Understanding: #YouAreNotAlone, #NIAW, #WeAreNotAlone

NIAW-CMYK

The baby shower

I sit in the corner, quietly observing the group, hoping no one talks to me and asks me how I am.  I’ve been dreading this day for weeks.  I am not really sure what the etiquette of baby showers is.  I’ve learned about wedding, birthday parties, funerals and baptism etiquettes, but as a Brit living in the US, baby showers are new to me.  One thing I do know for sure is that sobbing away in the corner, trying to make sure no one sees is not part of the celebrations.  Why all the tears?  Because this should be my time for my baby shower.  I don’t mean to sound self-centred, but you see we have been trying to conceive for 17 months now.

Like the singleton table set aside at weddings, baby showers should come with a table reserved for infertiles.  After all, 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age could have a seat at this table.

My tears are short lived, of course, as the excitement of adorable ‘mini-me’ baby gifts and funny games take the course of the day.  Our friend who has that beautiful pregnancy glow to her skin, was happy.  So happy.  For me this was all I needed to prevent me from drowning in my own misery and enjoy the party.

Unfortunately, it seemed that not all of us could cope this well.  One of the guests left within 10 minutes of arriving.  She had driven hundreds of miles for the baby shower.  Why would you drive all that way just to stay for 10 minutes?  And so the speculation and rumours started.  My husband interjected with a suggestion “Perhaps she is trying for a baby and found it all too much?”.  We both looked at each other with that ‘knowing’ look.  Sadly, no one in the room bought this excuse, dismissed it and the speculation continued. The departing lady, who I did not know personally, may have been infertile, or perhaps she had some other good reason for leaving the baby shower as quickly as she had arrived.  Statistically, the chances were high that at least two of us at the shower were suffering from infertility. With both my husband and I in the room, it was easy to wonder who else is silently suffering?  If it was this lady, I wish I could have told her:

You are not alone

I would have held her hand, hugged her and told her it’s OK, I understand, we can face this disease together.

wish2

But for some people experiencing infertility, a hug from a stranger will never make the pain and hurt go away.  I know this.  I feel more comfortable on my infertility journey than I ever have been because I discovered a place where hugging strangers is quite a common place. The blogging world.  I have been surprised to discover comfort and understanding from the ‘virtual’ hugs, support, discussion and love from the biggest group of ‘strangers’ I know.  It’s not just strangers that have joined us on our journey, but a small group of family and friends too.  The ability to communicate, open my heart and share my feelings has been a therapy for me.  But not everyone we care about knows of our struggles because it is not easy to talk about.

Please help us on our journey.

As it is infertility awareness week, we are taking a big leap and inviting you to join us on our journey – or more aptly put – the hunt for the great pudding club.  You have been invited because we trust and love you.  We want you to know that this week we will be starting a new chapter in our journey.  Ironically it is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, it is a surprisingly common diagnosis for about 25% of those with infertility.  To date we have tried three rounds of artificial insemination, known as IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination).  This week has been particularly difficult for us as our final prescribed round of treatment failed.  With each round of treatment the sad news of our failure does not get any easier to digest, rather, the sadness stacks up and our hearts grow heavier.

The IUI procedure summed up

The IUI procedure nicely summed up

We are now at the cross roads stage where we do not know exactly which route we will take: IVF, gestational carrier, adoption or even child-free.  Whichever route we do decide to take, we want you to be there with us.

How you can help us

Opening our hearts about our infertility journey leaves us with open wounds, and the occasional feeling of self-inflicted nausea (wishing it was nausea from pregnancy, of course!).  If you would like to come with us we have some ideas on how to help us through our journey…

  1. Ask us how we are doing, and if we do not to tell you every intricate detail of our treatment, please don’t be offended. Sometimes we just don’t want to talk about it because we have been thinking about it all morning and just stopped thinking about it.
  2. We love hearing stories about how your little one was conceived, especially the funny stories. But please do not tell us that we should try this position, or that method.  After all, I am pretty sure we have tried everything we could possibly google.  Legs up, from behind, on top, downward dog, on holiday, when drunk, herbal tea, with a full moon etc… The chances are slim that we will be able to conceive naturally.
  3. Although telling us about your friend that conceived after X time, with X procedure might seem affirming, everyone with infertility is different and so your story probably won’t apply to our situation. The obstacles each one of us faces will be different and the path we take will be unique.
  4. Please don’t ask us 14 days after our fertility treatment procedure if it worked. If it worked, we will tell you in our own time if we find out I am pregnant (it won’t be long after we find out, I am sure the excitement will be too much!); if it didn’t work, we need some time for ourselves to contemplate our next steps and to just have a big old cry.
  5. We like emails, phone calls, skypes and messages that remind us that there are other things going on in the world. We don’t want to think about infertility and babies all the time.  It can be emotionally exhausting at times.  Send us photos, tell us funny stories or pass on a couple of memes.  Please don’t feel like you are treading on egg shells around us or worry that we are too busy to speak to you.
  6. We also want to hear about your little ones too and would love to be invited to events and parties too, after all we are going to be parents sometime soon too 🙂
  7. Finally, please don’t suggest ‘You can just adopt’ to us. If you look into adoption you will quickly learn that this process is not easy, cheap or free from emotional baggage.  There are no guarantees. The casual statement of ‘you can just adopt’ makes it seem like not being able to conceive isn’t that big of a deal and ironically is often said by people who already have their own children. Such a casual, throw away statement makes the whole process seem like we can simply go to the store and pick the type of baby we want from the range on the shelves.

The list above is specific to us, not everyone who suffers infertility will feel comfortable with what we are suggesting, each couple will deal with it in a different way, so if you know someone else who is going through this you should ask them how you can help.

Regardless of the individual items on people’s lists, one thing we can all do is be cautious, being a little more sensitive and take a little time to think before asking anyone about having children. If you know a couple that has recently married it is easy to ask ‘so when will we hear the pitter patter of tiny feet, eh?’ but what if the couple is struggling to conceive? Such an innocent question and yet it could be devastating. We’re not saying don’t ask questions, just don’t make assumptions. Until we had gone through this experience I would often be the one asking such questions, I only realise now how hurtful those questions could have been.

What else can I do?

Come join us, support National Infertility Awareness Week by adding a twibbon to your facebook profile.  You can follow my blog or facebook page, read the links below to help understand more about infertility.  Share your awareness so that others who quietly suffer do not feel like they are alone.

Thank you for understanding as we go through some challenging decisions and supporting us, giving us hope like you have already, we feel very much loved in the knowledge that we are not alone on our journey.

Dani & Chris X

#WeAre1in8 #YouAreNotAlone #WeAreNotAlone

Facebook: The sad truth of the matter #NIAW, #YouAreNotAlone

Facebook – you kept me awake this morning contemplating giving you up.

I have 423 friends on facebook.

40 of my friends liked this picture of me drinking beer….almost 10%!  That’s pretty high!

Hofbrauhaus in Munich. Mmmm Beer!

Hofbrauhaus in Munich. Mmmm Beer!

The irony being that in this picture, these were not my beers, and I was drinking non-alcoholic beers that night because I’m trying for a baby!

However, only 17 liked this photo and blurb about National Infertility Awareness Week (incidentally only 2 of the 17 were men, I salute you because this is not just about women)….

Did you know that 1 in 8 couples you know may suffer from infertility? Did you know that 1 in 100 births in the US are made possible from Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF? Infertility IS a disease, it is a hidden disease. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, so please share the message and remember friends ‪#‎YouAreNotAlone‬, ‪#‎WeAreNotAlone‬, ‪#‎NIAW‬

Did you know that 1 in 8 couples you know may suffer from infertility? Did you know that 1 in 100 births in the US are made possible from Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF? Infertility IS a disease, it is a hidden disease. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, so please share the message and remember friends ‪#‎YouAreNotAlone‬, ‪#‎WeAreNotAlone‬, ‪#‎NIAW‬

So why do I feel judged or failed by sharing this photo and message?  Why do I feel like the number of ‘likes’ is a measure of my success in sharing the message about Infertility Awareness Week?  Maybe people read it, but felt awkward to like it or share it?  Did I make people feel uncomfortable?  Was it not interesting?  Did they know these facts already?  Was it too boring?  Do people not care? Was it not controversial enough?  All these things I wonder….but they are silly.  If I hadn’t posted the picture of me with the beer last week and got so many likes, would 17 ‘likes’ have satisfied me that I had some success in sharing the message?

I have thought about ways to raise awareness.  Before we started this journey, the hunt for the great pudding club, I had no clue about infertility.  I knew it happened, I didn’t know how many people it affected, and how differently it affected people.  The pain and suffering of these people were hidden from me.  It is a personal journey so it shouldn’t have to be shared with me and the whole world, but I feel like I should have been educated in it.  When I was at school and I learnt about conception, the biology behind it, the sex education classes I was unaware of quite how truly each conception is a miracle.  The events that have to occur all in line for conception to be made possible is amazing.  I only learnt about all of this over the last year.

I want to raise awareness so I drafted a blog post as part of the National Infertility Awareness Week blog challenge under the theme of #YouAreNotAlone.  I drafted it last weekend, but I have not posted it yet because the tone of blog will be highly dependent on the outcome of IUI round 3 this week. I have written two versions of the post, the first version is aimed at inviting close friends and family to help us on our journey which is about to get more difficult or, alternatively the second version, announcing to friends and family that we are pregnant in the early stages, as a result of help and assistance from fertility treatment.  I’m still waiting to post my blog.  Here is how it has gone so far…

Sat: 10 DPIUI – I landed back in the US and made Chris drive me to the pharmacy to buy us some of the expensive early pregnancy tests.  I was feeling like I was pregnant 🙂  I took the test and there was the faintest of lines.  I even took apart the test to look closer because the reflection of the plastic made me wonder if I was imagining it.  But could this be the hormones left over from my Ovidrel shot?  I went to bed smiling either way because there was still a chance.

Sun: 11 DPIUI – I took another early pregnancy test.  Nope, nothing, nadda.  Saturday must have been from the Ovidrel.  Why did I take the test so early?  Well, I have never taken a test before my period was due, I was in experimentation mode and thought what the hell.  A sad Dani.  But it is still early and definitely not over til the fat lady sings (AKA Aunt Flow).

Mon: 12 DPIUI – Chris told me not to take a test.  I didn’t.  Chris came home from work sad, he had been thinking about it all day.  I was sad too. It was a sad evening with many hugs.

Tues: 13 DPIUI – I took a cheapy test.  I saw a very very faint line!  Well at least I really thought I did.  Chris took a look at it and told me there was absolutely nothing there.  I didn’t listen to him and went to be with a little smile.  This morning I woke up and looked at it again, he was right, there is nothing there, I was actually hallucinating.

Today Weds: 14 DPIUI…….No testing today.  I will wait for Aunt Flow to arrive.  She is rumbling.  Unless I am sorely mistaken.

Whatever happens, I will be posting my blog challenge for National Infertility Awareness Week very soon. #YouAreNotAlone, #WeAreNotAlone