April 19 – April 25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). If you ask me, though, Infertility Awareness Week is every week—people just don’t know it’s happening. It’s Mother’s Day, it’s Father’s Day, it’s pretty much every holiday. It’s at your friend’s baby shower, and it’s skipping the toy aisle at the store. It’s watching a mom gently talk to her daughter in church, and it’s hearing your co-worker talk about being a soccer coach.
When you want to be a parent but a medical condition is making it difficult—or even impossible—every second of every day is infertility awareness. It feels like being single on Valentine’s Day or being on a diet at Willy Wonka’s factory. Unfortunately, infertility isn’t as easy or common of a conversation as other devastating medical diagnoses are, so many stay silent.
It’s fitting for me to become a guest blogger for ProMedica this year, when the theme of NIAW is “You are not alone.”
That’s the reason why, years ago, I started writing about my husband and my fertility struggles in the first place—I felt alone. I was surrounded by friends and family members who were pregnant and starting or growing their families, but it couldn’t happen for us. After months of trying, my husband and I saw our OB/GYN and were both diagnosed with infertility issues.
Knowing the problem helped, but it took awhile for me to understand how to cope. I had to learn that I could be overjoyed for my pregnant friend, while still being sad realizing that it wasn’t my pregnancy we were celebrating. It didn’t make me a bad friend, and it never meant I wasn’t genuinely happy for them. But, as time went on and babies continued to come, I felt more and more alone. When would it be our turn?
What I didn’t realize was that we weren’t alone. One in eight U.S. couples of childbearing age are diagnosed with infertility, a diagnosis that affects males and females equally, with many couples facing unexplained infertility. There were people all around me in similar situations and in different parts of their own infertility journey, yet even knowing those numbers, it was hard to start the conversation.
That’s the goal of NIAW—awareness—so that couples trying to start a family know when it’s time to see a specialist, so public understanding of infertility as a medical condition increases, and so lawmakers are better educated and encouraged to support infertile couples in their state.
So, let’s start the conversation—right here. Learn how to be an advocate for yourself, your friend, your coworker, or your family member going through infertility. For me, a great resource has always been Resolve, a national organization that provides support and leads the cause to bring infertility into the spotlight to provide couples the support they need as they fight to start their family.
I found great encouragement in the blog community, as well, reading and following people on similar journeys as I was and am currently on. Our doctor, Nicholas Shamma, MD, and his staff provided personal and expert care. I am now and will forever be grateful for the gift they gave to me, our daughter, Hope.
What I’m trying to say is this: No matter where you are in your own infertility journey, you are not alone. Infertility continues to affect me every day. We dream of making Hope a big sister, so I know my journey is far from over. Regardless of what our future holds, this is a diagnosis and an experience that will always be a part of me.
Through my monthly blogs I hope to connect with people are on or have been on a similar journey. I’ll talk about how our friends and family were able to support us, the days that I really felt sorry for myself, how my husband felt during the beginning of our journey, our diagnosis, our first IVF treatment. I’d love to hear from you, too—what would you like to talk about? We are, after all, in this together.
Melissa Kimball is an account executive at Hart, an ad agency in Maumee. She received her marketing and communications degree from Defiance College. She and her husband, Bob, recently moved to Whitehouse, Ohio, with their toddler, Hope, and boxer, Blue. In junior high, Melissa learned that her thoughts were always best expressed in writing. So as an adult, she turned to writing to cope with the couple’s infertility journey. Now Melissa’s wish is that her words offer comfort and company to others touched by infertility.
Family photo courtesy of Chelsey Corazza Photography.