April 19 to 25 is National Infertility Awareness Week. One in eight couples struggle to conceive. I am one in eight.
I first pitched this idea for the 1891 blog months ago when the world was a different place. I wanted to write about my personal experience. I wanted to raise awareness and put a face to the word “infertility.” I wanted to talk about the needles and uncertainty. I wanted to share how lonely it can feel to be part of a group like the CWBA, whose leadership is primarily made up of women of child-bearing age, where there is a pregnancy or birth announcement at practically every meeting. I wanted to say how much the “there must be something in the water . . .” comments can sting. I wanted to laugh at myself for that time at a Board meeting we went around the room to share something we were excited about and my internal monologue briefly considered saying out loud, “We just got my husband’s semen analysis results back, and they are completely normal!” And to share the joy I felt when my IVF nurse called me to say, “Congratulations!”
Most of all, I wanted to say to all of our members who are walking this road, even if I don’t know who you are, “I see you.”
That all feels a little strange to say during this moment of COVID-19. I mean, I can’t actually see you unless we end up on a Zoom call together. But, you still need our support and empathy, perhaps now more than ever. The most difficult part of my infertility journey was the uncertainty, the inability to make plans, and not knowing what the future would hold. Now COVID-19 is causing uncertainty for everyone, and uncertainty compounded on uncertainty can’t be easy.
For those who were already seeking medical assistance, most fertility treatments have been put on hold to conserve medical resources and prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Speaking from my own experience, the time between treatment cycles always felt like an eternity, even when it could be measured in days or weeks. If you were gearing up for a round of IVF and it has been postponed indefinitely, my heart goes out to you.
Even if you aren’t in the middle of treatment, you may be feeling bombarded with memes about the coronavirus baby boom and muttering to yourself, “if only it were that easy . . .”
If you are going through this now, I see you. Even if it’s metaphorically or on a Zoom call, I see you. And I’m sending hugs.
And, if you know someone struggling with infertility (most of you do, whether you know it or not), just let them know that you care. Simply saying “I’m so sorry that you’re going through this” is much more meaningful than telling a story about how your cousin’s roommate’s best friend finally got pregnant. And, maybe we can all agree to retire the memes and the “there’s something in the water” comments. Once we’re allowed to socialize in person again, I would love it if we could make small talk without asking by default, “Do you have kids?” You really never know how much pain that question may cause. (And, seriously, parents will usually bring up their kids without you asking!)
To end on a positive note, thanks in part to the advocacy by the CWBA, Governor Polis signed the Colorado Building Families Act into law on April 1, 2020. This law will require health benefit plans in Colorado to cover infertility diagnosis and treatment, including in vitro fertilization, which is the standard of care for infertility. I’m hopeful that increasing access to diagnosis and treatment will help many people grow their families as well as reduce the stigma associated with pursuing IVF.
If you are part of the one in eight club, I see you. And I’m wishing you the best during these uncertain times.
Emma Garrison is Staff Counsel at Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP and Co-Chair of the CWBA Membership Committee. She is also Mom to a beautiful two-year-old daughter who she conceived via IVF.