Last week was National Infertility Week and friends, family and strangers blew up my Facebook feed all speaking out about their struggles to have children. My heart swelled as loved ones, who I had no idea were in the midst of this heartbreak, opened up about something so personal. They were all talking about how hard it was to achieve what I so effortlessly attained. Having children was always something I expected would happen—you grow up, find a man you love, get married, and have babies. When my expectations were fulfilled as easily as I thought they should be, I had no reason to consider that this was not the norm for any other woman. How wrong I was; how selfish with my fertility I’ve been…
I do not struggle with infertility. In fact, I’ve made the joke plenty of times that all I have to do is hold hands with my husband and I’m pregnant. When deciding to try for our second child, I told my husband that even though I got pregnant easily with our daughter, who knows if it would be that way with our next. But sure enough, the WEEK after getting my birth control taken out, I was pregnant with our son. Because I’ve never struggled even a little bit with conception, I didn’t bother thinking outside my own little bubble about the many women who can’t get pregnant on a whim. My intended joke of holding hands and getting pregnant has been, in fact, incredibly horrifying and discouraging towards the women who cannot conceive. How many sisters have I said this to, not knowing she was holding her fertility pain a secret?
Infertility seems to be a topic that has previously been taboo, or misunderstood, in our society. In a nutshell, it’s categorized as women who are not able to get, or stay, pregnant after at least one year of trying. Most health insurances don’t bother covering, or even helping pay for a little of the cost of treatments, like IVF, for women who are trying anything to get pregnant. Having a specific week focused on this exact subject has brought to light information that has helped women see they are not alone. And now that they are feeling more understood, many courageous women are choosing to accept, talk about, and seek help for their infertility. More and more, we are seeing the shift of women becoming empowered, instead of ashamed, of what they have had to go through to create a family. And if you ask any of the lucky moms who were able to finally conceive, they’d tell you all the work, all the money spent, all the heartache was worth it for that one special soul they were given from Heaven. And yet, not everyone is so fortunate as to have that outcome.
How can we avoid taking our fertility gift for granted? How can we help the women this week is named for?
- For starters, realize that not everyone can have children as easily as you do and don’t ask stupid questions like, “It’s been years—why haven’t you started a family yet?” or “Don’t you want kids?” When you are privileged to become aware of someone’s struggles to conceive, don’t follow up with advice like, “Just relax and it will happen,” even if you had good intentions. Saying something like that is not actually helpful because when a woman is dying to have a family, she’s doing everything right, and it still isn’t happening, relaxing is the last thing her body can consciously do. And “just relaxing” isn’t going to solve her problems, anyways.
- Next, offer your struggling friend any help or support you can give: a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, empathy, strength, privacy. If you’re religious, keep her in your prayers. Unless you want to fork over the money to pay for the treatments and drugs she will need to conceive, all you can do is encourage from afar.
- Then, hold your own children closer and don’t speak lightly of your fertility. We’re all allowed to have bad days where our kids drive us crazy and we complain about them, but don’t forget how lucky you are to have them in the first place. You got rejoice when you saw that positive pregnancy test. You got to feel your baby’s movements inside your womb. You got to watch your baby learn how to smile and respond to your voice. You’ve been able to give your child some siblings. Remember those women who may never get to experience those things, and complain less.
- Finally, allow these women to rejoice with you. Just because a friend might be struggling to have her own children, that doesn’t mean she isn’t incredibly happy for you and the journey you are on! Infertility can cause bitterness and jealousy in the woman who is experiencing it, which is understandable. However, not every woman who deals with this disease expresses this feeling forever. She wants to rejoice with you, just as you want to encourage and rejoice with her.
I’m grateful for National Infertility Week because, even though I am able to have biological children easily, this week reminds me to not take my fertility for grated. This week shows me how precious the gift of life really is and how fickle the process can be. This week confirms how many women struggle and I learn how strong they are for what they go through. And I know I will no longer be joking about my own fertility insensitively again.