A support group without coffee…

first-birthday-cupcakeTonight is the regular monthly meeting of my RESOLVE support group.  And, it’s a pretty special one too, if I do say so myself.  It is the group’s 1 year anniversary.  That’s damn awesome.

And, a little hard to believe.  On one hand, how has it only been 1 year.  When I think of who I was on the eve of founding the group, I honestly shudder at my naivete.  I had just come out of the IF closet to my family, we were just about to embark on our first cycle since my methotrexate-induced miscarriage the prior November, and I had just completed my initial workup and laparoscopy with RE#1.  I was also totally terrified of actually having to speak to real, live, hurting strangers about that deep pain that united us.  And, above all, I was totally convinced the first meeting would be me alone in a room with my husband since I clearly was alone in my struggle and no one else would show.  And, I kept joking, we wouldn’t even have the support group pot of coffee TV promises us.  Coffee and TTC don’t mix, you know.

In actuality, while terrifying, that first meeting was one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve had on this long journey.  And, I was most certainly not alone.  8 women and men attended that first session.  In the year since, one couple has had their IVF miracle, two couples have endured miscarriages, one is jumping back into treatment with a faith and optimism that warms my heart each time I see her smile, and another is rounding the final bend in her pursuit of pregnancy through donor embryos.  Attendance at our meetings has ranged from 7 to a room-busting 23, and my current e-mail list reaches 38 women.  Nine couples are currently building their families through pregnancy or adoption, and several of those women have transitioned from receiving support at our monthly meetings to engaging with our “Pregnancy after infertility and miscarriage” Facebook group in an attempt to work through the unique (and often unexpected) pain and worry that comes when pregnancy is achieved after a long struggle.  We’ve discussed topics ranging from jealousy to heartache, marriages to holidays, and surgeries to semen analyses.  Our stories are all so different and so impossible to whittle down to simple one-liners here, but each of their stories has become my own story, too.  I laugh with them, I cry with them, I celebrate with them, and I hurt with them.  Coffee or no coffee, this group energizes me and gives me the strength I need to keep on going.

On the other hand, how has a year passed already?  Milestones are hard for many of us in the infertility community.  I know the due date for each of my pregnancies, and silently mourn them each time they roll around.  The date of our first RE appointment, the date I got the call about my Hashi’s, the morning I found both my tubes were blocked, and the moment I saw my first positive pregnancy test, are all etched into my brain.  Not only due to the memories they evoke, but also because with each new doctor’s appointment, each second opinion, each new procedure, I have to recount them all on demand.  It’s hard to move on when you so often have to look back to provide a full medical history.  There’s a hint of that pain in this anniversary milestone as well.  Second on my list of fears when I started the group, just below “no one will come,” was the worry, “What if I get pregnant right away?”  It’s so common a worry that a good part of my training was focused on it.  Yet, it wasn’t a worry I clearly needed to be fretting over.  And, when I expand that worry out to, “What will happen when all my friends from the group move on without me?” it breaks my heart even a little more.  While I’ve moved 9 women to my “graduates” list, that means many, many more remain behind.  As I grieve with them, it adds fuel to my advocacy fire.  This journey is not mine, it is ours, and because of that I feel more justified in fighting the misconceptions, the ignorance, and the arrogance that so many bring to the discussion of infertility.  And, only a few short weeks away from National Infertility Awareness Week, I’m happy to have this reminder of these strong women and men I stand behind.

So, for the audience participation part of the program, have you attended an in-person support group?  What was your experience?  What was discussed or what did you wish was discussed?  Is there a support group in your area?  Would you consider starting one?  Catch you all in the comments!

5 thoughts on “A support group without coffee…

  1. We have a Resolve support group in my town, but I haven’t gone yet. I have lots of excuses. Like you, I keep thinking, what if I get pregnant right after I start going? I don’t want to be THAT woman. I’m a professional in a small(ish) town. What if people I work with in the community are there? The last thing I need is for my emotionally vulnerability during support group to compromise my professional authority. I have a great online support system. What more could a group like this offer? You see, I’m full of excuses!

    • Thanks for chiming in!

      Couple things. First, I have to say coming into it that I thought it would be very hard to watch people leave the group soon after joining because they had had success. That said, it’s been the total opposite. I get so nervous for our members once they do become pregnant or as they approach finalizing the adoption process. I feel like we are leaving them out in the cold. Setting them up to face all these new challenges alone. Yes, I do experience joy for their happy news, but I also wonder what their support system will be when they move on from us. So, while everyone is going to be different, I do have to say that the “immediately getting pregnant” thing has been much less of an issue than I thought it would be. And, of course, it’s also sobering to realize that not nearly as many women leave the group for that good reason as I initially feared might. 🙁

      On your second point, I TOTALLY get this one. The group I founded was in a large suburban area and attracted women and men from as far away as an hour. There was a major need for the group, especially given how populated the area is. This summer I moved to a much more rural little village. Anyone living here is almost by rule in someway associated with my employer (you wouldn’t live here if you weren’t). I can’t imagine starting or attending a group here. Too much potential for awkwardness of the sort you describe. So, I continue on with my old group, hosting using video chat.

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