There’s something about fertility treatment where we find ourselves seeking others who have lived through, or are living through similar to us. We search out a tribe.
Mostly because we feel like we need those who understand; those who will know what to say without offending or without worrying about this; those who get without question why we don’t want to go to baby showers and why christenings require serious mental preparation with a lot of digging finger nails into your palm thinking “don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.”.
These days a tribe can easily mean finding thousands of people in similar situations as us thanks to social media and the internet.
Many join forums where they’re able to share their struggles; topics range from fertility investigations to LGBT pregnancy and adoption and fostering, and so much more; it seems like there is something for everyone.
Some prefer social media and join groups on Facebook that best suits their needs, others find comrades to follow on Twitter and influencers on Instagram, or read blogs.
It might be a friend of a friend or a fertility support group at a clinic that allows you to find someone to relate to. It could even be an unlikely colleague at work.
There’s nothing like bonding over infertility and maybe this is because there is always something to talk about: clinics, medication, doctors instructions and advice they’ve been given etc.
Infertility is daunting and because of this it has the power to connect us to strangers who we then share our anxieties with and go on to develop strong bonds with so that inevitably we feel less alone.
The fertility veteran
When you broach the subject of fertility treatment with a fertility veteran, thinking you’ve found your tribe, you might be disappointed to discover that instead of their support and empathy you’re given a lot of advice.
Perhaps advice is what you need at the time- if you’ve asked for it, but maybe what you really want is to be heard; for someone to share and understand what you’re going through, and not be told what you should be doing. Sometimes others measure us against what they did or what they think we should be doing.
Of course, there are some amazing women and men who have undergone fertility issues who have the ability to empathise, listen and provide evidenced based information in a non-judgmental way. You don’t have to look far to find them on social media (see below).
Whether you prefer going for a run or walk and listening to a podcast, or scrolling through Instagram, or sitting down in the evenings after work to read your favourite blog they each have a way of connecting with their audiences in multiple facets.
Some accounts to take a look at
Donor egg journey: Defining Mum
Male Infertility: Rhod Gilbert
Miscarriage: Vanessa Haye
Endometriosis: Emma Barnett
Secondary Infertility: Fleur de Force (not exclusively a fertility blogger)
What to eat whilst TTC: Amber Woodward of The Preggers Kitchen
Single parenting: The Stork and I
Sperm donor route: Liv Salone
Unexplained infertility: Jessica Hepburn
PCOS: Smart Fertility Choices
All of the above: Parenthood in mind/ To birth and beyond
Friends of friends
If they are a friend of a friend, there is a good chance that you have met them previously at social gatherings. Whereas before you might have had a friendly chat at a hen party you could now have something you can really bond over, something that will bring you together. If they haven’t already suggested it, ask your mutual friend if she would mind passing your number on to her friend so you can ask some questions.
To have somebody at work who can really understand and appreciate what you’re going through could have a significant impact on your ability to manage your mental health.
A 2016 survey from the Fertility Network found that 42% of participants ‘experienced suicidal feelings as a result of fertility problems and/ or treatment.’, and less than half of those who were employed felt very well supported by their employer throughout this time.
I chatted with somebody recently whose work place introduced a ‘buddy system’ as part of a new fertility policy. The idea behind this is to give employees embarking on fertility treatment the opportunity to have a peer in the work place who could support them through this time. How compassionate!
You might already know of others at work who have faced similar fertility issues which may well lead you to confide in them with your own problems.
Friends who can’t say “me too” but get it.
A tribe could be found in a friend who has 3 children, with 1 on the way who doesn’t give you advice but instead listens to how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.
The friends who text you at random times to see if you’re ok. The ones who send you gifts to let you know they’re thinking about you. The ones who won’t broach the subject unless you do.
Finding a tribe of like minded individuals, or just the one, who can say “me too” means they will more than likely understand better than anyone else what you’re going through.
Who’s in your tribe?