Wearing a Mask

I was thinking back recently about the timing our pregnancy. As I’ve said before, the month we got pregnant, was by far one of the hardest in our infertility journey for me. Truthfully, I was probably at my breaking point and I wasn’t sure if the decisions we were making were the right ones. I was at an emotional all-time high.

I went to a retreat for a leadership program in early September. We were told to bring an artifact to share a personal story. The artifact had to mean something to us. Well, I couldn’t bring in my cats so that was out, {ha, kidding, but seriously…} but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to share part of our infertility story. That’s right, with all these new people, some of who I had only met once before. Maybe it was my ultra-emotional state and the fact that we were supposed to start IVF that month, but I decided to bring a sharps container. As we got ready to tell our stories around this campfire, I began to feel nervous. It was strange, because in all our years of infertility and telling our ‘story’ there had not been a lot of times when I felt nervous talking about it. When it came to be my turn, I stood up, a little shaky, and started talking, but I couldn’t find the words. Tears began to flow and I couldn’t stop them. I was embarrassed. This is ridiculous, I thought. How many times have you talked about this, Ashley? Why can’t you get this out right now? They were all kind enough to let me take a break and start over in a few again. This time, the words came out, although still slightly broken through some tears.

The group of people I now know as friends were all great. I received hugs, words of support and nothing but positive comments from every person. For some reason, I was thinking the other day about how this is one of the only times I’ve really broken down to a group of people I didn’t know incredibly well at the time, when talking about infertility. Truthfully, even to our friends and family, there weren’t many times I cried when talking about it. Sure, I cried to myself or Jordan, a lot. But to others? Not even when I wanted to sometimes. It’s not that I felt forced to be brave all the time, but I think I wanted to be. I wanted people to know that I was handling this ‘situation.’

And then it hit me. I had been wearing a mask. For years. I had put this figurative mask on, for all my friends, family and even strangers who sought advice from me. Sure, I had been vulnerable in my blog posts and Facebook posts. I posted pictures of me giving myself shots and wrote about the failure of our first IVF and the loss of our 4-week baby from our second IVF. I talked about it when asked. I shared details when I had them. But I still had a mask on so much of the time.

It made me realize, that many of us going through infertility, wear masks. Some of us are wearing full-face masks and some of us are wearing masks that might just cover our eyes and nose, but none the less, we are covering up part of ourselves because we’re scared, tired and often, feel alone, even when we’re not.

A part of me feels critical that I had a mask on for so long,  but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s okay. Infertility and loss are incredibly fierce battles. Sometimes we need masks to make it through the day. Not everyone wants to take off that mask. And not everyone even wants to take their mask off for social media or blog posts. For these reasons, I feel compelled to continue to write about infertility, even after pregnancy. I want others to know that they are not alone and that there are options.

I was recently asked by EmpowerHER, a website dedicated to women’s health and wellness, to write about a product called The Stork OTC,  which is an FDA- cleared device you can use at home to assist in your chances of becoming pregnant, and at first I thought, how am I to fit this in? But then it hit me. Not everyone is ready for IVF, IUIs or medicine, nor might they ever want to go in that direction. Trying to start a family is a very personal thing and the way each couple dealing with infertility goes about it, will be very different. Not everyone will want to ‘take off their mask’ and share with their world their IVF journey like I did, or even have to ask their doctor for that matter. And that’s okay. That’s where this pretty innovative product can come into play. It’s available without a prescription and might be just right for that person or couple.

If you’re reading this and struggling with infertility, you may want to know how this product works. If you’re a family member or friend, you may not care, so bear with me as I use some medical lingo and slightly uncomfortable words. 😉 Or go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. The Stork OTC uses a cervical cap insemination that enables the sperm to quickly bypass the vaginal tract and places the sperm as close as possible to the opening of the cervix, right where it needs to be to swim up through. Learn more here about how it works here and where to purchase. 

Sometimes, I wish I had fully taken my mask off before that day I shared at my retreat, but I have no regrets about how I’ve communicated our journey to becoming a family of three. I think I needed that masquerade mask to survive some days. And now that I’m showing my bare face, I can continue to open up more and write articles like this, that might just help someone else trudging their way through this tough journey.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by EmpowerHER and The Stork OTC. Thank you for your support. 




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