Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Sisterhood

Aside from the furtive glances I've cast in the direction of others in the RE waiting room, I had never actually encountered another 'infertile' up until this July, at least not one who was up front about their struggles. To add to that, I had never read an infertility blog and overall, being in the center of a serious fertile baby popping storm, I likened my state to feeling as one would being a leper in a fashion show, minus the colony. July also marked our approximate four year 'anniversary' of TTC. What an anniversary, huh? Four years of swimming through this on my own, having solely my personal journal and sometimes Mr. S. to shoulder the burden. Not a person in my fertile world could understand my acronym lingo (my Mom still refers to IUI as IVI and IVF as IUF) and most of all, no one in my world could understand the silent torture of my unsuccessful pursuit of child, not even Mr. S. At best, I was utterly and completely alone. And let me tell you, it sucked. So, this summer, I set out to change that.

After my miscarriage, I decided that I was either going to completely lose it or take positive action. It was my choice. I wasn't about to let what I thought to be nature's cruelest trick (infertility and now miscarriage) take my well-being, too. So, I made a plan, and it was good. No, it was great. Better than I ever imagined it being. It went something like this:

Step One: Find a support group.

I went online and managed to locate a monthly meet-up in San Francisco through Northern California's Open Path (formerly connected to RESOLVE). I live 45 minutes outside of the city, so it was a trek, but well worth it. There were only three of us that showed up for that month's meeting, but within five minutes, we were all in tears and completely connecting. While they were tears made from heartache, they were also tears of relief. So much of what I was thinking and feeling resonated from them. Since then, I have attended every month and I look forward to the catharsis. It always draws new people in and as a self-proclaimed 'regular', I am delighted to see the meetings grow and to also see the same look of 'finally, someone understands me!' on other's faces. And it's good to feel that this is no longer a revelation to me. But although the group is a welcome haven, I found that once a month just wasn't enough.

Step Two: Start a blog.

After I met with the group, I realized the extraordinary amount of baggage I carried around that I had yet to filter through and decided that I needed another outlet. Being that I had blogged for over 7 years prior, starting this site was a natural progression, so I began it less than a week after my first support group meeting. I found that I had to restrain myself from posting entries on an almost hourly basis. All of the thoughts that had consumed me for the past four years were finally coming to light. It was relieving. Better yet, I was reading other's stories and I found much of what I had discovered with the group: that my thoughts and feelings were far from out of the ordinary. The support that I have gathered through comments on my site has strengthened me tenfold. Still, returning to 'real life', with friends and family who either know nothing of our IF or dismiss it, made me realize that I still needed more.

Step Three: Hang Out with Support Group Buddies

One thing led to another and by September, I got a chance to meet Nikki in person. She is just as amazing as her blog would lead you to believe, and we spent a few wonderful hours over coffee discussing everything from our treatments and hopes to the 50-year-old cougar at the outdoor tequila bar across the way who was shaking her butt in front of all the terrified little 20-something guys. Good times.

Then, recently, some of the ladies from the support group decided to meet for dinner on a regular basis. The most recent time landed us at a great Thai place in the city where we shared pomegranates and a flaming bowl of liquor and plastic monkeys while wearing our matching pomegranate-colored thread bracelets. When I think of this unexpected union, I think of the title of Tara's blog (Divine Secrets of the Infertility Sisterhood). We are already, in such a brief period of time, a sisterhood. In fact, somewhere near the end of that evening, after further sharing our war tales, we gathered our plastic monkeys and declared them lucky. Our lucky monkeys, if you will:

(I blurred one of the ladies out as she wished to remain anonymous-she has a very public job)

Several days later, I received the following from one of my monkeysistas:

The timing of this was impeccable, landing in my mailbox just hours after my IUI. I can't tell you what this means to me.

Step Four: Mind/Body Workshop

So, as if all of that support wasn't enough (it takes many shoulders to bear the weight of infertility, doesn't it?), most of us ladies registered for a Mind/Body workshop that begins this Wednesday. I look forward to learning how better to deal with the stress and sadness this journey has reaped on me, but most of all, I look forward to seeing everyone-all of my lucky monkey sistas. Although so much more loss and disappointment has come to pass over the last year, I can safely say I am in a better place today than I was one year ago. And I would be remiss if I didn't owe it to all of you, both my online and real-life IF buddies. Thank you. I hope that all of you are able to or have already found your own sisterhood as well.


Tara said...

What a great post. I don't have a real life support group - not in the sense of having friends that are experiencing IF, too. Just my friends and family that share my sadness through this nightmare. Starting a blog, though, has been such a tremondous help for me. I love my blog-world sisterhood! Hope you have a great week!

Nikki said...

Lovely post as always Shelby. I was thinking this evening that I would email you and check how you're doing and when we could get together again! I logged on to do just that, and I saw this post! Awwwww!

(We should meet soon. You are not going to be allowed to drink because you're getting your BFP in a few days. I on the other hand may become a tequila fueled cougar (actually puma at my age) HAHAHA)

You know, I've always hesitated to go for a group meeting. I don't know why. My friends in IRL know about our IF. My online friends know about our IF. I don't know why I hesitate to go talk to people who would get it way more than my friends IRL do, and would be there in person to hug like online friends can't.

Something for me to think about....

luna said...

sounds like you had a great plan, and a wonderful support group.

Trace said...

I went about it from the opposite direction in that I had a blog first and then joined a support group. I thought it was so neat when I met people IRL vs. online. The when I met som bloggers IRL that was even better!

Another Dreamer said...

Great post. I'm glad you found all those things to help you through this.

I have yet to go to a support group, there aren't any in my area. I've thought several times about trying to set one up, but I honestly lack the time to head up a group. It's a shame. Maybe someday though...

still waiting said...

Love the sisterhood... I found mine at a Mind Body group as well, but prior to that I had started reading blogs, and found that I was not alone in this struggle!

Best of luck!!

I Believe in Miracles said...

I love this!! It's amazing to have supportive friends. I have met some IRL friends now - and definitely consider my blogger buddies true friends. I don't know what I would do without you. I love that you met blogger buddies. I wish y'all lived closer!! So much fun.
Let me know what you think of the Mind-Body class. I've heard mixed things, but not sure I can add anything else to my plate right now.

Hope2morrow said...

I think it is great that you took charge of your infertility and related emotions! Good for you, dear!

Take charge of yourself, and then maybe you can take charge of me. LOL!

Michelle said...

You sound a lot like me. That is exactly what I said this past July after my 4th loss and 8 years I wanted to find others like me. So I got connected online and found a support group and now I feel a lot better. It's amazing what this has done. I am glad you found it as well. I hope all goes well for you!

Sarang said...

This is one of your monkeysistas and I am so grateful to know you. You have a beautiful way with words and you're just an all-around kick-ass kinda girl. The pomegranate string we wear has been a daily source of strength in knowing I am not alone. Sometimes I look at it and just feel comfort thinking of you all...other times I feel empowered that we can shape our destinies~~~whether sharing our stories with family/friends and "fertility educating" them or by blogging and spreading the word. WE ARE NOT ALONE. I am hoping (and praying as my religious side is emerging these days) during this waiting window for you.

zsiványlány said...

Sarang, Shelby, and you all Ladies out there, let me give a shout-out for Shelby and Sarang and my other Monekysista, as my little yellow monkey is mischievously curling its tail next to my handlotion on my desk. I totally choked when I read your post. Because part of the reason I am surviving and hoping is because of you! I will never forget you all sitting there and nodding and jumping in to confirm my feelings and experiences. I will never forget the empowering feeling I had sitting in that circle with you, Monkesistas. I will never forget our dinner and our monkeydrink. My drive for the Mind/Body Class came from all your support and encouragement and enthusiasm. Our dear virtual Monkeysistas out there, we will certainly keep you posted on how the class goes.

Lisa said...

What an amazing plan! Infertility robs us of so much in life and it's so nice to read how others pick up the peices and 'try' to live in this fertile world. I'm not there yet, unfortunately, but one day I hope to rejoin the land of the living and find happiness, friendship, and sisterhood along the way. you sound like an amazing woman! I wish we infertiles could all meet up and have some drinks. wouldn't that be an amazing dinner. We could take over a whole restaurant and let er rip!

Angie said...

What a wonderful group that you have found. I do not have one person in real life that I know who is going through IF. Other than my DH and it is pretty hit or miss as to whether I feel like we are going through it togther. Therefore, I feel alone so much of the time. I think it would be so great to have a couple IF friends to vent to, in person.

Martha said...

You inspire me, Sending Happy Monkey Wishes to you. I'm so glad you found much needed support and you have so much to give in return.
Big ((HUGS)) Shelby!

Just Me. said...

Oh wow!! Lovely pictures, Shelby!! I met up with a group of IRL infertiles in June this year. I am still very close with a few of them. I think it was hard for some of them to continue being friends with me now that I'm pg, but I completely understand it.

I only started looking for the "same" people like me early this year when I started feeling really depressed and thought that I was the only one feeling stupid with all these slew of screwed up emotions.

Lovely post, as always.


Lost in Space said...

What great steps to take charge of all this hell that is IF and what a great support network you have found!! I'd be lost without my blog buddies. (:

Thanks for sharing all that has helped you.