When you are first diagnosed with infertility, you can feel alone. You can feel like the world is against you. Like all of your future plans have suddenly been erased. It feels unfair and you can get angry. Here is the thing: this is normal. Infertility sucks. #NIAW helps make infertility feel a little bit less isolating. But this is just a week. How do you get through the other 51? For us, while some weeks can be great and others hard, really hard (take for example the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend), to get us through we rely on our #barrenbestie. This #NIAW we have decided to #flipthescript and talk about the friends who have gotten us through and are still on this crazy rollercoaster that is infertility
Probably a year ago, Liz and I were talking about the importance our friendship has had on our infertility journey. For those who do not know, Liz and I met in 2014 at RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day. We were both from the state of Michigan and running support groups but had never met. As we spent the day together, we felt a friendship forming and not a forced friendship. Talking to Liz was easy. I’m the oldest in my family and never had a close “big” sister. But in the months following Advocacy Day it was feeling as if Liz could possibly fill this roll.
What I didn’t realize or anticipate was that I was actually not looking for “a big sister” figure. I was looking for and needing an infertility friend. Someone who wasn’t my partner going through the exact same journey, but someone who had their own story and their own journey that they were trying to figure out. Liz and I became that for each other, especially as we started collaborating together and creating what is this – The ART of Infertility.
While infertility no doubt sucks, I can’t imagine not going through this because despite all of the pain – I got a great and amazing person in my life: Liz. When I talk about my infertility story, it is hard to not include her in it. My husband, Kevin, frequently jokes that she is “the sister wife” to our marriage. In many ways, she is and she has helped me (and my marriage) grow stronger. My hope this #NIAW is that we don’t stop talking about infertility the rest of the year, but that we find the friends and support systems that can help us continue the conversation and #flipthescript that infertility matters ALL the time, not just once a year. My barren bestie, Liz, has helped me realize that and is helping us create change in this community that has been too often forgotten.
I’m not a woman who had always envisioned being a mother. I was always more interested in forging a path of my own, of not following the expectations of society. I imagined finding love and imagined getting married. Sure, maybe we would decide to have children but it wasn’t first and foremost. Until it was. Once I decided I wanted to be a mother, I wanted it fiercely. The trouble was, the rest of my body wasn’t in line with my head and my heart.
There’s that period of time, early on in an infertility diagnosis, when you haven’t found your tribe yet. You’re having a hard enough time trying to make sense of the cards you’ve been dealt, let alone trying to explain the game to others. You feel like your situation, your infertility, isn’t severe enough to reach out to find other people in similar situations because certainly they’ve had it worse. Their diagnosis is more severe, they’ve tried treatment and it failed, whatever the reason is, you find it. I’m here to tell you to that the sooner you find your people, the more manageable your life will become. Infertility friends, barren besties, are a lifeline.
Maria has been that lifeline for me. As she stated above, we found a quick and easy connection. It’s hard to believe that just four years ago, we hadn’t yet met. It’s crazy to me to think of life before her and it’s both exciting, and sometimes scary, to think about what the future might hold. We’ve both been in a similar stage of our journeys for the entire time we’ve known each other. Our relationship has been a safe space for both of us. But, like with many friends through infertility, there may come a time when maintaining a friendship will be more difficult. We’ve grown and challenged each other. We’ve built this organization together, and, together, we’ve accomplished more advocacy work in a short amount of time than I ever imagined possible.
My hope is that through this work, and the work that so many others are doing, it won’t be so difficult for those who come after us to find themselves diagnosed with infertility. The silence and stigma will have been lifted and they’ll already know those in their community they can turn to for understanding. That they won’t have to worry about access to care because insurance coverage for infertility treatment will be there for them if they choose to go that route. It’s also my hope that there will be better support and mental health resources while going through treatment and for people who get through treatment without becoming parents, or who choose not to undergo treatment at all. To make sure this happens, we all need to remember that infertility awareness isn’t about one week in April, but is year-long.
I’m so grateful for Maria, and my other barren besties, who have helped me weather this storm. Unlike the early years of my diagnosis, life is mainly good and happy these days. Not because the fact that I’m not a parent is any easier to endure, because it’s not, but because I have them in my life.
5 Ways A Barren Bestie Can Help Navigate Infertility
- Feel good about you and your body!
It can be hard to separate yourself from a body that is failing you. Your barren bestie will remind you that you are more than your broken parts, and encourage you to practice self-care. So, grab a friend and treat yo’self! Go shopping! Get a massage! Go out for a nice dinner! Practice yoga!
- Talk about What Sucks in Life (even if it isn’t all about infertility)
Liz and Maria frequently joke that they talk more to each other than their husbands (shh)!! But we do, with boundaries of course. So on the weekends we tend to take a break. During the week, we have “scheduled times” normally in the morning on the way to work and on the drive home. While the content of these talks can range from ART of IF “to do lists” to our “real” jobs to the niece or nephews birthday party that is happening over the weekend, these talks help us process how we get through the daily challenges and triggers that come with IF. No one understands like a barren bestie does. It also helps us not overwhelm or burden our partners.
- Gain Perspective about What Matters
Okay, so we are lucky that through this project we have been invited to travel, literally the world. From Paris to Seattle we have made time to experience a variety of different places together and hear so many inspiring infertility stories. Traveling has helped us gain perspective on what we want as a priority in our life and helped us realize the impact of sharing your story.
4. Encourage You to Share Your Story
A good friend knows you even when you are trying to not know yourself. Sometimes it can be tiring and hard to share your story. Barren besties know this. They also know that sometimes sharing your story can help you grow stronger. Practice talking about infertility with your friend, and slowly, with their help, you can start to share it with strangers – suddenly you may find yourself as an infertility advocate!5. Learn to Find Silver Linings, even during the worst of times
We all have our own infertility story. In nearly all of them, there are ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns. Figure out what your silver lining is, what lesson was learned. Maybe it won’t get you closer to your family-building goal, but you may be able to find unexpected joy in areas. For Liz and Maria – this is certainly the case. Without infertility, we would never know each other. We would never grow to be strong women, using our voices to hopefully create change and talk about all the challenges that come with infertility. Despite it all, we don’t regret being infertile. It has revealed too many silver linings in our lives.