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Finding Comfort with Others

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a blog by Ellen S. Glazer, LICSW, July 15, 2010

I started a group last night. I’ll admit that I was excited about it for days. I’ve been leading groups for decades, and I still get excited and energized when a new one begins. Last night’s group is for women who are considering or pursuing adoption. I’ve got another going for parents through donor conception. When one group ends, I miss it and am eager to begin another. What is it about the groups that so delights me?

Making Fertility Connections

First, I’ll admit that I am a born matchmaker. I love to put people together whom I feel belong together. It’s the “yenta” in me — it makes me so happy to make connections. I’m always on the look-out for single men for my single friends and actually, for anyone I know. But back to the topic of infertility related groups

As I was saying, I love to put people together, and what better groups of people to connect than those going through infertility, egg donation or adoption? Each of these experiences is isolating. In each instance, you can feel like you are traveling an unfamiliar journey alone, and there is no way to identify fellow travelers except in clinic waiting rooms, adoption agency workshops and support groups.

In addition to reducing isolation, groups offer people information — valuable information. I sometimes see people bringing notebooks to group meetings. So much information is shared, and so often people want to write down the name of a physician or a test or an agency. Although what I like most about groups is the camaraderie that develops between and among members, the “gallows” humor, the mutual support, I know also that one of the things that people gain most from being in a group is education. Pure and simple, groups provide essential information.

Is There a Downside to Support Groups?

Are there any downsides to groups? Yes, and the degree and prevalence of the downside depends on the type of group. When I do a women’s infertility group, I am always reminded of the woman who began her first group meeting many years ago by saying, “I can tell you are all nice women, and I would like to get to know you, but I want you to know that if any of you gets pregnant before me, I’ll never want to speak with you again.” Most people are not that blunt, but I think her sentiments are shared by many. It’s upsetting to be in an infertility group and have others get pregnant. It’s not usually so with egg donation groups, since people find it inspiring to have confirmation that egg donation “really works.” Similarly, adoption groups most often celebrate when a member adopts. Still, there may be those quiet questions, “She adopted such a beautiful baby, and with my luck, we’ll wait much longer and get the clunker.”

Positive Outweighs the Negative

Groups are not simple and not always easy, but even so, I believe and delight in them. I recently ran into a woman who was in an adoption support group several years ago —12 to be exact. I know it was 12 years ago because she told me that her 12-year-old daughter and the daughters of two of the other moms in the group are all going away to camp together this summer. She smiled and said, “The women I met in that group have become some of my best friends. We’re going to have a lot of fun when the girls are away!” Her words prompted me to look back with a touch of irony and remember how much these women once yearned to be mothers.

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