April 22-28th is National Infertility Awareness Week! After much discussion, some talking with my therapist, and compromises with Buddy, he and I decided that I would be participating in a public way, meaning on Facebook. Buddy is private, and I totall understand and respect that. I, on the other hand, feel drawn to speaking out about this, in an effort to both educate and to help other couples like us not feel so alone. I've hinted here and there on Facebook about our frustration, but this will be the first time that I state facts about IF and will openly acknowledge that this is our struggle. Also, Buddy's concern (and a possibly valid one, even if I don't want to admit it) was that I would get hot-headed and get into an argument if someone questioned me on certain topics. I think he fails to realize how often I'm faced with questions, though, and that I feel confident that if I can answer calmly in a face-to-face encounter, I can handle myself from behind a keyboard. Besides, while we may not have made the same choice everyone else would, if my "friends" can't at least respect it, they don't really need to be in my life. I'm fully prepared to do what I can to explain our stance calmly and respectfully and delete people if necessary. Harsh reality.
Anyway, I've been compiling a list of facts and such that I might use for status messages. I don't want to go overboard with them, but I do want what I say to have an impact. Feel free to use any of these for yourself or to feel inspired.
- One in 8 American couples deals with infertility. That’s greater than 10% of the population. Infertility is defined as inability to conceive within 12 months (or 6 months if over age 35). The source is a male issue in 35% of cases, a female issue in 35% of cases, a combined issue in 20% of cases, and unexplained in 10% of cases.
- Relaxing, adopting, taking a vacation, getting drunk and screwing in the back seat, and not thinking about It aren’t solutions to fertility issues.
- Impatience is not a fertility problem. With only a 20% chance of success in any given cycle, it can take a healthy couple with perfect timing up to a year to conceive. If you've tried for a year without success (or 6 months if over the age of 35), schedule an appointment to speak with your doctor about a referral to an infertility specialist.
- Adoption is not a cure for infertility. While it’s an opportunity to parent, it doesn’t solve the biological problem and the psychological side effects. Telling an infertile couple, “just adopt and you’ll get pregnant” is insensitive. There is no “just” about adopting, and it doesn’t cure the cause of infertility. Choosing to not adopt is not selfish. It’s also not the job of infertile couples to adopt orphans and foster children. So before you say, “just adopt,” ask yourself this: “how many children have I tried to adopt?”
- Deciding to live childfree is an acceptable and positive end to infertility. Choosing to be childfree means embracing life as a family of two. It is not an easy decision, and there is no less grief, but couples who choose to be childfree are worthy of love and support, too. For more about childfree living after infertility, check out Sweet Grapes by Jean and Michael Carter.
- Infertility doesn’t just affect the ability to create a biological family. It puts stress on relationships, wallets, and emotions. Relatively non-invasive procedures can cost $400 each, with IVF costing roughly $15K. And that doesn’t begin to cover the cost of the medication cocktails to make the procedures happen. It also doesn’t address the roller coaster of emotions of that treatment brings.
- Insurance companies often don’t cover infertility treatments, despite the fact that infertility is a health problem. Many sources of infertility are diseases that cause sub-optimal health. Infertility affects quality of life for many couples. Any other disease that caused such physical and emotional distress would be treated and covered by insurance, yet treatment of infertility is an out-of-pocket expense for most couples.
- Clomid isn’t candy, and its purpose isn’t to create multiples. It should be used under proper supervision of a specialist to avoid situations like “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” Likewise, the goal of infertility treatments is to create ONE baby, and even that can prove to be very difficult. Yes, the chances of multiples is always something to consider and more realistic with treatment, but it’s not the goal.
- IVF doesn’t always work. It’s expensive, emotionally draining and physically difficult. It’s a very involved process with many opportunities for things to go wrong. IVF isn’t feasible for everyone, and trust me when I say that you’re not suggesting something an infertile couple hasn’t considered.
- God doesn’t punish couples with infertility. It’s a health problem, not a punishment. Infertile couples aren’t being “tested.” It’s not comforting to hear that God thinks an infertile couple is unworthy of conception, but dead-beat drug abusers and ill-prepared 16-year-olds are gifted with children. THINK about what you’re saying when you suggest to a couple that God has decided it isn’t their time or they aren’t meant to be parents.
- For a fabulous blog post about life and hope after infertility, check this out: http://birthingbeautifulideas.com/?p=4522
- For information about supporting your loved one dealing with infertilty and to learn more about how it impacts couples, check out http://www.resolve.org/
- Infertility is a life-changing, relationship-testing, faith-shaking, sex life-dictating, wallet-draining, dream-crushing, and emotionally- and physically-demanding beast I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
And to the ladies who will not be outing yourselves next week, our silent sisters in this sorority no one wants to be in, you're in our thoughts. Whether you decide to come "out" next week, next month, or next year, we're at your side.
Do you have ideas for status messages you'd like to share? How about a link-up? Let's all support each other in bringing awareness to the forefront and keeping the conversation going.