This past week marked National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) — a time to recognize those struggling to build their family, which is about one in eight people across the globe. So many suffer in silence while struggling with infertility, and NIAW helps to empower them to share their story and find a community that can help support them.
One woman decided to share a heart-wrenching and deeply vulnerable moment with the world when she uploaded security footage that captured her and her husband discussing their journey with infertility — in hopes that it would help some feel less alone and help others understand just what it feels like.
Milan Sanchez Cook is being applauded after recounting a moment from her infertility struggle, showing just how heartbreaking, mentally draining, and hopeless the journey can feel at times.
“It’s National Infertility Awareness Week and I’ve been trying to think of something I could share. I made this and immediately hid it away, telling myself ‘it’s too sad’ ‘no one wants to see this’ ‘it’s too real,’” Cook wrote in the caption on the now-viral clip. “But maybe those are all reasons why I need to.”
In the clip, captured by Cook’s home surveillance, Cook approaches her husband to vent about how frustrated she was feeling during a darker time in their fertility journey, noting that she wanted to feel her sadness, but felt concern about hefting that sadness onto others because she felt they did not understand.
“I just want to be sad. I don’t want other people to see me sad. I don’t tell other people because other people don’t understand,” she says to her husband in the clip as she comes in for a hug on the couch.
“Nobody understands. Nobody really knows but you.”
Cook pauses and cries while her husband wraps his arms around her.
“I try really hard to stay hopeful, but all the time, I think, ‘I just wasn’t even meant to be a mom. It’s not gonna happen, not for us.’ It’s not fair,” she says through sobs.
Cook continued on in her caption, explaining that her infertility journey has been filled with so much frustration and devastation, especially watching those around her continue to build their families. However, she powers on and continues to be grateful.
“And all that sadness and happiness, frustrations and gratitude can coexist. So give your friends going through hard times grace. I promise they are happy for you, but they are also sad for themselves. And that’s okay,” she wrote.
Around 17.5% of the adult population – roughly 186 million people – experience infertility. This stat alone shows an urgent need for affordable, high-quality fertility care for those in need.
Besides the obvious, infertility has also been associated with social stigma, relationship instability/divorce, depression, and intimate partner violence. Up to 60% of infertile individuals reported psychiatric symptoms with significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression than fertile individuals.
Almost half of infertile women have depression, and almost 87% of infertile women have anxiety.
Despite the magnitude of the issue, solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infertility — including assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) — remain underfunded and inaccessible to many due to high costs, social stigma and limited availability.
The average patient goes through two IVF cycles, bringing the total cost of IVF (including procedures and medications) between $40,000 and $60,000.
Cook’s bravery in sharing her deeply vulnerable moment will hopefully shed more light on a situation that so many people suffer from silently.