This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. The theme this year is "You Are Not Alone". Read more here:
I've been thinking about this theme a lot this week, and how important this simple phrase really is.
Infertility can be incredibly isolating. Life becomes a series of doctor's visits, and tests, and disappointment. It's hard not to let your mind become a bit obsessed when so much of your month revolves around treatment; not to mention the effort of dealing with the grief and anxiety that are infertility's best friends. The isolation, however, also stems from not being able to talk openly about what has effectively become the biggest "thing" in my life right now. There are exceptions of course (I have a select few amazing friends and my mom has been like a therapist), but the general population is not expecting, "I'm doing shitty; I lost a pregnancy a couple months ago" as an answer to, "how are you?" Trust me, I've actually tried this and it doesn't always go over so well.
In spite of this, this week's theme has really been driven home to me over the past few days. First, I participate in an incredible community of people trying to conceive after a loss on a message board:
A few days ago, a lovely lady started a thread that just opened a door to vent. Now, we do a lot of that anyway, but this was different. This wasn't discussing a specific trigger that occurred one day; this was letting all the emotions and deep heartache and worry out of the cage. And something amazing happened - you could almost feel everyone shaking their heads in unison reading each other's posts. I found myself reading paragraphs that put into words what I was feeling way better than I could articulate myself. Similarly, when I posted, I had a ton of people express that they felt the same way I did.
There were some clear themes - a feeling of loss, as if something had been stolen from us. Besides the obvious loss, there are losses of happiness, of feeling like ourselves, and of the lovely innocence we once had about this process. There was also a theme of anger; of wanting to smash things. (This one may or may not have been started by me. Seriously folks, it's been taking a lot of effort to not take a hammer to things. My cell phone should be incredibly worried since it's usually the vessel of insensitive texts or Facebook baby announcements.) In a nutshell - this shit is the shittiest. But this thread was like looking around the trenches and realizing you had a ton of people fighting there with you.
On Monday I also went to my first support group. I won't lie - I sat in my car for a good 15 minutes watching what kind of people were walking into this thing deciding if I should bail or not. I ultimately went in; and I was very glad I did. I kept picturing a, "hi, my name is _____ and we've been trying for a year and a half, let's all cry now" stereotype, but it wasn't that at all. No introductions or stories necessary - we're all there because we're generally dealing with the same thing. Maybe not the same protocol or the same medications, or even the exact same step of the journey, but infertility is a giant umbrella. Just one in which the rain is on the inside instead of the outside.
We all just....started talking. We shared knowledge about doctors (coincidentally, all of the girls there were either seeing the same doctor or about to) and treatment. We shared experiences with medications. We shared laughter over the silly things people have said to us. And that 1 hour and 45 minutes flew by. When I got home and my husband asked me how it went I simply said, "My god, it was SO GOOD to just talk with a group of people who just get it on every level." (Ok, I've never "simply" said anything, so it came with a lot of other babbling, but that was the general idea).
So, while this whole damn thing sucks so very hard, it is absolutely true that I am most definitely not alone. And neither are you.