Showing up For Others Through Infertility Outreach
Tracy Juran has lived in Cincinnati since 2011, after finishing her degree at The Ohio State University. She is actively involved in the Jewish community, serving on both the Board of Trustees for Rockwern Academy and the Young Adult Board of the Jewish Federation. She married her husband Josh in 2017. Tracy is hoping to help other struggling with infertility isolation through her work with the Jewish Fertility Foundation.
We just celebrated Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, and are now diving into the new year. It’s easy to get lost in the monotony and continuity of the everyday, but during significant periods, I can’t help but contemplate where I’ve been and where I want to go. Even perhaps more accurately, who I am and who I want to be. As Jews we’re taught to ‘show up’ for one another, to commemorate beginnings and ends – a marriage, a divorce, a milestone birthday, the passing of a loved one and the birth of a child. I have always been the type of person who reveled in those ‘show up moments;’ a connector who thrives off the energy of others and in bringing people together.
How my Connectivity has been Challenged
One in six Jewish couples face infertility. It’s easy to gloss over statistics, we’re trained to do it. Well that is until you become a ‘one’ like I did. “Who am I? This isn’t me.” I find myself repeating this in my head multiple times a day. Infertility has changed me.
Infertility is Isolating
My lows are often others’ highs: Mother’s Day, the Monday of a new school year, a friend’s baby shower. My niece turned three in April and all I could think of was the passing of another year without the cousin I had hoped she would grow up with.
Infertility is Complicated
One of my last childless friends just told me she’s pregnant. And let me tell you, I’m positively thrilled for her. But you bet that didn’t stop me from having a complete and utter meltdown in the middle of the produce section.
Infertility is Illogical
Those treasured relationships I mentioned earlier? Many of them are just another casualty of infertility. Friends with babies constantly making plans and of course I feel left out when I’m not invited, but then when I am, I just think “let’s see, go to the zoo and be reminded of my failure or stay home and watch Bravo with my dog? Housewives it is.” You don’t want to hate people. You don’t. Kids are wonderful, but you also can’t contain the jealousy. I try to be positive, but it creeps up on you after months of appointments and talking about “dwindling options.” I read a well penned blog that summed it up perfectly: “And you see people scream at their kids and beat them in Kroger, and you just want to die because you would give anything to have a child throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle.”
Infertility is Humiliating
Let me tell you something, there’s nothing that makes a woman feel less sexy than a defective uterus and 20-something extra pounds of ‘baby weight.’ And no, not the baby weight that actually comes with a baby at the end of it. For me it comes with lawless emotions, fatigue, nausea and what kind of Tribe member would I be if I didn’t mention the unpredictable BMs (if you know, you know).
Infertility isn’t Easy to Discuss
Because no one gets on Facebook and talks about it or sends a mass text to their friends, “Hey guess what? I just spent half my life savings, again, for the fourth time this year…” People don’t like being around sad people all the time, so if you’re still here, thanks because I can’t help it. I hope not to be the token ‘sad friend’ one day.
Intrauterine insemination. IVF needles. Anxiety-ridden ultrasounds. Insurance issues. Hormonal flare ups. Financial pressure. Confusing diagnoses. Excruciating procedures. Infertility is overwhelming and all-consuming. Infertility is taxing and stressful. And the thing is that there is no ‘show up moment’ when someone you know or love is struggling with infertility because it’s month after month after month, a sometimes-vicious cycle of hope and disillusion.
Infertility has changed me in almost every respect and most of the time I hate it. But it has also made me a more empathetic, persistent and aware individual. It’s made me think more about what it means to show up for someone. For almost three years I’ve been contemplating how I can get back to “being me” and that starts with moving the needle by holding myself and others accountable to once again show up for one another.
About nine months ago, I connected with Fertility Law Attorney Rachel Loftspring after mentioning to a friend that I wanted to establish a local foundation to aid couples financially who cannot afford fertility treatments. Rachel, who had connected with a Jewish Fertility Foundation-affiliated colleague in Atlanta, was already in process of bringing together a committee to explore the need locally and the community’s willingness to support it.
Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF) provides financial assistance, educational awareness and emotional support to Jewish people who have medical fertility challenges. With the support of the board and generous donors, JFF in Atlanta has offered 25 grants to Jewish couples to support fertility treatments worth over $250,000 in funds, fertility clinic discounts and loans, emotionally supported over 300 individuals experiencing infertility and has trained over 500 Jewish communal leaders and medical professionals around infertility sensitivity.
Along with other JFF-CINCY volunteers and with the support of JFF staff, we will work together to steward our own Fertility Buddies program, host educational events, award fertility grants in partnership with fertility clinic discounted rates, build community partnerships and fundraise in order to meet the need of the Cincinnati community. We could not be more excited to get started!
If you or someone you know if facing infertility, please visit https://jewishfertilityfoundation.org.