National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and Project IF

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National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) runs this year from April 24--May 1st. The awareness and action week spearheaded by Resolve, the national infertility association, is a mix of online and face-to-face projects ranging from educating yourself with printouts from the website to dedicating your Facebook status to raise awareness for infertility.

An easy way to get involved with the awareness week is to participate in Project IF. I was lucky enough to get to lead it this year because I was the first recipient of Resolve's Hope Award for best blog last year. The first part of the project took place several weeks ago, where people added their biggest "what ifs" to the list. The list is still live and continuing to grow, but we took the 500+ "what ifs" that were on the list last Friday and used them as a spring board for the second part of the project.

From now until May 1st, participants can choose a "what if" from one of five categories and expand it on their blog. The post can be any length or medium the writer wants--poetry, a story, photographs--in order to expand on the "what if" and give insight into the world of infertility.

Making sure NIAW hits the ground running, bloggers have already started posting for Project IF.

Believing in June wistfully writes about waiting for that positive pregnancy test.

I have been dreaming of that plus sign for about 16 months now and it seems like a fable. A pretty story that parents tell their kids "One day when you are married to a wonderful, good man and you have a successful career and enough money in the bank you will get a present in the form of a positive pee stick." Nice story, right? Well, I have the wonderful man part down, we both have good jobs, and we have some money in the bank, but my positive pee stick has been quite elusive.

In a chilling post, Our Wish Come Two explains how infertility can change a marriage.

We set off on the journey together; a team; hand in hand. Then somehow we got lost along the way. Not hard to do when you are in a constant sea of medical appointments, tests, injections, hormones, being poked and prodded, asked embarrassing questions, having humiliating and sometimes painful procedures, figuring out where money for all this is going to come from, loans, borrowing from retirement funds, trying to resolve yourself to the fact that this is going to take way longer than you anticipated.

It is impossible to read how her marriage changed from the start of the journey until now and not have your heart break.

From IF to When writes about the void that infertility has created in her heart. "People walk around with holes in their hearts every day, but you would never know simply by looking. Some carry a hole in their heart made by a lost loved one. Some have a hole made by an old flame or a broken friendship. I have a hole in my heart created by infertility." The end of her post is absolutely breathtaking, but you'll need to read the whole thing to get to the solution at the end.

Another Awesome Day in the Life of Us has a post that reminds that the surface reveals very little about what is going on underneath. Even after the birth of her children, she writes, "I want to, and I can’t. I can’t, and I don’t think I ever really will be able to. I don’t know how to hold onto the past, and look into the future, and still be happy with today." Again, it's the end of her post that will send chills down both arms.

The winner for this year's Hope Award will be chosen out of this list. It gives Resolve a chance to narrow the playing field (there are over 2300 blogs in the adoption/loss/infertility community) while also giving people an easy way to participate in NIAW. Too many times, people want to be involved, but are unsure how to do something active during the week.

The blog posts contained on the list will also be presented to the media and lawmakers through Resolve's advocacy work. Consider the list a doorway that those outside the experience can step through in order to have insight into the world of infertility. While individual stories may not be newsworthy, a critical mass of bloggers using social media for a cause is of note; there is strength certainly in numbers. This gives bloggers a chance to explain to the general public that there's more to the news story than IVF as a panacea or whatever extreme case is being held up as the norm. That while there is a physical side of the diagnosis, there is a clear emotional side too.

The best part of this project is that it is open to everyone in the blogosphere--infertile or not. It is clear that those experiencing infertility have something to say about it, but with 7.3 million Americans diagnosed, chances are that your sister, your friend, your cousin, or your coworker is experiencing infertility. And you have a voice you can lend to the cause in order to help that sister, friend, cousin, or coworker. For everyone who wants to participate, Project IF is open until May 1st.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

Image Courtesy of RESOLVE.