This week is Infertility Awareness Week. Did you know that? Up until this year I didn't know that week even existed. I also didn't know that 1 in 8 US couples are affected by this disease.
Yes, I said disease.
The World Health Organization recognizes infertility (the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term in 12 months if under 35 and 6 months if over 35) as a disease. They, unlike the vast majority of health insurance companies out there, don't see it as something the man or woman chose. It's a disease, just like cancer or Alzheimers or Parkinson's. It effects not only the physical body, but also the mental and emotional state of a person. It rocks the person's world and shapes how they see and respond to situations. It can easily consume the person. According to Resolve, infertility effects 10% of the population. Chances are you know someone who has or is dealing with this.
I went back and forth about whether I should write a post about this. It hits close to home. I know multiple couples who have longed for a child of their own but for one reason or another they've found themselves on the road of infertility. I call it a journey- a long, difficult, tear filled journey that one is chosen to walk and can't choose when to get off. No one ever expects to be a part of that journey. I know I didn't and would do anything to get off. So many men and women are affected by this but few actually talk about it. And when they do talk about it many people don't understand and say things that actually hinder rather than help.
This hits close to home because I have walked this road almost 2 years now. Stefan and I didn't expect this. We expected to start a family quickly and smoothly. Six months in we wondered why nothing had happened yet, but we kept up our spirits. By the time one year had come, we were on the path lined with tests and infertility medicines but still felt hopeful. Eighteen months in and we have learned more than we ever thought we would and struggle daily with the emotional side effects. Hope is something we have to choose daily. Daily we have to remind ourselves that infertility is not God's choice. It's a part of the sinful world we live in. Way back in Genesis when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, consequences were introduced. Sin entered the world and Eve was told
"I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow though shalt bring forth children."I don't normally use the King James version, but when I read those words it makes me think that God wasn't just talking about labor. I truly believe that when sin entered into the world so did infertility. But, I also believe that God is the ultimate Healer. He is our Great Physician, and he knew before the creation of this world that I, as well as all the other men and women, would be on this path. I believe He has a plan for each of us that is far better than ours. A friend of mine once sent me a quote that I have come to love,
"If you could see the size of the blessing that is coming,
you would understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting."
I have discovered more and more couples whose hearts are broken like ours. Hope is hard to maintain, especially when others around you are happily (and effortlessly) getting pregnant. You hear of babies being abandoned, you hear of people becoming pregnant unexpectedly and having to "become okay" with it, and you hear the doctor say "there is no reason for you not to be pregnant."
I want to educate. Only 15 states out of 50 have some kind of mandatory insurance to cover a small portion of infertility. Insurance companies don't see infertility as a disease. They categorize procedures to help increase the ability to get pregnant as elective even though the person didn't sign up for the inability to conceive. To them, plastic surgery and in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) are the same- unnecessary- and are therefore not covered. An IUI along with all the tests, shots, medication, and scans involved can cost upward of $1,200. IVF is almost always upward of $15,000! It breaks my heart that those of us who want a child but unable to conceive one naturally not only have to deal with the physical, emotional, and mental affects, but also have to bear a large financial burden. Adoption is even more costly which is absurd to me because so many children are alone and waiting for a forever family. I want people to know about infertility and its effects. I want people to be aware of what to and what not to say to people.
"Be patient. It'll happen."
"Just stop worrying about it."
"You're young. You have plenty of time."
"Everything happens for a reason."
"Ever thought about adopting?"
Though they may seem like helpful things to say, they're really more detrimental. Everyone on this path has heard them before, and though they may be true, they are essentially like pouring salt onto a wound. They sting and anger the individual waiting for their desire to have a child come true. If you truly want to help and encourage, a simple hug and I'm sorry is the best thing for anyone to do. It shows that you care and that you understand just how painful this journey is. Saying "I'm sorry" not only acknowledges the struggle but shows the person you have sympathy for them and you hurt with them.
I chose to be vulnerable in writing this. I have chosen to not sit and wallow, but use this as a platform to raise awareness. Our congressmen and senators need to be aware of this disease, and something needs to change. Our insurance companies need to acknowledge this as a disease and not something that is chosen. Our friends and neighbors and fellow colleagues need to be aware of this growing issue that is breaking the hearts of so many people.
"By asking the tough questions about infertility,
we not only have an opportunity to raise awareness about this disease,
but also to motivate all who are touched by infertility to commit to the cause."
-Barbara Collura, RESOLVE's President/CEO