The Long and Winding Road to Parenthood: Reflections on National Infertility Awareness Week

I have a clear memory from when I was about 12-years-old. I was lying in the grass with some friends when things suddenly became a bit philosophical. One of my friends asked what we thought we were put on this earth to accomplish. “Why do you think you’re here? What are you supposed to do during your life?” We all got quiet, lost in our own thoughts.

For me, the question was an easy one, and the answer came quickly; I only hesitated to share it because of the certainty I felt in its truth and a fear of being mocked by my peers. We went round-robin sharing our answers. When it was my turn, I said, “I’m here to bring new life into this world.” Silence. I tried again. “With my body” More silence.

The truth is that this was an incredibly powerful moment for me, regardless of how my friends responded. I had known that I wanted to be a mother from the time I understood that this was possible, but this awareness that bringing new life into the world for myself and others was so central to my identity that I saw it as my purpose for being (at the age of 12!) did shake me a little. It felt deeper.

I became obsessed with pregnancy and birth. I read every book I could find, spoke with every pregnant relative/family friend/friend’s parent that I met, and watched every documentary that was out there. I wanted to know it all. In that process, I began to hear it all. Pregnancy, or even trying to conceive, didn’t always go smoothly. Delivery didn’t always result in a healthy baby. There was a darker, more nuanced side to it all that I realized people weren’t talking about. I didn’t hear these stories from the pregnant people I was connecting with; I found them written about in books or discussed in educational films.

Miscarriages occur in about 10-15% of pregnancies, and that number rises with the age of the pregnant person, yet so few people talk about their experience with this unique grief and loss. Similarly, infertility affects over 12% of the population, regardless of sexual orientation, yet we so rarely share these challenges publicly or seek support from our community if we are struggling to start our family. Instead, many experiencing infertility report feeling isolated and embarrassed. The path to parenthood can be long and winding, and it often includes emotionally and physically taxing procedures, years of trying, self-advocating with insurance policies for coverage, and financially burdensome choices.

I feel fortunate to have found myself working at Family Equality, an organization that is keenly aware that trying to conceive isn’t always sunshine and flowers. We are here for you every step along the way, during National Infertility Awareness Week and every other day throughout the year. From learning the basics of the language used in the assisted reproductive technology world to preparing for your first visit at a fertility clinic, grappling with multiple pregnancy losses, and more, we understand the emotional tax infertility can take. We have created resources to help educate LGBTQ+ prospective parents on the multiple paths to parenthood and have a network of support to help you feel less alone as you journey ahead. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for support either via email, phone, or our LiveChat option. You aren’t alone!