This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW). It is hard to imagine what it was like for the staff and volunteers of RESOLVE in those early years to gain momentum on raising awareness about infertility. In 1989 when RESOLVE was launching NIAW, I was engaged to be married. The topic of infertility had not come up in my conversations with friends, my two sisters, or my fiancé. I don’t recall any celebrities on the cover of People magazine talking about their infertility, and in fact, I am not sure I even knew what IVF was. “Infertility awareness” was non-existent in 1989.
Fast forward to today: While we still have a long way to go, enormous progress has been made on educating the public about the disease of infertility. This is due in part to RESOLVE, but it is really because the entire community has come together to raise awareness. I am proud of what RESOLVE has accomplished and how each day someone is doing something large -- or small -- to raise awareness. Every single thing that is done makes a difference!
One area that still frustrates me is when someone is brave enough to tell their friend/mother/co-worker that they have infertility, and they are then faced with insensitive comments. They just come flying out. This type of reaction not only hurts, but frankly who wants to be open about their infertility if the only reaction they receive from others are hurtful comments? This is exactly why RESOLVE created “25 Things to say (and not to say) to someone Living with Infertility.” The least we can do is to educate others on how to support their loved ones who are living with infertility.
A few of my favorites on this list are: “Support their decision to stop treatment,” and “Ask them what they need.” Decision-making is so hard when you are faced with infertility, but to then have people who care about you second guess your next move is very difficult. Likewise, no one can read our minds, so having your support system be aware enough to ask you what you need is so important. No one is great at asking for help, but when that person hears “I want to help, what can I do for you," it really does provide the support we need. My other favorite on the list is “Don’t minimize the problem.” I definitely can relate to this one. For many of us infertility is a life crisis, and it hurts deeply when our friends and family view it as a life-style choice.
I hope you take time during National Infertility Awareness Week to think about how you can help raise awareness. Check out the NIAW website, and perhaps there is someone you know who could benefit from our “25 things to say” list. You never know the positive impact it may have!