Listen Up

//this post is dedicated to my aunt and my way of thanking you for my life lesson//

April marks National Infertility Awareness Week //April 23-29, 2017// and as part of it’s movement to rid the stigma that one in eight of us faces, Resolve spearheads a theme every year. If you remember, On Prayers and Needles was nominated in 2016 for the Hope Blog of the Year based on last year’s submission to “Start Asking” //linked here http://onprayersandneedles.org/2016/04/startasking/ //. This year’s theme “Listen Up” is an effort to get our voices heard, to impact legislation to provide sufficient and universal insurance coverage, and to breakdown the barriers of infertility.

When I first glanced at this year’s theme, “Listen Up”, I could’t help but retreat back to when I was in middle school.  At the time, my aunt had introduced my parents to essentially some life-coach organization that offered seminars for adolescents.  I never really understood the point or gave the experience much thought; however something did resonate with me that I even reference now as a thirty-something-year-old in my own life experiences. I remember a long, drawn-out discussion of how we all have rackets in our life, be whatever they may, significant or insignificant, and that we tend to have expectations of how others should behave within these certain instances. The point that I’ve carried with me all this time is that while we may assume that somebody should respond in a certain manner, that is completely out of our jurisdiction. We can only control our own actions and reactions; not the actions of others.

It got me thinking of this year’s theme. In a perfect world, I’d expect that everyone would “Listen Up” when it comes to infertility. If everyone were to “Listen Up” they would understand the loss and devastation an infertile couple faces in being unable to have a baby the most natural way. They’d think before they said something like “Why don’t you just adopt?” and be more conscientious of their actions. If people were to “Listen Up”, they’d empathize with the pain pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and ‘Reserved for Expectant Mothers’ signs can inflict. They’d acknowledge that miscarriages, failed cycles, infertility diagnoses, chemical pregnancies, and stillbirths all require grieving time. If the world would “Listen Up” they’d recognize that surrogacy should be legal and insurance coverage for infertility should be available for all couples regardless of their sexual orientation or where they reside. They’d respond in a way that would cause a monumental shift in how infertility is perceived and the shame and isolation associated with this disease would be dissolved.

In essence, my expectation would be that as a whole, the realm outside of infertility would understand, think, empathize, acknowledge, recognize as if they were 1-in-8 and they’d respond. Yet, that life lesson I was given almost two decades ago has taught me that I cannot control the actions of others; only my own actions and reactions. So while I cannot force them to “Listen Up”, I can “Speak Up”. I must use social media platforms to “Speak Up” and get my success story out there so people can realize the struggle infertile couples face and the need for change. When at work or out for happy-hour, I must “speak Up” by sharing our journey openly so that infertility becomes a socially acceptable topic of conversation. I must participate in walks, advocacy nights, and other events to spread awareness and “Speak Up” within my own community.

Not only must my actions “Speak Up”, but so too should my reactions. When receiving push-back about undergoing In Vitro Fertilization , I must “Speak Up” and let it be known that no matter what my nationality or religious belief, my God wanted me to be a mom and everyone is deserving of that opportunity if they so chose. When someone asks when I’m going to have another, I must “Speak Up” and say “we struggle with infertility” and “our first is an IVF baby”. When an acquaintance advises that I should be content with the one child I’ve been given, I must agree that I am blessed and then “Speak Up” to remind them that they wouldn’t say that to a fertile couple wanting to grow their family.

I’ve come to learn, infertility happens to be a racket in my life. I cannot change the circumstance, only the way I react to it. I cannot expect you to react in the same way; nor can I force you to “Speak Up.” I can only hope that in choosing to “Speak Up” the world will “Listen Up”.

Infertility Support Group Recap

👆🏼C R E D I T:  resolve.org

As most of you know, last wednesday we held our first infertility support group meeting. So many of you graciously reached out to ask how it went and were so encouraging in this endeavor that I figured a recap was a must!

By now, you’ve probably realized that while I love it, blogging isn’t something I had initially planned on doing until a friend (who is way more knowledgeable and skilled in this domain than I) explained the benefits. A monthly, local support group was my priority; however she recommended that I get my story out there for people to learn and relate to before they’d ever be ready to join an in-person group. She could not have been more right and I’m grateful for the advice. This blog has become such a passion for me and something I look forward to doing (when I don’t have piles of laundry at nap time, get lost for hours on Instagram, or fall asleep before 9). It just feels so natural for me to open up to you all that I really didn’t think a support group would be that different.

That was until hours before it actually happened… I had rehearsed in my head over and over what I would say and how the get-together would play out. The plan was to explain how I’d come to this point of starting a group and emphasizing how I am no where’s near a licensed social worker or fertility expert. I wanted to give the abbreviated version of our journey so that everyone could have the opportunity to provide as little or as much of their own story as they felt comfortable. Then, if time permitted, converse about a topic. For the first meeting, I kept it light with e-cards related to infertility and the things we hear that drive us crazy(ier).

Yet, right before and all during the meet-up, waves of anxiousness and insecurity came over me. Did I share enough of my story? Or not enough? Was I talking too much? Am I too all over the place? Do other support groups look like this?

Maybe I wasn’t ready for this. Sitting behind a computer re-editing my words was so much more in my comfort zone. I’m always eager to see the response and read your sweet comments once I post and I’ve never doubted what I’ve said. Leaving that meeting I could not have felt more different. There was something so vulnerable about being face-to-face discussing something so fragile. It helped to see some familiar faces.  There were lots of laughs, head nods, and even some tears that made me think it was okay, but I couldn’t quite gauge how it went. It was written all over my face as I walked out with some of the ladies to my car. So much so, that one of them (who initially reached out to me as someone whom our circles have crossed but now, thanks to this, has become a new friend) called me as I was on my way home. She reassured me that she thought it went well and that, in fact, I was helping her and others. I couldn’t have appreciated her phone call more, but I still tossed and turned for hours that night. Did anyone get anything out of the group? Was it what they expected? Did I offend anyone or say anything wrong? Will they come to another meeting? I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.

Not so long after, I awoke to my human alarm clock ⏰but those thoughts weren’t put to bed. The only thing that could ease my mind was following up with the ladies who so kindly showed up. Some I had started to message the night before and the rest I either shot an e-mail or text to to thank them for attending. The more I read their responses, the better I felt. Don’t get me wrong, it was in no way about stroking my ego that I had done something good. I wanted to know that taking this leap made a difference in their lives after all. Once I stopped dwelling on what I would’ve, could’ve, should’ve done different, I decided to take the responses I’d been given to see what was actually accomplished that first night.

🔸Complete strangers opened up to one another about one of the most sacred/scariest/sensitive/intimate parts of their own lives.

🔸Overwhelmingly, the ladies in attendance said it was so nice to realize they’re not alone-not alone in infertility, and the thoughts and feelings associated with it.

🔸Everyone left with something that they hadn’t known before they came.

🔸Doctors names, medication side effect, and a lot of “I know exactly what you mean” advice was exchanged.

🔸A variety of infertility-related topics were touched upon, including:  dealing with things you hear when struggling TTC and how to cope, different IUI/IVF protocols, how friendships can be affected, who & how injections are given, procedure experiences and recommendations, the constant rearranging of your life, sadness in not having control and the option to choose when you’re finished having kids,  insurance obstacles and coverage, & handling the never-ending pregnancy announcements.  This was just to name a few…and within just a few short hours of meeting one another.

🔸And most importantly to my shocking surprise, most of them can’t wait to meet again!

It was so nice to connect, & reconnect with you ladies.  I was overcome with the familiar nervousness last week that I had when walking into a procedure, waiting on results, meeting a new physician or nurse; just like those times, it was worth every doubt and second-guess in the end.  Much in the way that I can instantly recall all the poignant moments in our infertility journey, I will always remember you and that first infertility support group meeting.  Now we are part of one another’s village.