When Patrick and I were going through infertility, one of the worst parts was feeling alone. We wanted to find others who knew how it felt to go from hope to heartache month after month. Though we eventually connected with two other couples in our city who were also struggling to conceive, there weren’t any support groups. I wish there had been one where we lived.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to connect online with Kate LeBlanc, the executive director of RESOLVE New England. I’m so impressed with this organization. The non-profit offers support group meetings, organizes conferences, and provides seminars. And now, for the first time ever, RESOLVE New England is preparing to host a Walk for Hope on September 27 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Endicott Estate in Dedham, Massachusetts. (Registration is free!) The walk is presented through a partnership between RESOLVE New England and RESOLVE, the national infertility association.
Kate gave me a virtual introduction to the two co-chairs for the event: Delainna Burton and Kerri Kivolowitz. Both women experienced infertility before becoming mothers. They graciously agreed to open up about the emotional baggage that comes with infertility, the importance of hope, and what they want participants to gain from the Walk of Hope.
Tegan: It was very touching to read the story about why you will walk, Delainna. You mentioned that during your infertility, you struggled in silence due, in part, to feeling ashamed. I felt this, too, when I was on my journey. Why do you think some women feel ashamed that they’re not able to conceive?
Delainna: From an early age we are taught that one of the most fundamental aspects of being a woman is having children. So when we try to get pregnant and it doesn’t happen as easily as we believed, one can easily feel shame. Especially since it seems that at the same time you’re experiencing problems conceiving everyone around you is having children. One in eight couples in the U.S. experience problems with infertility. Once more people start to be open about their struggles, the feelings of shame will subside and be replaced with more communal tips and support.
Tegan: In what ways has organizing this event opened doors for you, Kerri, to talk about infertility to people who may not have firsthand experience with it.
Kerri: Co-chairing the “Walk of Hope” has allowed me to be completely open about my own struggles with infertility, whether speaking with someone who has experienced infertility or someone who hasn’t. Before working on this event, I shared my story with friends, family, and others I knew were struggling to conceive, but these days I am posting information about the Walk on my personal Facebook page, making phone calls to vendors and potential sponsors, and talking to relative strangers about the Walk and why it is important, so I would say I’m fully open now about my experiences with infertility. It’s a nice change, especially being able to use that openness to directly or indirectly help someone who may not be ready to speak about their experiences.
Tegan: For you personally, Kerri, what’s the significance of calling this event “The Walk of Hope?”
Kerri: In my “Why I Walk” statement, I mentioned an “ever twinkling hope that this time it will be different…” that for me was the heart of my journey through infertility. My husband and I dealt with unexplained infertility, and each month that we didn’t conceive began to feel like an actual loss. I mourned, we mourned, over and over and over again. We mourned because we had so much hope each and every time we started a new cycle, and we believed each time that we had created a child…a child who was so real to us in our minds.
After going through that experience, I can never doubt the human capacity for optimism and hope. Hope can be the most painful thing, but it is also what drives us to keep going and what eventually leads us out of the woods. In the infertility community we speak a lot about hope, because it is something we all have in common…we hope, and that is what keeps us moving forward one step at a time.
Tegan: Hope was my emotional anchor during my journey to parenthood, so what you said, Kerri, really resonates with me. This idea of hope being such an important part of the infertility journey is something I explore in my novel, INCONCEIVABLE.
Delainna, you now consult others who are experiencing infertility. What advice do you give them for staying emotionally healthy during their journey to becoming parents?
Delainna: Through JumpStart Fertility I provide my clients with resources, support and guidance on starting a family. I pride myself on handling each client situation uniquely. However one piece of advice that I share with them all is to write a plan from the outset on how far they are willing to go on their fertility journey. It’s easy to continue to go through the motions, but at some point you must be able to envision the end. The end may be your own little bundle of joy or it may be the closure that you’ve reached as far as you are willing to go.
Tegan: What are the two biggest misconceptions about infertility would you like to see set straight once and for all, Delainna?
Delainna: That the reason for the inability to get pregnant is totally the woman’s fault. In actuality, the reason for infertility can be the woman, the man or a combination of the two… all almost equally.
That fertility treatments are too expensive and therefore only for rich people. This is not true.
Tegan: For women and men who are going through infertility and join the Walk of Hope, what do you want them to take away from the experience?
Delainna: I want them to leave knowing that they are not alone and that there are numerous resources available to them. Through RESOLVE/RESOLVE New England, they have access to information, advocacy, and support. They can also connect with various fertility-related businesses like mine. Through JumpStart Fertility, they will receive guidance and access to information on navigating through the confusing world of Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IVF, which can ultimately save them valuable time and money.
Kerri: I would like to see families at our event of every variety, built in all different ways, so that those dealing with infertility can meet them, socialize, and have fun. If I can see just one person experience a connection and be comforted by coming out on September 27th and walking with us, then I will feel we have really accomplished something.
To find out more about the Walk of Hope organized by RESOLVE New England, check out the official Facebook page for this event.
Top image via Flickr by jcookfisher.
Candle image via Flickr by Markus Grossalber.