We might pass each other on the street. We could be standing in line behind one another at the grocery store. We might even be sitting together in the same doctor’s office waiting room. We could be watching the same movie together at the movie theatre, or sitting at tables right next to each other at our regular pizza joint.
We could be office mates, roommates, classmates: sharing in conversation every day, talking about what we watched on TV last night, discussing homework or work projects, figuring out from which place we want to order in for lunch or dinner.
Or we could be family. We could be your sister, your son, your brother, your daughter. Your in-law. Your aunt. Your cousin. Your nephew twice-removed.
In a sea of hundreds of faces you might see in a day, we could be anyone you know and more likely than not, we are someone you know.
Infertility is an invisible disease, one that touches the lives of 7.3 million people in this country. Our invisibility makes it easy for others to dismiss our concerns, our emotions, our struggles – and a cultural silence is cast upon this patient population as a result.
But we’re here. We exist.
Our concerns, emotions and struggles are valid.
And during this National Infertility Awareness Week, the experiences of the infertility community can no longer be ignored.
. . .
I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure in March 2009. Just a few short weeks later, I learned it was National Infertility Awareness Week. I nervously posted the following as my Facebook status:
1 out of every 8 couples is coping with infertility… and I’m one of them. Learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week.
Within a couple of hours, I had gotten cold feet, so I deleted the status. And then I noticed I had three new Facebook messages waiting for me.
One was from the wife of a former coworker. Two were friends of mine from high school. And they were just like me, too: they had been dealing with infertility for years. While I had begun to meet other infertility bloggers online after I started blogging in 2009, these three friends were the first people I knew in real life who could understand what infertility is like.
I realized the power that sharing my infertility story had, about how empowered I felt when shared and connected with others who really understood what infertility was like.
And yet it took me a year to begin blogging under my real name. The cultural silencing of the infertility community still weighed heavy on me at the time. I had to do some more healing first.
. . .
And now? Now you couldn’t get me to shut up about my infertility even if you tried. I don’t want my concerns, my longing to parent, my desire to make my husband a daddy, my health issues – to be ignored.
I don’t want any of us who face infertility to be ignored.
Because we matter.
We matter as people, as individuals, as folks who want more than anything to complete their family and for many of us, simply to begin our family.
I’ll tell you what doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter where we live, what we do for work – if we work. It doesn’t matter if we come from big families or grew up as only children. It doesn’t matter if we’re married or engaged or single or in a civil union. It doesn’t matter what our race or ethnicity is. What religion we practice. If we believe in G-d at all. It doesn’t matter if we have a four-bedroom house in the burbs or a sixth-floor studio walkup. It doesn’t matter if we put our careers first, if we went to college, or if we’re hourly or salaried. If we’re newlyweds or we’ve been married for a dozen years. It doesn’t even matter if we are even man or woman.
Infertility is invisible… and indiscriminate.
What matters is each and every one of us living with this disease every day. What matters is our experiences. What matters is our emotional health and wellbeing. What matters is that we receive affordable access to the care we need: not just to build our families but to heal our bodies and hearts. What matters is that people need to understand that telling someone to relax does not a cure for a disease make.
What matters is that at the end of the day, we just want to be moms and dads like anyone else.
Don’t ignore our desire to be parents.
And more importantly, don’t ignore us.
Infertility affects 7.3 million people in this country. 1 in 8, they say. I bet you dollars to donuts, you know someone who is facing infertility and they haven’t even told you. And when we do tell you – if we tell you – please don’t ignore us.
If we do tell you that we’re struggling with infertility, please understand this can be one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to confide in you. Be open. Don’t offer advice; just listen. Open your arms, your heart. This alone lets us know that we matter to you. That our pain and struggles and heartbreaks matter to you.
After everything we’ve been through, we need to know that we still matter. That our experiences matter. That our infertility matters. That we, as a community, matter.
We do matter. Infertility does matter.
I won’t ignore you.
Please don’t ignore us.
This post is part of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s Bloggers Unite project for National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). Learn more about infertility here. Learn more about NIAW here. To find out how you can participate in Bloggers Unite, click here.