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You’re Not Alone, Girlfriend

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a blog by Pamela Tsigdinos

Conventional wisdom leads many of us to view infertility problems predominantly through the lens of the physical challenge. We line up and clear our schedule for blood tests, HSGs (Hysterosalpingogram), laparoscopies, you name it – all the while beating ourselves up in the process and engaging in a very personal blame game. But there's a very real aspect of infertility that’s often overlooked: the emotional toll that it takes on us and our relationships – in particular those with our more fertile friends.

If you’re like me, you have asked these questions (likely hundreds of times over): What did I do wrong? Why is this happening to me? Why won’t my body cooperate?

You also think that you’re the only one who feels, deeply, a sense of failure and shame for not being able to conceive and produce a healthy pregnancy. That’s because most everyone around you who has never had to confront such a gargantuan challenge assumes that, with the right amount of money, time and medical intervention, you’ll succeed, tra la, and move on with the rest of your life.

Unlike most battles, the longer you fight infertility the more difficult -- not easier -- it becomes, mostly because the battle rages not only in your body, but in your head and heart.

You second guess. Your confidence erodes and your support begins to dwindle as friends don’t know what to say or how to help. How often have you had that awful conversation with a friend who tells you to just “get over it already”!?

That’s about the time I turned online to see if there might be someone (anyone!) like me who could relate. What I found was a courageous, honest, often wickedly funny group of women who – also realizing that they needed support lacking in their real lives – formed a virtual and amazingly intense bond.

Overcoming stress and fighting infertility demons became much easier to face when I had a posse. I was far from alone as I “met” women around the globe sharing similar hopes and fears.

Take Chicklet, for example, who has become a sister of sorts, though we’ve never met face to face. She wrote this familiar post “Just Get Over It” – excerpts of which you’ll find below:

“Because sometimes, talking to someone who DOESN'T get infertility - no matter how hard they try (and she IS trying) - it's like walking through a minefield. Walk 4 paces to the right, and KABOOM, they've said something that pisses you off. Walk 10 paces to the left, and KABOOM, they've said something that makes you cry. Walk 3 paces forward, and KABOOM, they've said something that wasn't even something THEY thought, yet it'll stick with you for months to come.

And the thing that stuck with me? It's when she told me that one of her OTHER friends thought I should just "get over" the fact that I can't have my own kids. That I should "just adopt." That I've "had enough time" to deal with all of this haven't I? And for me, it's not the latter two things that stuck, it's the first one - the "GET OVER" one. Because the thing that screams out to me in that sentence is that as fertiles, they believe I can just DECIDE to "get over" it. That it's in my CONTROL to "get over" it.”

Even me – an old hand at knowing that there is more at stake in overcoming infertility than a positive pregnancy test – I was taken aback at the callousness of her extended circle of friends.

As we all know, there’s the rational side of us that wants to exercise control and to think that it is within our power to manage our emotions tightly. But the reality is that emotions and what they evoke can be hard to predict. Triggers appear around us – from the unanticipated announcement of someone else’s effortless pregnancy to the shock of finding out that the nausea we felt didn’t really signal successful conception.

That’s when having a posse -- a collection of women who know what it means to reel from a sucker punch -- can make the emotional aspects of infertility that much easier to cope with.

Glad you’ve found this place, a place where you can feel you’re among friends . . .

Pamela Jeanne

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Comments (3)

Thanks. With all due respect to counselors who want very much to help, infertility truly is one of those experiences you have to live to truly understand. The complexity of the experience continues to astound me. I was lucky in finding a counselor from RESOLVE a few years ago -- pre-blogs -- who herself had faced infertility. No context setting was needed. We got right to the heart of the matter.

Great article! And I might add, far more helpful than what so called counselling experts offer. I have so say that my url friends were the ones that showed the most understanding, the most support I've ever had.

I absolutely agree that having a network of support from women in a similar situation - even those you've never met, is invaluable.

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