My daughter was born during National Infertility Awareness Week. That doesn’t mean much to six out of seven people. But to the one in seven like me, it feels serendipitous. This year, it’s not lost on me that the day we’ll celebrate her sixth birthday with eight rowdy kindergarteners is the same day we kickoff a week that recognizes, honors, and raises awareness for a phenomenon that goes mostly unnoticed, unseen, and unheard.
So I gave it a voice, because “it” has given me so much. I notice it. I see it. I hear it. I live it.
It’s been ten years since I launched BabyOrBust.com, a site my husband and I created to fund our IVF efforts back in 2006. Our bill was $20,000 cash. We left that first meeting at the fertility clinic asking “How can we afford this?”. Honestly, we were in our mid-20s and we couldn’t. Yet, we’d never wanted anything more in our lives than we wanted to be pregnant and to have a family. So we asked the internet for money on the first IVF fundraiser website. Those generous souls raised $8,000 and our investments turned that into $12,000. We happily funded the remainder and it turned out to be the smartest gamble of our lives.
It paid off, but it took so much time before that to make peace with a situation we had no control over. While we watched our siblings have babies and seemingly everyone else we knew start a family, we were living in an “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” Groundhogs Day loop. I was at all of the baby showers cooing over handmade quilts from grandma and stuffing myself with blue- or pink-dyed cupcakes, all the while screaming inside “Why me?”.
Why didn’t I get a baby? Why did people too young, too unfit, too irresponsible, too fertile for their own good get to have a baby…and not me? Why did this happen to me? There’s nothing fair or reasonable about infertility. It just happens. Just as the wrong people die too early, and the wrong people get cancer, and the wrong people face the hardest of life’s battles, so to do the wrong people wind up on the wrong side of infertility statistics.
I didn’t belabor the point, though. It didn’t consume me, turn me bitter, make me jealous, or fill me with anger. Sure, I was disappointed. I also took advantage of bonus childless years with my husband that were some of the best we’ve shared. I built my career. I got the most out of my 20s. I lived, laughed, played, and became a better version of myself. By the time I had my sweet girl, I was ready! I also couldn’t have imagined her arriving a minute sooner. After all, she was born on her daddy’s birthday during infertility awareness week — her timing was kind of impeccable. That’s what I’ve come to expect from my #ScienceBaby, though!
We made an active effort to make our infertility experience a positive one. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel isolated and lonely. Every time someone wanted to nose in and ask “Why haven’t you two had a baby yet?” or recommend that “we just have a little patience,” I just thought to myself “Why don’t you understand?”. The reality is, most people don’t.
Unless you’re living through it yourself, no one really “gets” it. That may very well be the most trying part. If only there were a billboard that followed you around that read: Know that infertility can be devastating. It forces the wind out of your core and gives little back. It can poke holes in that part of your heart that hopes and dreams. It makes you question everything about yourself, what you did wrong, or how you could have changed something. It’s completely irrational.
What I couldn’t even imagine at the time is that with all the trials I was put through-it turned out to be the most rewarding journey I ever took.
Brandi Koskie is a guest contributor for National Infertility Awareness Week, sharing experience as the founder of the web’s first infertility fundraising site, BabyOrBust.com. She is also the co-founder and content strategist for Clover Partners, an interactive studio in Denver and Oklahoma City.