Parole fertili: journeys in search of a child
Parole Fertili - Fertile Words - is a digital story-sharing project that was set up in 2016 in conjunction with Dr Cristina Cenci (Center for Digital Health Humanities).
Since then, hundreds of people have shared their experiences regarding their journey in search of a child on the project’s website parolefertili.it and the related Facebook storytelling community now has thousands of followers.
Before the arrival of Parole Fertili the only opportunities the Internet provided for obtaining information on fertility were forums and the specialist websites that provide medical and scientific information on medically-assisted procreation procedures.
Parolefertili.it represented a brand new approach because gave 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 giving them the opportunity to share their decisions, doubts, problems and expectations with others in the same position. The anonymous intimacy that online interaction allows 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 is an invitation to empathise with and relate to the experience of others. Story-sharing is a way of caring for others by offering meaning, inspiration, courage, strength and words to share the fears and the dejection experienced.
Since its launch, Parole Fertili has been expanded to include other languages and parallel activities. In 2018, three short films were produced and a book was published by Mondadori Electa (C. Cenci, 2018), bringing together 50 stories that tell of the indifference, difficulties, desires and fears associated with fertility. This volume is also distributed in MAP facilities in order to support couples during their programme by allowing them to draw 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 in daily group story readings. The evolution of Parole Fertili will continue in 2021 when an integrated digital drama therapy project is included in an MAP centre treatment programme. The aim of the project is to stimulate creativity as a resource for improving treatment compliance and enhancing the therapy experience.
Parole Fertili has shown that aspiring parents need more than medical and institutional information, and that we need to create a common horizon of trust in order to expedite and anticipate the choice of the right time to have a child.