Calling the Infertile Sisterhood

By Amanda Grazioli

I’m sure many of us have seen the iconic pink ribbon out in the world, whether on a stranger’s car, purse, or scarf. I love it because, without a word, it clearly communicates to others that the person bearing it has been personally impacted by breast cancer. It is universally understood and indicates that they or someone they know has suffered from this hugely challenging diagnosis. It also tells other affected people that the person bearing the ribbon gets it.

Technically, infertility (like a host of other diseases, syndromes, disabilities) has a similar ribbon. It’s pink and blue, and there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it. Further complicating matters, the pink and blue ribbon actually has multiple associations, ranging from male breast cancer to hyperammonemia.

RESOLVE also uses a symbolic ribbon—an orange one—to demonstrate support, especially at their annual Advocacy Day.

The challenge is that, most people seeing either of these ribbons displayed proudly on your rear windshield won’t know what they mean. There’s not enough awareness in the general population, let alone in the infertility community, around a single symbol. But, wouldn’t it be great if there was? I have often wished that there was a sign, a secret handshake, a code word—something that we all knew about and could use to let others struggling with infertility know that they aren’t alone.

In the absence of such a symbol, I’ve found others ways to reach out. By being more open about the challenges I face in becoming a mom, I have made some incredible connections. Once, my openness led to a conversation with a total stranger at a coffee shop about her infertility journey and the book she is writing about it. Another time, it prompted a work colleague with a beautiful 3-year-old to share with me that she’d miscarried twice and was seeing a specialist about her secondary infertility.

It’s also helped me to be a support for friends who ended up going through similar struggles. They knew that they could reach out to me since I’d been there. Support groups like those offered by RESOLVE New England and other events can be a safe haven for infertile couples, if they feel comfortable attending. With these, they can find community.

The tricky thing is that many women aren’t yet ready to be “out” about their diagnoses. Some go about their lives feeling incredibly isolated, when chances are they know others fighting similar battles in silence. Imagine if there was a way to know that your colleague was actually in the trenches with you. What if you could somehow tell by a glance that your pregnant neighbor had struggled for years to achieve that seemingly effortless bump? Imagine what would happen if there was an unmistakable way to identify the other “1 in 8’s” in our community. I think it could be a game-changer.

Along my infertility journey I’ve collected a handful of symbols and phrases that resonate with my experience. Everything from pineapples, arrows, and fun socks to phrases like “worth the wait” and “hope is stronger than fear.” Wouldn’t it be great if we all settled on one that we could use as a subtle sign to others that they aren’t alone?

I’m looking forward to participating in New England Walk of Hope in Dedham, MA this September, which benefits RESOLVE and RNE. In preparation, I’m on the lookout for symbolic gear to wear at the event and in my day to day as a way to reaching out to my sisters in this experience. I challenge you to find your own way, however big or small, to reach outward and find your people.

 

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