If someone you know struggles with fertility
Because infertility strikes 1 in 6 couples who are trying to conceive, chances are you know or will know someone struggling to get through it. Maybe you even are one.
I am. Or I was a decade ago. I went through the shame and pain of infertility in isolation. Little did I know that there were millions of women in the same boat who could have helped guide my way.
Enter author Melissa Ford, who has written Navigating the Land of IF: Understanding Infertility and Exploring Your Options, a guidebook for a place just off the mainland, a place where I was once marooned. Melissa Ford has explored every nook and cranny of this formerly insular jungle-of-a-place, and she indulged me in a few questions about her journey to parenthood.
Well, someone had to do it! Actually, there are a lot of really good books out there for infertility, but they were all missing items here and there. I wanted to cover the basics, but also make sure that all of the questions I still had after I put those books down were answered. Such as what happens if you hit a blood vessel during an injection? Or what are the various IVF [in vitro fertilization] protocols?
I also wanted one book for everyone: primary, secondary, situational, biological, young, old, single, or married. This doesn’t mean that everyone will love the book because they may hate my writing style, or how inclusive it is, or any other reason. But I wanted the door to be open to everyone who wanted to walk through by using inclusive language, considering a plethora of situations, and including information for everyone in the community.
You call this island the Land of IF. What does IF mean?
IF is the online abbreviation (on bulletin boards and blogs) for infertility, but “if” is also a huge part of infertility. “If” also conveys the uncertainty and leaps of faith one needs to take daily with infertility.
Everyone gets off the island eventually, one way or another: by undergoing fertility treatments, by using donor gametes, by adopting, or by living child-free. What “neighborhoods” on the island did you hang out in and what was your path off the island?
It’s an interesting question because I had the neighbourhood I lived in (and most of us only own one home), but many neighbourhoods that I visited due to friends or family members living in other spaces. I met people along the way through Resolve and through blogs.
In addition, I think the way off the island is really an emotional journey. You can have children and still not resolve your infertility or you can stop the family building process and still not resolve your infertility. There is a saying with Resolve that children resolve childlessness, not infertility. And I find that to be very true.
So my path off the island was a lot of self-searching and finding peace with the journey. But my neighbourhoods while on the island were primary infertility and early loss, with our apartment building being the Injectable IUI Cycle Towers. I am now the mother of twins.
Would this book have come about if not for your blog, Stirrup Queens? I don’t think so. I guess one thing that makes this book very different from all other infertility books is that it has this living, breathing counterpart — the blog — and the author is completely accessible. I tell you to join a community and vent your frustrations, but then I also participate in said community and make sure you’re welcomed inside by maintaining the blogroll and Lost and Found. I hope people who read the book then step through the fourth wall that sometimes exists between the author and the reader and communicate with me, either through the blog or by emailing or meeting me at a reading.
Why would someone who is NOT experiencing infertility want to pick up this book?
To better understand someone they know who is experiencing infertility. I don’t know how many people who are not experiencing infertility will pick up this book, but that’s okay. The words are there for everyone to use who is experiencing infertility and they can pass them along in conversation with people outside the experience.
How different would your own IF journey have been if you’d had this book?
I probably would have felt less lonely. I used the exercises in the book to make decisions, and I included one of the real decision webs we made before we started treatments. I wish I had known about the online community back then. It was small, but still existed. I wish I had known about blogs and read them.
There is a lot of humor in your book. Can you talk about the importance of levity while puttering around on the Isle of If?
If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. And even as you laugh, you’ll still cry. I think it’s important to note that having a sense of humour doesn’t mean that you’ll laugh your way through every insemination or egg retrieval or meeting with the adoption facilitator. It means that you’ll bring whatever levity you can to every situation while also honouring the enormity of the situation.
One time, when we were at the beginning of a very early loss, we stopped at a rest stop while driving and when I saw the blood in my underwear, I instinctively took off my glasses and threw them. In this very dirty gas station bathroom. And after I had cried and cried and cried, I realized that I couldn’t see anything without the glasses–especially in the dim bathroom light — and didn’t know where they were outside the stall and feared that I would step on them in my attempt to find them. So I could cry but still see the amusement in having thrown my glasses — the ridiculousness of it all.
What new projects do you have going?
Give us the sales pitch. Where can we get the Land of IF?
Navigating the Land of If has its own website where I post information such as readings and where to purchase the book. You can get it at any bookstore in the US as well as online from sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders.
I give it two thumbs up. I now give a copy to anyone faced with fertility issues.
Music to an author’s ears!
Disclosure: Melissa Ford is a friend of mine. The fact that she is also a fantastic writer and an expert in all things infertility is just icing on a birthday cake.
Readers: Which ways off the Island of Infertility have you come in contact with through family or friends, or maybe even yourself?