My kid has her own hashtag.
For years, we’ve tagged photos and posts about her on Twitter and Instagram with the #projectellie tag. It came from my friend Simone Becque when we were in grad school at Syracuse, and it stuck. It’s become a thing in our world. My students know my daughter as Project Ellie, and the editors of the student newspaper refer to her like that in print. It’s wonderful to go back through the hashtag and see how she’s grown. (Except some random dude uses the same hashtag to post about his car, so that’s weird.)
That hashtag tells her story. With one exception.
It doesn’t tell her origin story.
This is National Infertility Awareness Week, the week that Resolve designates every year as the time for us to collectively tell our stories about infertility. It’s a time for us to talk openly about a topic we don’t discuss often, to bring awareness to the issue, and to advocate for better insurance coverage and other benefits.
It’s interesting. When our daughter was younger, it felt like her origin story and our IVF journey was much more prevalent in our lives. Now, it rarely comes up. It’s faded into the background. It’s simply a part of our daughter’s story, like her passion for theater and her love of bacon.
But it comes up every now and then. When someone makes a comment about how maybe we’ll have another kid someday. When we see her playing with a friend’s kid, several years younger, and realize she was born to be an older sister. When that happens, there’s always this little pause, this swell of emotion coming from a place I didn’t know still existed.
It passes quickly, though. Because she’s here.
By all logic and reason, she shouldn’t exist. And yet she does. She exists because of the miraculously skilled hands of Dr. Robert Kiltz and the staff at CNY Fertility. She exists because of a divine confluence of faith and science that church dogma can’t deal with. She exists because we were extremely fortunate to be able to pay for the treatments, which until this year have not been covered by insurance and required financial sacrifices that still affect us to this day.
She exists because of the single-minded determination and persistence of my wife, who is a goddamn superhero.
A big part of our story is the support we had. My wife had a friend who had gone through infertility treatments years before, and she was my wife’s lifeline. She was someone my wife could talk to as she went through the grueling regiment of pills, exams, appointments and daily shots. She could relate to my wife in a way I couldn’t, be her sounding board, her confidant. Her friend was the third person to know my wife was pregnant, and she knew well before our friends and family.
I’ve written five of these essays for past National Infertility Awareness Weeks, and every single year, we've had a friend reach out to tell us their story. But it’s interesting to note this is always done privately, in direct messages. I get it. Infertility is hard to talk about. It can feel embarrassing. It’s not the topic of easy conversation. That’s what this week is about: to make #InfertilityUncovered, to get us talking about this topic. About one in eight couples deals with fertility issues. Someone you know in your life is dealing with this right now.
This week is for them. It’s to tell them that we get it. We understand. We’re here for you. You can tell your story, either publicly or privately. Telling your story makes it better. Talking about it makes it less scary. It makes it OK.
One of our family’s obsessions over the past few years has been Hamilton. And it’s probably no coincidence that one of the core themes of that show is story. The Story of Tonight. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?
This week, and every week, and every year, we tell our story. We tell the story of #projectellie, even as she writes her own chapters every day.
We tell our story.
And tomorrow, there’ll be more of us.