Monday, February 4, 2013

The Great Divide Between IFers and Parenting IFers

Once upon a time, there was an infertile girl who wanted to find other infertile girls, cause ya know, sometimes being infertile together makes it suck just a little bit less. Anyway, this infertile girl emailed the group leader of a local support group. In the email, infertile girl thought it might be helpful to slip in that she has a son who was born by way of IVF, but was looking for support as she embarked on the daunting process again. She was very excited to receive an immediate reply and was ready to get her childcare in order for the Tuesday night meeting until she read the email. You see, apparantly, according to the group leader, infertile girl did not belong. While those weren't the specific words the leader used, the suggestion in the email for infertile girl to start her own secondary infertility support group instead was clear enough.

Just in case you were wondering, I'm the infertile girl.

This whole thing went down last year and I've been on that support group's email list since (and yes, this was through RESOLVE). I still see their group emails every other week and I've read announcement after announcement of group members who become pregnant and immediately bid farewell to everyone...for good. Look, I totally agree that it is bad form to show up to an infertility support group with a big, pregnant belly, but somehow I think that the message 'you are no longer welcome as soon as you get that first positive beta' is being fed to these members, based on my previous encounter.  Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the tone of the emails I've seen.

Because, somehow, becoming pregnant and having a child makes you a pariah to some in the IF community and that, my friends, is just sad. I've not lost complete sight of the stabbing pain I felt (and still feel) when someone announces their pregnancy (even if it is hardwon). It's a real thing and should be treated respectfully, but what message is this group sending to their IF sisters? We will support you as long as you are not successful? Instead of fair-weather friends, we will only be your bad weather friends? You must trade community and friendship for your heart's desire?

Pardon me while I get out my tiny violin, but sometimes the isolation that comes from 'crossing over' seems to be just a continuance of the isolation you felt from being infertile to begin with. And I fear that parts of our community are just pushing that cycle on.

I guess I'm guilty in a sense. There have been a number of blogs that I've followed for YEARS who became pregnant recently, many of them naturally with their second. And quite frankly, I just had to stop reading. It hurt too much. It was what I wanted and was denied. But while I would distance myself in person if we were friends in 'real life' to an extent, I'm not sure I would ever deny them community in the form of a support group. If they felt the need to seek our support, even after having their kids, I would never turn them away because IF is never cured, at least not emotionally. The scars run deep, so no matter where you are, if you need someone who 'gets' that, come back. I might feel a pang of jealousy as I glance at you from across the group, but I won't deny you entrance here. This IF community should be a place of healing, above all else.  Let's not be our own worst enemies.

I suppose I was a bit spoiled. I had and still have a real-life group of IF sisters who handled our pregnancies with incredible grace. And I say 'our' as there were four of us who got pregnant all at once. Can you imagine what that does to the dynamics of an IF group? Four pregnancies at once? (seriously, our betas were just a few weeks from each other's) In many cases, the group would likely fall apart. Well, it changed, but I can't say for the worse. In fact, we are all closer today than we were back then.  It was always due to a delicate balance of sensitivity-the workings of true friendship. In fact, I think that's all dealing with IF appropriately is-learning how truly to be a friend. I never expected any one of them to become intimately involved in the details of my pregnancy or baby unless they so wished. And they never denied me friendship because of it. And quite frankly, if they had turned their backs on me because I had G, I would've been lost.

I so wish that the IF community as a whole could function like that. And maybe we do, but it concerns me when groups like the one I reached out to feel the need to become exclusive. This IF stuff looks different for each and every one of us, but make no mistake. It always sucks.


AnotherDreamer said...

I totally agree with you. I think it's sad that they thought you belonged in another group and denied you support.

And trying to label someone with primary IF as secondary IF after they've had one child isn't accurate at all. RESOLVE says that secondary IF is having issues conceiving subsequent children, while primary IF if when you have issues with one, and however more children you have. You'd think a IF support group would know the difference. It's not the same thing at all- they're both painful, but it's not the same. I wouldn't be able to relate to a secondary IF group because my issues are primary IF. And being excluded from a group wouldn't help with those issues either. That's just a shame.

Anyway, well said!

asrubin10 said...

Definitely well said. I tried to voice my concern over similar issues, but can't express them nearly as eloquently as you!

I would love to get involved with RESOLVE, but it really isn't a friendly place for those who are successful-even if through methods of ART. It's unfortunate...

Lorraine said...

Wow! I am so surprised that the attitude is so harsh.

I am seeing more and more how IF can break us apart as much as bring us together. Why does it have to be like that? The whole thing brings so many feelings of unfairness and despair. I get that they are trying to make a "safe space" for people who need it, but I would think that most of them would ultimately hope for a chance to do it twice, too.

Can you find another group? Make another group?

Shelby said...

I thought about starting a secondary infertility group, actually, until two things occurred to me:

1. I don't actually have secondary infertility (as you said, AD). Primary infertility is still our diagnosis.

2. I really think no one would show up to a secondary infertility group. They're all too busy with their kids (which I get) and quite honestly, the need to seek group support isn't as pressing for most once you've had one.

So, I have considered starting a primary infertility group in my county (which is neighboring to this other group), but my area is a lot less populous and geographically spread out. I just question whether anyone would show. I guess there's only one way to finding out.

JenS said...

What a horrible support group! I actually went to my first support group last month and there were a couple women there who already had a child. One came easily, one was through IVF. It didn't bother me. We were still all having the same problem of not being able to currently get pregnant. The group leader even made a point to say even of you get pregnant you should still come to the group for the first 12 weeks.
Hi from ICLW.

SRB said...

"I think that's all dealing with IF appropriately is-learning how truly to be a friend. " Hear hear! I, unfortunately had the opposite experience with my only IRL IF friend when I became pregnant and then miscarried. It was, and continues to be devastating. And even now that we are both parenting she still doesn't get it.

This post has such an important message, however. That even within the community the myth that pregnancy/baby cures you is unfairly propagated. And that has got to stop if we are to truly be supportive in helping each other heal. I hope that this conversation, which is gaining real traction, helps to do just that. Thank you for putting your voice to it.