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Navigating the Land of IF

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a blog by Pamela Jeanne

If you’ve spent any amount of time trying to conceive without success you know that it’s not easy to figure out what to do next and when to do it. That’s where sites like Fertility Authority and books about how others managed the experience help to light the way. When I first tried to get pregnant, pre-Dr. Google, my confusion was compounded by lack of constructive, relatable information. Sure, there were medical tomes but I wanted something that addressed both the emotional as well as physical challenges I faced. I was usually disappointed by what I found.

That’s why I’m happy to recommend a new book, Navigating the Land of IF, by self-described “Stirrup Queen” Melissa Ford. I first met Mel two years ago online and then had the pleasure of being on a panel with her last summer. If you’ve spent any time with infertility blogs, it’s likely you’ve come upon her welcoming site. She’s always happy to help a girlfriend out and agreed to answer some questions for us here. Pull up a chair…

Me: You blast to smithereens the myth that infertility is solely the curse of "old" women. What are other infertility myths you'd like to debunk once and for all?

Mel: That treatments are fun and utilized without thought. Or that everyone who does fertility treatments will get pregnant or will have multiples. Or how about that adoption is easy, which is why people should "just" adopt? I think the general public doesn't really have a true grasp on how infertility affects people emotionally, physically, or financially. I know I certainly didn't know what went into treating infertility until I was treating infertility, so I don't blame them for the lack of knowledge. Meaning, I think it's fine for someone to admit that they know very little about a certain topic, but it's quite another for people to believe that they have a strong understanding about solutions without knowing the truth about infertility or loss. I blame the media for a lot of the misinformation.

Me: There are many different reasons women and men can't conceive au naturel, but they share much in common, nonetheless. What similar characteristics, responses have you discovered about people who move through treatment and resolution?

Mel: That when you want to build your family and you can't do it on your own, that it’s frightening and embarrassing and uncomfortable. It requires a great deal of patience--not just the waiting to cycle or the waiting for answers, but also the waiting for insurance claims to be submitted, waiting for phone calls. Everyone shares in that waiting and the feelings that stem from that waiting.

Me: What advice do you give to someone who feels overwhelmed by infertility?

Mel: Get help. Meaning, do whatever if it’s going to help you. Some people are uncomfortable with therapy, but if you're not, there are therapists who specialize in fertility issues and your local RESOLVE chapter often keeps a list of specialists in the area who can help. Those uncomfortable with therapy or who can't afford the expense can also reach out to the online community for free either through a home Internet connection or the computers at your local public library. Start a blog or read a blog. Leave questions on bulletin boards. But get the words out of you so that they stop figuratively bouncing around inside your body (or, at least quiet them and take away some of their power by speaking or writing them).

Me: You've developed a large, vibrant "Stirrup Queens" community. There's tension in that some women succeed with treatment while others don't. How do you manage to bridge the joy and the devastation?

Mel: I think the tension exists and doesn't exist at the same time. It is personal and felt by some people and not others. I think the bridging is most successful with those who might know about the tension, but don't participate in the tension or allow it to own them. And feeling the tension is very different from being joyous 100% of the time. I think it is true for the world at large that there are some who balance being happy for others while being sad for themselves at the same time (not always perfectly). I think some bridge better than others because they can float above that tension and say, "I'm jealous, I need to take a step back right now for myself, but I'm also happy for them and sad for me." And I would actually say that many more people think like this than even know that they think like this. Jealousy and other emotions can exist with joy in the same way that it exists with devastation. And therefore, the tension is only there if you allow it to exist.

Me: What message(s) do you want readers to take away from your book, your work with the infertile community?

Mel: That community exists so use it. There are about 1800 people on the Stirrup Queen blogroll right now, and there is a story out there similar to your own where you can draw strength and get answers. That you need to ask questions of your doctor or nurse if you don't understand something. And mostly, that they know that while they may feel confused and anxious upon landing in the Land of If, there are many islanders who want to help them get their footing.

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