Group Support as an Antidote to the Isolation of Infertility
Opening up in a group for infertility vs maintaining privacy
Posted Mar 01, 2011
The time has come for you to start a family, but nothing is happening. Of all of the challenges that come at you from all fronts when you're trying to wrap your brain around the word "infertile," one of the most painful is that suddenly you are out of the mainstream. It's one thing to be out of the mainstream and floating down a pleasant tributary, so to speak. It's quite another when that tributary feels like it's heading for Niagra Falls. Social isolation, especially if you've always been in the thick of things, is an ordeal.
The pain of isolation of infertility is multi-faceted: 1) You're childless and wherever you look you see babies and bellies. 2) You need to talk to someone in addition to your partner and don't know whom you can trust to enter into the sanctity of your relationship. And 3) You're angry that you can't just make love and get pregnant but need costly and invasive intervention to have a chance to achieve your longed-for family.
What follows is an excerpt from one of my archived newsletters and a blog post in response to it. See if they broaden your perspective.
"The Power of Words Spoken in Group" was contributed by my colleague Nancy Kaufman, LCSW. She wrote:
Last night a woman told her story out loud for the first time in front of other people. It had taken her years to summon up the courage to attend this group, years to come to terms with belonging here. But the look of relief as she spoke, and her feelings of comfort as she heard others speak, was palpable from across the room. She was, after all, talking to a room full of men and women who all understood how she felt [to be considering sperm or ovum donation] because they too had traveled this same long road. ...When someone is given the chance to "Just Say Everything" and their fears, frustrations and devastating disappointments are verbalized, heard and understood... miracles can occur and families are made.
A former group member posted the following response:
"The Power of Words- spoken in group" is such a poignant phrase to those who have experienced it first hand. As I read this article, I too, remember the day I sat in Helen's [mind/body support] group, talking about my infertility woes. With tissues in hand, I remember looking around the warm candle-lit room and seeing the heartfelt tears pouring from other hopeful Moms-to-Be as I expressed my feelings. They too felt "a failure", they too were "angry," they too were so very, very tired of the entire process. At that moment, I started feeling I was not nearly as alone as I once thought I was. The love and camaraderie from this group was overwhelming. I found myself counting the days until my next session - with our dear Helen guiding us every moment with her words and calming voice. Just being near her made us find the strength inside ourselves we forgot we had. I learned during these group sessions to "breath in" all the wonderful energy and love, and breath out the negative thoughts and feelings which were causing harm to my mind and body. I found power within myself. I drew strength upon my very own strength and energy. One has an empowering revelation when one can do this. I found peace within myself, and realized I was right were I was supposed to be. To have that, especially during what I felt was my weakest point in my life, is something I will cherish (and use) forever. I also learned from Helen the importance of ‘living in the now' and how to truly listen to our bodies and our mind, together. Both must work together in order to achieve balance. I learned the power of breath and how to truly embrace and use the breath as a vehicle to de-stress our body. Unless you have personally been through it, you can not imagine the emotional (mind) and physical (body) stress one goes through during the ever painful and tedious infertility treatments! During those group sessions, I realized how powerful my positive thoughts were, how using imagery through breath and meditation is a power in itself. "If you imagine it, you become it." My group met and took place almost 6 years ago.... and the memories seem so alive and fresh. I hold those days dear to my heart. Yes, 6 years... and TWO beautiful children later (successfully conceived through IVF) I can finally take a deep breath and say "Thank you, Helen, and my special group.....thank you for being part of my journey" ~ Cynthia, former infertility patient
I consider those who have been through the infertility experience to be the real experts and those from whom the most inspiration can be derived. Some people, possibly you, feel that their fertility is nobody's business but their own. While they are absolutely right, the dilemma is that you need intervention to get to your goal and getting to your goal is an endurance test that is also a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual crisis. Those who do not go public usually have really good reasons not to, which is why I never insist that people open up. But the purpose of this blog entry is to inspire you to look at the overall picture from another angle where you might see the value of releasing some of the enormous tensions of the fertility journey. Cynthia so beautifully elucidated the relief that can be found with others who understand best what you are going through.