Finding Sisterhood through Infertility
Yesterday was International Women’s Day.
On this day we celebrate the myriad contributions of women to society and the well being of the world. This international holiday has been around since 1909, as women have struggled since practically the beginning of time for equality and recognition. Even so, I didn’t really start hearing about Women’s Day until just a few years ago.
This year it seemed as though Women’s Day sentiments were ubiquitous. My Facebook feed was full of news and inspirational photos marking this day. And yes, I posted an inspirational photo myself in the Facebook group that I created 2 weeks ago to support my online fertility community.
The things I enjoyed reading the most yesterday were the shout-outs people gave to special female friends or family members, or other inspirational women in their lives. Yesterday was a virtual love-fest for women the world over, and the special gift the women in our lives give us of unwavering, steadfast support to help us conquer whatever obstacles or setbacks life throws our way.
One place that the support of other women is most invaluable is on the fertility path.
I’ve shared before that I didn’t do a great job at reaching out to others for support while I was trying to conceive. As a result I often felt very alone. I think it’s natural to feel alone on this journey, but mine was a self-imposed isolation of my own doing. Not healthy.
I didn’t share much about my fertility journey with even my closest friends. I was ashamed of my struggle to get pregnant and felt like it was my own fault for not trying to have my family when I was younger. They all had children, so I didn’t’ feel like they’d understand what I was going through.
As time went on and I felt more and more alone, I did want to share more with my friends. At that point the idea of “catching people up” on everything that had happened already was overwhelming and exhausting to me. So many people didn’t know about my first pregnancy, first miscarriage, Diminished Ovarian Reserve diagnosis, or being told I had less than a 2% chance of getting pregnant.
I didn’t even tell my mom when I was pregnant the first time, which means that I didn’t tell her about my miscarriage either. Now that my mom has passed away, I can’t even express to you how much I regret not telling her about that. No one knows us like our mom, and I wish more than anything that I’d let her support me through what was at that time the most enormous loss I’d ever experienced (surpassed only by the loss of her the following year).
I did lean on my husband for support, for which I’m so grateful, but I’ve since learned that it’s not the same as having the support of other women. Not to diminish the guys, and men experience pain on this journey too. But women have a completely different understanding and empathy of what it’s like to lose a child, have trouble conceiving, or experience other setbacks in this thorny path of fertility.
I did find a few like-minded women in an online fertility discussion forum, and this saved me from complete isolation. One woman in particular, Melina, became a good friend, and helped me process my first miscarriage, regularly checking on me with loads of encouraging texts and emails.
Melina is also the one who leaned on me to start fertility treatment, and I owe her a debt of gratitude. Six months after starting treatment I was pregnant with my son. I know I’d have eventually gone for treatment on my own, but it’s because of her that it happened when it did.
Now that I’m a fertility coach, and in a position of offering support, I see much more clearly the need, and the value of, female support when struggling with infertility. You may have noticed that in many of my posts I suggest you seek out support for helping you cope with the many twists and turns on this path. There’s a reason for that. Support works!
I’ve witnessed clients come to me in a place of despair, and professing their gratitude to me at the conclusion of our session, after I’ve “talked them off the ledge.”
I’ve attended fertility support groups and seen the magic that can happen there as support and love are freely given.
In my new Facebook group, I’m already witnessing the bonds of sisterhood beginning to form, after just two weeks. It makes my heart feel so full.
Even though my fertility story has a happy ending with the birth of my son, after a relatively short period of struggle, I wish I could go back and change this part of my journey.
If I could do it over, I’d seek out the support of my friends. True friends are there for you, even if they don’t totally understand your experience. I’d let my mom be there for me. She’d have wanted to be, I know. I’d seek out more Melinas.
Even though International Women’s Day has come and gone, it’s not too late to give them the thanks and gratitude they deserve. Or find your tribe of supporters if you feel like you need more.
Who are the women in your life that support you on this complicated journey called fertility?
Lots of love,