and I was about to board my flight to LAX. The past month has been a whirlwind prepping for our exhibit in Iowa City last weekend and Los Angeles County, this Saturday. I can only imagine that the next few weeks will fly by as well!

RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day is May 14th and Maria and I, along with Maria’s husband, Kevin, and my mother, Judy, will be on Capitol Hill in Washington, lobbying for legislation to help those with infertility build their families.

The ART of Infertility is heading to Washington, D.C. with a pop-up exhibit and workshops on May 15.

The ART of Infertility is heading to Washington, D.C. with a pop-up exhibit and workshops on May 15.

On Friday May 15th, we’re holding a pop-up art exhibit and writing and art workshops at Busboys and Poets at 5th and K in Washington, D.C. from 3 – 7 pm. The event is free and open to the public. We have artwork coming in from around the country (we’re still accepting art entries if you’d like yours included, click here.) and will be displaying local artwork, as well as a selection of the portraits and stories we’ve collected over the past year. Marissa McClure Sweeny will be teaching an art workshop and Jenny Rough, who you heard from on our blog yesterday, will lead a writing workshop. Registration is required for the workshops so please contact us if you’d like to attend. These community art events are powerful tools for raising awareness about infertility and building a network of support for those living with the disease.

The event in DC will be our 13th in a little over a year. (Is that possible? I had to check it 4 times to believe it was right!) We’ve been almost completely self-funded until very recently and, if the project is going to be sustainable and allow us to provide a creative outlet to more people in more cities, we know we can’t continue that trend. It’s been suggested by those who like what we are doing that we launch a Kickstarter campaign to allow people to easily contribute to the cause.

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A screen shot of the Kickstarter campaign we hope will help take the exhibit to Washington, D.C.

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, here’s how it works. You have an opportunity to contribute to a project, in this case, our pop-up exhibit and workshops in D.C. and get a little something from the project in return.  We have some cool ART of IF swag featuring art from the project as rewards for contributing (ART of IF T-shirt, journal, or messenger bag, anyone?), as well as opportunities to get framed artwork from the show and a digital version of the exhibit we put together for D.C. We set a goal of $3500 and only receive money if our funding goal is reached. We don’t make it to $3500, we don’t get a thing. We only have 20 days to reach our goal! So, we’re asking for your help in funding this show in our nation’s capitol. Will you please join us in supporting the men and women with infertility in the DC area and those traveling in from around the country for Advocacy Day by contributing to our campaign? Here’s the link! ART of IF in DC Kickstarter Campaign.

Thank you!

Elizabeth

 

What is Your First Fertile Memory?

Today’s guest blogger is Jenny Rough. We’ve gotten to know Jenny a bit while working on our upcoming workshops and pop-up exhibit in Washington, D.C. and are looking forward to meeting her there next month!

Elizabeth

What is your first fertile memory?

A friend of mine asked me that question, and I spent a few moments in silence. I thought back as far as I could.

Sunflowers.

Sunflowers

The day I stood among the sunflowers in a garden by the side of our house. The sunflowers had grown even taller than me, just as my mom had said they would when we planted the tiny seeds. I was four years old.

It’s fascinating to me to hear how others answer that same question. Last month, I asked the women in the Living Childfree support group I host through RESOLVE. One woman recalled a summer night and a backyard full of fireflies. Another woman remembered a hike through a rainforest. Her family was an “indoor” family, so every twist and turn on the adventure brought a new surprise and engaged her senses.

On May 15, when the ART of IF’s pop-up exhibit is in Washington, D.C., I’ll be holding a workshop on journaling your fertility journey. One of the writing exercises will be to spend five minutes writing about fertile memories.

How about you? What is your first fertile memory? Please email me at jenny.rough [at] jennyrough.com, or post a comment here and share. I’d love to hear about it!

Jenny Rough is a writer who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Every summer, she hikes out the sunflower fields near her home. Visit her on the web at jennyrough.com.

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