Parole fertili: journeys in search of a child
Parole Fertili - Fertile Words - is a digital story-sharing project set up in 2016 in collaboration with Dr Cristina Cenci (Center for Digital Health Humanities).
Since then, hundreds of people have shared their experiences about their journies in search of a child on the project’s website (please hyperlink) [www.parolefertili.it] and the related Facebook storytelling community with thousands of followers.
Before the arrival of Parole Fertili, the Internet provided limited opportunities to obtain information on fertility. Online forums and specialist websites were the only sources for medical and scientific information on medically-assisted procreation procedures.
Parole Fertili represented a brand new approach giving the Internet a completely different narrative register.
Fertility issues are a great taboo. Unlike other medical conditions, couples with fertility problems only become patients when they want a child, as, without this aspiration, they remain fertile despite being medically sterile.
Both women and men find it difficult to discuss the hardships, emotions and fears encountered during medically-assisted procreation programmes.
Parole Fertili takes away the solitude often experienced by aspiring parents by presenting them the platform to share their decisions, doubts, problems and expectations with others in the same position. The anonymous intimacy that online interactions allow encourages participants to express themselves openly and share their experience of infertility.
Parole Fertili is a metaphor for giving, in which the gifts are the life stories and emotions of those who share their experiences of how it is nevertheless always possible to feel fertile. The invitation to adopt these stories aids to empathise with and relate to the experiences of others. Story-sharing is a way of compassion by offering meaning, inspiration, courage, strength and words to share the experienced fears and dejection.
Since its launch, Parole Fertili has been expanded to include other languages and aligned activities. In 2018, three short films were produced, and a book was published by Mondadori Electa (C. Cenci, 2018), bringing together 50 stories on the indifference, difficulties, desires and fears associated with fertility. This volume is also distributed in MAP facilities to support couples during their programme by drawing on the strength and energy of those who are facing or have faced the same journey.
In 2019, these stories inspired the theatre production Quasi Genitori [Almost Parents], which won the 2020 Life Science Excellence Awards for the Patient & Advocacy Program of the Year section.
The arrival of the COVID–19 emergency in March 2020 prompted the launch of the #LettureFertili project, a community-based initiative consisting of daily group story readings. Parole Fertili will evolve in 2021 with an integrated digital drama therapy project included in a MAP centre treatment programme. The project aims to stimulate creativity as a resource for improving treatment compliance and enhancing the therapy experience.
Parole Fertile has shown that aspiring parents need more than medical and institutional information. We need to create a common horizon of trust to expedite and anticipate choosing the right time to have a child.