As a photographer, I get to meet a lot of amazing families. Families of all types. And when I say all types, I mean every type of family you can imagine and more.
I get to interact with the coolest little kids. We laugh and we play as I document this special moment in time for their families. It’s such a fun job. Inevitably, a parent will say to me after a session, “You’re so good with them- you should have your own.”
Oh, I wish.
Ever since Joe and I got married nearly eight years ago, it’s been our dream to have kids. For a long time we were at that, “If it happens, it happens” stage. Then we actually started putting some effort into it about four years ago. Two years ago we began our time with a fertility specialist. We are still on that journey.
The heartache of coming up short on your dream to start a family is hard to handle. You wonder, “Why Us?” All our friends are having babies. All my clients are having babies. Lots of babies. But not us.
I’m not going to lie- some family sessions are very difficult. I do my job and get great images. But when I get back in the car and drive home, I have a little cry-fest. I want a family session. I want photos of my husband holding our five day old baby. I want to decorate a nursery. This is a tough job for someone struggling with infertility, but I love it too much to leave.
The feeling of helplessness as you inject yourself in the stomach, go to almost daily dr. appointments, then hang up the phone as the nurse tells you, “I’m so sorry…” for what feels like the 100th time is painful.
And you grieve what could have been the best Christmas (Easter, Halloween…) ever.
And your grieve for how you’ve changed physically from treatments.
And you grieve your bank account from said (failed) treatments.
And you see your husband glance at the giggling baby at the table across from yours and your heart drops into your feet. You know it hurts him, too. He was born to be a dad.
It’s been hard. Really, really hard.
But what has made life easier is talking about it. I decided when we began the journey with a fertility clinic, that I wasn’t going to keep it hush-hush. I had a few great examples set for me- three of my sister in laws had been down the IVF path and were open and honest with us. What a gift that has been.
And a crazy thing happens when you talk about- OTHERS COME OUT OF THE WOODWORK! When I first posted about our struggle publicly, I couldn’t believe the outpour of support. Some shared their struggles openly, some privately. But I truly couldn’t believe how many people I know are struggling with infertility. I go to family sessions and sometimes the mom pulls me to the side and whispers, “This is our miracle IVF baby- you’ll get there.” It is comforting to know we are not alone.
The other side of sharing was that people started asking me questions- they didn’t know much about infertility and wanted to know more. And I gladly shared. And now those folks who have more knowledge, empathy and understanding on the subject. That is huge.
While Joe and I might be struggling with “undiagnosed infertility,” (possibly the most infuriating phrase on the planet) we certainly aren’t unhappy with our lives. We are involved in many fulfilling things. We have great friends. And family more wonderful than we deserve. For me, there’s truly no one else I’d rather have by my side on this bumpy journey than Joe.
For National Infertility Awareness Week, I think it’s important to share some information about how common it is: infertility is a disease that affects 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age. We are that 1 in 8.
And so while we continue our journey, we also need to be vocal and talk about it. We need to talk about how crazy insurance is. (For example- right now our insurance says they cover our IVF, but refuse to pay a penny for the drugs necessary for IVF. Insanity.) We need to talk about the stigmas of infertility and blast them away. We need to help those not as far along in the journey so they can learn from our knowledge and mistakes. We need to listen to those who came before us for the same reasons. We need to stand up for those who aren’t ready to be vocal about their infertility, but who need help and guidance.
- Employers for insurance coverage.
- Your lawmakers and legislators to support issues important to the infertility community.
- Friends and family to support you.
- The media to cover infertility and the real challenges we all face.
- Your partner to get involved.
- Those who have resolved their infertility to stay involved.
- OB/GYN or healthcare provider to talk about YOUR reproductive health.
- For affordable care for treatment of a disease.
- Legal access to all family building options nationwide.
- About men’s reproductive health
Wherever you are on your journey, reach out. Reach out to me, someone else you might know on this journey, to RESOLVE, to your doctor… don’t be silent. Don’t do this alone. It’s hard enough already.