Monday, April 19, 2010

Spreading the Word About Infertility

Hey Guys,

Next week is National Infertility Awareness Week and if you're anything like me you're thinking, "My Lord, what will they think of next?"

I'll bet if I did a Google search I'd find a week that commemorates National Shoelace Week and National Garage Door Awareness Week too. Somedays, it seems a little ridiculous but next week, National Infertility Awareness Week makes sense to me.

Why you ask? (Oh, wait, maybe you didn't) ;-)

Many of you know I've suffered from infertility and never parented. For those of you who don't, now you do and you might be asking, "Hey, Steph, why didn't you just adopt?" For the long answer, click here but the short answer is we didn't feel called to it.

Infertility comes with a host of unanticipated issues. It is riddled with uncertainty and angst that most people can't fully appreciate unless they've traveled down the bumpy, foggy road. But personally, one of the most challenging struggles is that the number of myths circulated about infertility outnumbers the sands on the shore. (Ok, I admit that's hyperbole but sometimes it feels like that). My sense is this is because only the success stories make the headlines.

In the next few weeks, I am publishing an ebook called, The Forgotten Patient. It is a compilation of essays from women who've ridden the unforgiving roller coaster of infertility and never succeeded. This book will pay homage to our population and also educate others on what it is like to live in a world where we don't always quite fit in.

Infertile people are persona non grata in so many circles. The infertility professionals distance themselves from us because we represent failure and in others people just don't quite know where we fit in. The struggle of identity is reminiscent of Simon Cowell's comment last week about Sibohan Magnus. "Siobhan," Simon yawned, "We just don't know who you are. What kind of an artist you are. I think you're confused and so are we."

When we can't quite "pigeon hole" each other, we struggle. Our brains search for a frame of reference. If you watch American Idol, this analogy makes sense. Mike is like Luther. Lee is like Daughtry. Crystal is like Melissa. Sibohan is like...hmmm....uh, hmmm. See what I'm getting at?

Infertile women often struggle themselves with a sense of identity. Lord knows, if we don't know who we are, the rest of the world won't either.

I am grateful that no matter how silly we have gone with "National" awareness weeks, this upcoming week April 26- May 1st is dedicated to raising awareness around a topic so near and dear to my heart and my client's hearts as well. I'm participating in it and so is another woman I met via the world of social media who has walked in my shoes.

Pamela is a gifted writer who tirelessly works to raise awareness about those of us who have struggled with infertility without success. She authored the book Silent Sorority, a must read for anyone who had been there or loves someone who has.

Please check out her latest post on Open Salon titled, Would You Tell Someone You Are Infertile? It made me cry and left me shouting, "I know, I know!"

Please share a link to it on your blog, Twitter account or Facebook. I'd be so grateful and I know Pamela would be too.

Is there something you would like to know more about in terms of infertility? Maybe how to help a friend, deal with the grief yourself? Ask away and also, I'll be tweeting next week using the hashtag #infertilitymyths. Join me, guys! Really, join me!


  1. My husband and I are now dealing with having gone through all the possible fertility treatments with no success. Like you, we don't feel called to adoption, so now it's a child-free life for us. It's rough dealing with all the fertile friends that we have. Any advice on how to fit in with the people who have babies when we do not (and never will) would be appreciated.

    And I just bought Silent Sorority a week ago! I iwll be starting it this week...just in time for Infertility Awareness Week!

  2. Jules-I know what that feels like. Surrounded at a social function of some sort feeling like that little yellow chick in the picture at the top of my post. I've made attempts to bring up other topics that seem timely and you must know about unless you live under a rock ;-)
    It is not always easy but I formed a bookclub with friends from whom I isolated once we stopped treatment. I realized that while I couldn't add to the topic of soccer or diapers, the women needed adult conversation absent of those topics, and that I could provide.
    I feel where you are Jules...I do.

  3. Love that you're spreading the word about infertility! Spread on the word and bring your support to my Facebook page

  4. Stephanie, I think it's great that you and others are sharing this. My heart always hurts when someone tells me that, and I'm not sure the proper way to respond. I don't want to be flippant, or make them sad, or seem uncaring, any suggestions, I will certainly take to heart. Blessings, dear friend.

  5. Hi Karen-
    I am so touched that you asked about how you can best help those of us who are infertile. I am writing a piece on that very subject for and will link to it here next week. But let me leave you with a sneak preview. PLEASE don't tell us to relax. Really. It implies shame and blame, something we are already really good at on our own.

  6. So glad you are talking about this as well. It's another one of those subjects that people walk on eggshells with because the uncertainty of how to respond. This is one of my biggest fears. It's going to take me such work to get to a place I can trust enough to be in a relationship and my worry is that once I do the work, I won't be able to have the one thing I've wanted since I was little!

  7. Ah, Stephanie, so agree with everything you've written here. And, thanks for the kind words!

    Part of the ongoing challenge we face does concern identity -- and finding a new place in a world that rarely knows what to make of us. Our experience is made more complex as we encounter a different, unexpected set of growing pains. Much as they try to help, our friends and family aren't always on the same page, sometimes complicating what is usually a fragile understanding in the first place.

    Perhaps a new generation of women speaking up and out about this confounding experience will help provide a needed set of sign posts that have until now been missing. Couldn't ask for a nicer set of companions than those I've already come to know.

    I look forward to meeting others willing to join us on this new, sometimes awkward but always growth-inspiring journey. All are welcome on "A Fresh Start" (

  8. Pamela,
    It was my pleasure to reference your work to raise awareness about this often misunderstood struggle.

    I too am thrilled to share the job of educating others with such wise, compassionate women like you.
    Blessings to you and my other friends.

  9. I've never heard anyone use the term "we didn't feel called to it" when it came to adoption. It describes exactly what my husband and I felt. I am still trying to discover who I am, but the first thing I am is God's daughter, and that's what I am focusing on. Thank you sooo much for this blog and for putting yourself out there. I don't feel so alone.

  10. I remember a day, long before meeting you and Pamela, that I thought I was alone in this. I didn't know anyone who failed to get pregnant if they went through infertility treatment. I thought I was the only one. Thanks to both you and Pamela I don't feel alone. I do feel a member of the Silent Sorority. And now when people ask me if I have kids I no longer hint at our infertility, I just come out and say it it. Infertility is a bitch but it is not a four letter word.

  11. Found you via Pamela's blog. I'm almost 9 years into childless-not-by-choice living, & I still find it difficult to speak out about my experiences to non-IFers... but I am so grateful for people like you & Pamela who do (& do it so well!!). I will look forward to your book!

    I too appreciate your description of not feeling "called" to adopt. I used to sometimes say it just wasn't something we ever felt really excited about, & I didn't think that would be fair to the child.

    And I love the picture of the little ducks. : )

  12. Thank you for your sweet comment :)

  13. Hi Stephanie,

    I found you through Pamela's blog, too. Thanks to you both! Your work is here on the web. I can't even begin to tell you how much comfort it is to read the posts and comments from others.

    My advice to the fertile community is just to be sincere when you are speaking to us. We do not need new fad advice, or the famous "relax" or the blank stare. A simple "I'm sorry or wow, that must be difficult" goes a long way.

    At the beginning of my struggle with IF a very dear, sweet, friend having just given birth to her daughter said to me "your turn will be next". I wish that would have been true, but nevertheless she was thinking of me in that moment, a sharp contrast to another insincere person who said "I feel so sorry for you, you may get a paycheck, but I am paid in hugs and kisses". That was like a gut punch.

    I will be looking forward to your book. Keep up the good work!!

  14. Hi Kim,
    Thank you for stopping by. My jaw dropped when I read your comment about getting paid in hugs and kisses. I can't imagine someone being so cruel. It unconscionable. I'm glad that even if just through the virtual world we can connect with other women like us.