This past March, Brandi and I, along with Sarah from the Dallas non-profit organization Braving Infertility Together, hosted a session at MommyCon Chicago 2018 called “Braving Infertility & Loss Together”. Our goal was to discuss the stigma and isolation surrounding infertility and loss, share how infertility and loss can affect a family, provide tips on how to navigate infertility and loss, and teach others how to provide empowering support for those on their journey so that no one has to brave it alone.
Sitting in a circle with those who attended, Brandi, Sarah and I shared our own experiences with loss and infertility and how they have affected each of us in different ways. Each of us have had very different journeys, and all of us have faced loss in some form or another. Our experiences have shaped who we are and lead us further into who we want to be. We shared what we know from personal experience and the lessons we learned along the way, both good and bad.
***It is important to note: navigating infertility and coping with loss share a lot of commonalities, so we talked about them together because for those who are struggling with infertility, every month can feel like they’ve lost. Even if you follow all the advice that we share, you will continue to have to work at healing for the rest of your life. You will still have moments that make you feel sad, but the power of that sadness and the length of time it envelopes you lessens as time goes on and you continue to heal and find peace. The length of that journey to peace is different for everyone. And post traumatic experiences due to your experience with infertility and or loss are real and very common. Sometimes even when we are supposed to be most joyful, like if we get pregnant with our rainbow baby, we are still always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And that’s hard. That kind of healing takes constant work and helpful support.
Brandi’s journey towards her hard-won love of parenting opened her eyes to the need for a family-centered parenting and baby boutique where it didn’t matter how your family was conceived or created (thus, Fluff & Familia was born). That passion further spread into creating our session at MommyCon to be able to support and reach out to others about these incredibly vulnerable topics. Her struggles with pursuing ICSI IVF, while trying to uphold their Catholic upbringing, left her and her husband feeling conflicted and sometimes alone. She stressed the importance of having a balanced support system as you are going through infertility or loss; surround yourself with both people who understand it and people who will be there for you through the good and the bad. She also discussed the stigma that comes with pursuing fertility treatments- “playing God” as some people have scoffed- and the heartbreak you face when family turns away from you during your journey. A huge noteworthy moment was when she explained that while she owned her own emotions, it was not just her personal journey; it belonged to both her and her husband. Infertility can take both you and your significant other to a place where limits are tested and strength can be built. She also mentioned the absolute gut-wrenching struggle that is deciding what to do with any remaining embryos after your family is complete: a decision most don’t even realize is a reality for many.
My journey (Kristen, here) led me to be a blogger, which led me to Brandi, who gave me the opportunity to have a voice as a speaker at MommyCon beside these two incredibly brave and wonderful women (thanks, Brandi and Sarah <3). We beat secondary infertility with the help of our fertility specialist and the miracle for us that was IUI. In my speech, I talked a lot about the huge emotional range you go through when it comes to struggling with infertility and loss and how important it is to not only recognize those emotions and process them, but to own your story and find healthy ways to take steps forward. I shared my truths of my own faults during my journey and my impassioned pleas for women to strive to support one another without judgement or comparison when it comes to loss, as well as the different ways women have found to cope and heal through their journeys. For me, part of it was getting my motherhood journey tattoo. To read in more detail my portion of the session, click here.
Sarah‘s journey led her to help create a non-profit organization in Dallas, Texas called Braving Infertility Together, which is quickly spreading internationally. The organization assists and supports families struggling with infertility with the emotional and financial hardships they face and helps bring awareness to their community on the issue of infertility. Their goal is for those who struggle to never have to walk alone through the journey, and their mission is “to normalize the infertility process by providing experience-based support, encouragement, and education to our members.”
Sarah’s advice at MommyCon was to be BRAVE
B is for Bold: Be bold in searching for and working towards finding a diagnosis. Be yourg your own advocate. Learn as much as you can about the process: how does your body work? How does your partner’s body work? What part of the process is having an issue? What are the potential causes? What treatment options are available? What tests might you need to get done to find your diagnosis or answers? What options can you try if tests reveal no issues?
R is for Realistic: Sometimes it is necessary to be realistic in that you might need to understand that your family might not look exactly how you felt it should; you may have to move on to other options you might not have thought of or discussed before.
A is for Available: Make sure that you are available to be there when others need you, but also be there for yourself; know your limits and care for yourself.
V is for Vulnerable: Infertility journeys and loss can make a person feel extremely vulnerable, but that isn’t always a bad thing. Vulnerability can mean being open about your journey with others, whether it’s within a small group or with the public. You can help bring awareness and stop the stigma of infertility. It can also help us learn to deal with those who don’t understand our struggle.
E is for Encouraging: We want to encourage those around us going through infertility and loss to be brave. Let them know that they are not alone, and they have done nothing wrong. They have done nothing to deserve the pain and struggle they are experiencing.
Sarah stressed in her speech at MommyCon that it’s important for couples to redefine infertility to “more than just a medical diagnosis; it is the inability to grow your family when and how you want.“ So many women try to brush off the pain and disappointment they feel when struggling with infertility or loss as “not as bad” as what someone else is facing, and that emotional suppression often leads to depression. It is critical to have support from those who “get it” and a place to share the roller coaster of emotions that you go through while facing infertility or struggling with loss. That is exactly what Braving Infertility strives to provide!
For those of you who are in Texas, you can find more information on local meetings here. There are meetings for those still walking their path through infertility and those who have become “miracle moms”.
For those of you who are not local to Dallas and may be struggling with infertility and need support, you can join the Brave Community on Facebook by following these instructions: “Send a friend request to Love Brave. Once you have done this, you will receive a message with a few questions so that you can be placed in the group nearest you. The support groups are secret to protect your privacy.”
Know that whatever part of your journey you’re walking right now, we here at Fluff & Familia are here for you. We are only an email away. ♥