Finding An Infertility Community Online
I’ve written before about how isolating my fertility journey was in the beginning. I didn’t expect to struggle to conceive. At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who was going through what I was. The people around me seemed to fall pregnant and grow their families effortlessly. So, I endured the shame and turmoil silently, feeling alone and afraid of the judgement I might face if people knew. Eventually, this all took its toll on me, because I ended up in a desperate place, uncertain of where to turn. I knew that something needed to change, so a few months after having a miscarriage I started searching for all kinds of therapeutic outlets to help me process everything. I also began writing about what I was feeling and exploring how I could alleviate my emotional turmoil. One day, I am still not sure why, I took some of the personal thoughts that I’d written – bits about what I was experiencing and what was helping me through it all – and then posted it on my blog and social media platforms. As an introvert, it took some courage to share my vulnerability publically. Yet, something inside me pushed me to take that leap despite my fear of feeling exposed.
To my surprise, just when I was questioning whether I’d done the right thing, I started getting messages from women who had read my posts. Some were kind messages of encouragement, while several were heartfelt messages from women telling me that they too were struggling to conceive or silently grieving a miscarriage. A handful of the messages turned out to be from friends who I’d known for many years but who, like me, had kept their own struggles hidden. I discovered that I was not alone. This positive feedback encouraged me to release my fears and keep sharing my story openly and honestly. It inspired me to keep writing and speaking up about the emotional fallout of my difficult fertility journey and the things that were helping me cope.
Sometime before that, I’d created my Instagram account as a gratitude journal where I could capture the bits of inspiration that I was grateful for. I felt inspired to slowly begin sharing about fertility related topics and things like the books I was reading, fertility affirmations, what I was eating to support my fertility wellbeing on my account. The more I did, the more I came across like-minded women with TTC Instagram accounts who were trying to conceive, struggling with infertility or overcoming pregnancy loss. As the months unfolded, I soon found a whole new community and support system that I didn’t know existed before. It opened up the door and directed me to safe spaces where I could express myself and also feel understood. It was educational too, as just as I was able to share information, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to learn from other women too. Through these social media connections, I’ve found my way to both online and in-person infertility support events, workshops and groups, all of which have been a tremendous help to me. I’ve gotten great recommendations and referrals for everything from books, podcasts and products to practitioners and hospitals. I’ve also learnt so much about what to expect when it comes to the different types of fertility treatments from the women who have documented their personal journeys at every stage of the process. There are hundreds of brave women whose stories and successes give me hope every day.
Over the years, it’s been amazing to see women from all walks of life and in different countries around the world come together, empathize, offer advice, send care packages to each other and become an integral part of one another’s support structure. I’m also so grateful that several of the connections that I’ve made via the fertility blogosphere and via social media have blossomed into beautiful friendships.
During National Infertility Week in the US last year, Good Morning America interviewed women about their experiences with infertility. One of the interviewees, Lauren Mendoza, shared about the support she found from TTC sisters on Instagram. She said:
“This isn’t Insta-perfect. This is about empowering others to share information and be supportive…These women get it like no one else can. It’s a sisterhood.”
‘Sisterhood’ is an apt and beautiful way to describe the kind of comradery that exists, and this is certainly something that I’ve found to be true in my own case. While some, like me, have become comfortable publicly sharing their fertility journey, not everyone is. So, another advantage is that the online world allows those who prefer to keep their infertility private, to be anonymous, and conceal their identities by creating aliases or private TTC specific social media accounts so that they still have access to their infertility community without concerns of outside judgement.
I strongly believe that it is healing being in community with other women who share similar experiences. It gives you perspective and helps you to feel less alone in your struggles. Even when you have great support from your family and friends, there is something special about the level of understanding and the bonds that we form with those who are in the same boat as us. Having these connections to a likeminded community have proved especially valuable now at a time where we face the impact of the coronavirus and lockdown.