NIAW & Where I Stand

Yesterday marked the start of 2013 National Infertility Awareness Week. NIAW is a very important week for our community and there will be a lot of bloggers advocating for the cause in the next six days. Some are more comfortable putting themselves out there as infertile than others; each person who is affected by infertility should chose to advocate–or not–in whatever way feels best for them and our community should support each other in our choices.

I, personally, am very comfortable sharing my infertility journey. The only problem is, I’m not sure I can lay much claim to the experience of infertility. Even though I would wear the badge of secondary infertility proudly, I’m not sure I have a right to wear it at all.

Keiko, over at The Infertility Voice, made some amazing Facebook covers for NIAW this year. I knew the minute I saw them that I would adorn my own timeline with one of the many headers she had created. I just wasn’t sure which one to choose.

Yesterday I went on to her site and was faced with the decision. Which cover would I choose. Keiko was incredibly inclusive in creating these covers; there are covers that allow people to own their infertility, covers that allow them to more discretely raise awareness (without declaring one’s own infertility struggles) and even covers for family and friends that want to spread the word. When I first saw the covers I thought for sure I’d use the “I am what infertility looks like,” or “I am what 7.3 million looks like,” or “I am what 1 in 8 looks like.” I felt these were the boldest of the covers, clearly admitting that I am infertile.

Except when I went to pick my cover, I couldn’t commit to any of those. I just kept asking myself, Am I what infertility looks like? Am I the 7.3 million? The 1 in 8? I have an almost three year old daughter and another child on the way. My children won’t even have that large of a gap between them. Sure it was more than I wanted or expected but it’s certainly not outside the norm. In many ways I feel this miracle pregnancy erased any claim I had to secondary infertility. It camouflages my diminished ovarian reserve and Ben’s low sperm court and crappy motility. It makes me feel like a fraud claiming secondary infertility as my own experience.

I ended up choosing the forth Facebook cover Keiko provided.

With this cover it’s less clear that I identify myself as having suffered infertility, but it implies it. And maybe that is all I have a right to do at this point. Lord knows if I weren’t pregnant right now I’d be proudly displaying one of the first three covers on my timeline but at this point, with this tiny life thriving inside of me, I don’t feel I have the right to do that.

Almost two years ago I wrote a (treacherously long) post about how infertility is defined. Is infertility a mere diagnosis? An experience? A lifestyle that is forced upon those who suffer it? Is infertility the lack of something wanted? Is it the result of something? The cause of something else? Infertility can be hard to define, and yet, it seems easily identifiable.

I continue to struggle with whether the word infertility applies to me. And that’s okay. Some things in our lives, even the most important things, are hard to pin down, difficult to define. Whether or not I am, or ever was, infertile is not something I am sure of. I don’t know if the label applies to me. And yet I know what my experience was, and I know that I feel a part of this community and I know I’m willing to advocate in the ways that feel appropriate. But I also know I want to respect those who have come before me and those who will come after. For that reason I will always choose my words carefully–with great respect for what those who have struggle longer and harder than I have endured.

This week my Facebook cover will remind people that infertility is a part of the lives of people they know and love. Whether I am one of those people is not all that important, and I won’t worry about it all that much. And I suppose, neither will they. And that’s okay. What’s important is that they think about infertility, that they learn about it and that they come away from this week knowing more.

7 responses

  1. I wish that I could put one of these covers on my FB page, but I am simply not brave enough. If my pregnancy makes it far enough for a FB announcement, I will definitely say something about our struggle, but for now, I am not comfortable. Not to mention my husband would not be cool with telling everyone in the FB world that we had IVF- he hasn’t even told his parents (but may at some point).

  2. I suppose I should go round up one of those covers for the facebook account. I did it last year and if there was a response, it was positive. It’s hard though because I feel like I can move from advocacy to oversharing really fast…

  3. Thank you for sharing about where you stand this year during NIAW, about the cover photo you chose from Keiko’s awesome selection (I chose the same one!) and how you are feeling right now at this stage of your journey through secondary infertility (which is a real diagnosis that you have been given and are allowed to own).

    I couldn’t be happier for you that your SIF experience was shorter than some people’s, but again, it is not the Pain Olympics and the time you “served” struggling with any compoents of infertility and loss does not make you any more or less worthy to be a mother and/or have another child.

    Sending peace, love and light your and your precious family’s wayduring this NIAW and always.

    Thank you for all you do to draw light and attention to SIF, something i know we both agree is much needed and appreciated by those who are still in the trenches and those who have gotten to the other side/have resolved their situations. xoxo

  4. I hear you here. Defining something as complex as infertility isn’t easy. It’s now simply part of who I am. In many ways ambiguity is one of the most pervasive aspects of infertility. As much as it turned my world upside down and inside out (and filled me with anger, sadness, doubt and darkness the past decade), I’ve arrived at a place where I see it a new light these days — one that I may blog about further…

    p.s. It hasn’t been all bad. Were it not for infertility we never would have met.

  5. I chose the same cover for what boils down to the same reason. Having three miscarriages “qualifies” me as infertile in a definitional sense, but it has never been easy for me to embrace the word since infertility is generally perceived as a difficulty getting pregnant and I did not have that difficulty at all. So I chose the “implied” cover rather than the “direct” cover because it allowed me to advocate but I felt less fraudulent about it 🙂

  6. I also struggled with claiming the infertility status after I became pregnant because I knew and understood that some women will never carry a pregnancy to term. Three years was a long time, but the fact that I finally became pregnant seemed to nullify the experience. Women with infertility are well aware of the incredibly difficult journeys many women experience, and we want to continue to recognize those struggles.

    I think the most important part is raising awareness about infertility. I know I never thought it would happen to me, and I was blissfully ignorant in my “former” life. Talking about it helps us all better understand what a blessing parenthood is, whether we struggled with infertility or not.

  7. Pingback: Disappointed | Stumbling Gracefully

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