We are coming to you live from under a heating pad at House of Stork. Seeing as how my body has failed to churn out a period in 3-4 months, I did the 10 day Provera/progesterone boogie and am now suffering the necessary consequences.
This week is NIAW. Yes, I know the internet is full of acronyms but this one is important: National Infertility Awareness Week, April 21-27.
Resolve is one of the Mother Ships for Infertiles. It is a non-profit organization for access, information, all the necessities for those of us who are fertility challenged. And this week, being NIAW, they issued a blog challenge for bloggers to write about how they are affecting people's lives (including their own) in ways big and small when it comes to infertility. (Click here if you want to participate, ya'll).
It's a week for dipping a tiny infertile toe out of the infertility closet, in hopes that someone will learn something from said toe. A week to take our angry uteruses out for a spin, because girlfriend has been cooped up for far too long and probably has a lot of shit to say.
From looking at me you wouldn't know this. Hell, from talking to me you might not even put together that I want kids - but I've been actively doing the baby dance for over three years now, and flirting with it from across the room for almost seven.
Whether or not I wake up in the mood for it, infertility is a part of my life Every. Single. Day. Even at my most distracted, Hope and Sadness will both wriggle their way into my mind if only for a fleeting second.
Sometimes I try to strangle them. Some days I shout about them (and seriously consider buying a megaphone). I always try to laugh at the situation - because let's face it, anything involving a wand wearing a condom whether it be Infertility or a Harry Potter fetish porn can be funny - but sometimes I still end up crying. This afternoon, as I said to someone earlier, what I would like to do is smash Hope and Sadness into a tiny little ball, wedge that ball into the pit of my stomach and then throw some pancakes on top of it. That's how I'm feeling about it today, and I make no promises or guarantees as to how I'll deal with it tomorrow.
I don't think it's fair for me to say that I created a supportive community for myself when it comes to my malfunctioning lady parts, because that implies more planning than there was. Even though my period was always a rebel that did what she wanted when she wanted, and my thyroid is the bodily equivalent of angry cat where it's response to every request is a fervent "NO" and to poof out hair in strange places, I am still somehow surprised that I'm here.
That's the thing about Infertility - whether you knew it was going to be an issue or not, once you actually start the process of dealing with it it's always... surprising. What if someone had said to Dorothy before the tornado hit "hey, dude, by the way...You're not going to have the Home you've been looking for without walking this super long winding road far from where you'd ever imagined you'd be. You're going to have support but you're also going to be tormented. And this will all just be in the hopes that eventually some person at that end of the road might have just the right amount of magic to make Home a reality." I'm not sure she'd be any more prepared. When for the first time that journey appeared before her in color, I think she'd still be lonely and afraid.
Whether I had clues or not that it was coming, I started casually climbing the lush mountain known as "hey I think it's time to make myself a family" and promptly fell straight off a cliff. I marched right to the top of that mountain and into thin air, and before I could even wrap my head around what was happening my body found a net. The online infertile community - in the form of bloggers and some forums - existed long before I even started to climb and it caught me, no questions asked. My friends and family, with a few stumbles but a surprising amount of grace, managed to tap dance and Forrest Gump their way through figuring out how to support me.
And once you get over the initial shock of the fall and your knees stop shaking long enough to think straight, you start thinking and learning about how to best give back to that support system, how to be a functional part of the net.
At best, my 'contribution' to the Infertility community is just trying to be a functional albeit very goofy part of that net when I can; trying to aide in catching people when they fall, and stepping up to the plate when my particular brand of support (which is slaphappy and silly) benefits somebody.
It's because of you ladies that the only bruises on my ass are from hormone injections and not from a spectacular splat falling from Hope to Reality. In honor and frankly in total awe of you, when I have my wits about me I try to pay homage by being a part of that net. I am a goofy, totally ridiculous and very specific part of it, but when I get down on myself about how 'useless' my antics are I remind myself that people need goof.
And whatever it is that you are, whatever weird little thing it is that you do well when it comes to being there for other people, it's amazing. No matter how ridiculous or specific it is, it is amazing. If your specialty is rarely called upon, it contributes. There will be a day where you are exactly what a woman needs to make her feel good, and there you are, in our ranks. Making jokes, photographing roadkill, knitting sweaters for siamese cats, whatever it is. It has and will continue to do something for someone, as long as you stand with us and be a part of the net when you're able.
I've learned from, continue to learn from and am eternally grateful to be a part of a wild pack of rabid womb warriors who roam this here corner of the Internet.
As far as contributing to this pack... For me, I've started dipping my toe out of the shame closet. While I haven't worked my way up to Facebook yet (never fear, should I ever be that girl that makes a pregnancy announcement I will give a sizable shout out to science and medication), as a result of this support system I'm much more likely to tell people about my struggle. Maybe not all the time in a sit down pow-wow let's discuss sort of way, but when people ask me what I'm up to, I've learned to tell them what I'm up to. Hell, I once announced to a room full of drag queens and drunken gays that I was having mimosas to have an appropriate, heartfelt goodbye befitting alcohol prior to my first IVF.
I'm starting to do the Facebook math. Science tells me that 1 in 8 couples experience some form of infertility at some point. Facebook tells me that half of the women on my newsfeed are pregnant, half of the pregnant women are pregnant with multiples, and 0.0 of them have ever said anything about infertility. In case you don't feel like pulling out your calculators, that equals a whole lot of unnecessary shame and bullshit.
I'm learning that mostly, people respond to learning of the situation in two ways - either they say something so awful it's hilarious (my favorite example: a cousin saying "so... does bub have to have surgery to get his sperm removed?") or much more likely, they're supportive and say something wonderful, even if it's not exactly what I would say.
I think one of the biggest contributions a person can make to this community other than just deciding to be a functioning part of it is taking your own experiences of how people responded to your womb woes, and applying them to the womb woes of others. And if you're reading this and you're new to the Infertile community, or you're not an official member but a loved one of someone who is - by all means, take whatever you can from my experiences or from the experiences of others and run with it. Listen to women like me, who have without choice ridden or are riding the roller coaster. Cheating off of others is not only acceptable but encouraged.
One of the largest and simplest ways a person can help the infertile community is to learn how to be there for, and then be there for, it's other members.
On that note, some promises I'm making based on lessons I've learned, and if you're new to our fold some promises I hope you'll consider making to Infertiles before you've even learned the lessons:
If you are new to a treatment, I will be honest with you about it. Some parts of it are going to suck. Most of it's not going to be nearly as bad as your mind can build it up to be. Much like godzilla, you will be swelling up to twice your usual size and terrorizing your entire city.. but in a charming way.
I will never belittle your feelings about a negative pregnancy test. You have every right to react to it however you react to it. Even if it's totally 'expected' I will be pissed with you.
I will never say "so why don't you just adopt?" People hurl this phrase around, and I can't say if I wasn't an infertile I would know how much that phrase stings. But, we infertiles know - it implies that you're being selfish and that adoption is the 'easy' solution. When a woman is putting herself through hell to make a lifelong dream come true, it's not selfish. Putting herself through fire shouldn't indicate stupidity or selfishness, it should tell you how very badly she wants it. And even women who have only ever wanted to adopt will tell you that adoption is not 'easy'. We all have girlfriends who have always dreamed of getting married and it just hasn't happened for them so far - and we know not to say to them "why don't you just give up and be single?". Of course she may end up single, but the heavy editing of a lifelong dream happens on her timetable, not ours. Implying that you 100% know what the outcome of her struggle will be is a disservice to her and a lie.
Also, as an adoptee, should you end up adopting I will kiss your patootie and you will officially be a saint in the eyes of stork. Maybe I'll even wear a medallion with your giant face on it. My adoption, in my eyes, was my parents looking at all the kids in the world, pointing at me, and saying "you, kid. You're about to win the lottery". Having said that, if it's something a person ends up doing, they have to be stoked about it and if you ever are, I will be stoked for you.
I promise to always remember that it is irrelevant whether or not someone's path is the one that I would take. Irrelevant. It is no one's place to judge how a person creates their family, and most of the time when a woman is doing something that I wouldn't do? In some way or another it's because she has a bravery that I'll never know. (Okay but in the spirit of honesty if you're talking kidnapping or making your family entirely out of sock puppets, I will probably have to judge you).
If you have an infertile friend and they are spending so much time talking about their problems and it's starting to bug you? I promise she's controlling herself heavily and you're only seeing the visible top of a deeply submerged iceberg. It's like one day waking up and discovering that you are going to have a live crow stitched to your head for the next several years. Yes, you absolutely want to go out and not always talk about that fucking crow, but that shit is distracting. And it will be difficult, some days, for that person to listen to you complain about your gardener not trimming your hedge properly without her thinking "DUDE. I have a CROW stitched to MY HEAD". She is trying, I promise.
I genuinely believe that the appropriate response to most woes of an infertile is to say "that freaking sucks and I am pissed on your behalf", and to not provide suggestions for a next step unless they ask. And then whatever that next step is? Get pumped about it for them. If they do exactly the opposite of what you would do, get pumped for them.
I will cheer with you, I will cry with you, if someone is being an ass I will take off my weave and slap them with it for you, I will make inappropriate jokes (my specialty). I will embrace hope when you need me to and I will throttle that ho when you need me to.
I think of our little club like AA - does anyone grow up wanting to be a part of that group? No. But what a life saving group of badasses who have seen hell's fire and come back to tell the tale. The most confused and fragile members of the group are going to be the new ones, and us veterans need to remember where we came from and act as sponsors. You are my Sisters in Shittiness and I'm proud to be a member of a group full of such survivors.
Some helpful links that Resolve suggests for new Sisters in the fold, or if you just love one:
So here's to dipping a toe out and to being whatever strange part of the net you can be.