Support Group Surprises

December 9, 2008

A few weeks ago I discussed the the support group that I was about to join, and then I reported on the first meeting. Since then, I’ve been to a couple of other meetings. Without giving specifics, here are some things that have surprised me.

What Hasn’t Been Said

  • Few people have mentioned what kind of work they do, and even fewer have said exactly where they live. In a normal context, those are the first two pieces of information people tend to say after their name. It doesn’t actually matter, and maybe it’s more “anonymous” this way, but it struck me as odd to know extensive details about someone’s uterus but not know if they live in my neighborhood or work in the same place as I do.
  • Blogging. I haven’t and won’t mention blogging. So far, no one else has mentioned blogging either, so as far as I know I’m the only blogger. Of course, as far as they know, no one is blogging at all (or maybe someone thinks that she is the only blogger…).

What Has Been Said

  • “At least I’m not 40!”
  • Dozens of variations on “my husband is an idiot and he doesn’t understand me or support me sufficiently in infertility.” It happens so much that I feel sheepish about telling the awful truth about my husband’s awesomeness.
  • “I would never do IVF. It’s not natural.”

Can you see why I prefer the blogosphere?

Cold Coffee Report

November 14, 2008

Yesterday I informed you of the my first meeting with an IRL support group, which then was upcoming and now has passed. Without going into specifics (for the sake of confidentiality), here’s how it went.

  1. No cold coffee. Tea.
  2. Several people have seen the same RE as I have (Dr. Full Steam Ahead), and multiple other professionals’ names were mentioned as common links. One benefit of local IRL support group over blogging, I suppose.
  3. The blogging format works better for me than the in-person talking format. On a blog, you can always offer a complete story/argument/thought. Even when commenting, you get the space you need to say what you have to say. Sometimes in conversation, it can be hard to get points in before someone else starts talking, or lines of conversation get redirected before you can talk. That’s really saying something, because as you may have guessed by now, I am neither quiet nor shy — nor taciturn!
  4. Because it’s a safe space, people really expose their vulnerabilities. I suppose that many bloggers do too, but the effect is different when you can actually see people crying, or expressing anger, or looking afraid, or numb. In that regard, blogging is probably easier to manage emotionally — as a reader, if you are overwhelmed by someone’s display of emotion, you can just click away or skim the rest of the post. And if you want to respond to emotion, you can offer appropriate words in a comment whether or not you actually feel them. Mustering genuine empathy is a lot more work in person — and it becomes obvious when you’re forcing it. From the perspective of the writer/speaker, I think it’s more comfortable to blog difficult emotions than speak and feel them to a room of people. At least for me.
  5. There are bloggers that I would meet up with if the opportunity arose, but I would have to have made a strong personal connection. With the support group, I could see random lunches happening after only a couple of meetings — the bar is set lower.
  6. As with blogging, people are at all sorts of different stages in the process. As a blog reader, I can and often do choose to focus on people at similar stages to mine. As a support group member, you’re stuck with the newbie and the woman who may be pregnant at the next meeting. On the other hand, as a relative veteran, you are seen as a source of information.
  7. I didn’t mention anything about blogging. I don’t know that I will.
  8. There are all sorts of things I’ve blogged about that I don’t think I’d ever say in the group. They may know my name and face and other identifying info, but you get more of me.

If anyone has questions (such as Cara, who is trying to start her own loss support group), I may answer them in the comments or I may hold them for another post. I will probably write another post later about some other process issues, such as things that I expected to get said that didn’t, or things that I was surprised actually came out of someone’s mouth. You know I love a cliffhanger. But first, the hysteroscopy. And then a proper Show and Tell. And maybe a Perfect Moment Monday.

The bottom line? I like blogging better. But I’ll still go back.

In non-hysteroscopy news, I am headed to an infertility support group today. I’m frankly still a bit surprised.

Over four years ago, after miscarriage #1, I decided to put TTC on hold, because I just couldn’t handle any more heartbreaks for a while. Even so, during some sleepless nights I would still seek out information about infertility online, trying to come up with a plan of attack to use once I could muster the strength. In my research I determined that support groups and acupuncture both significantly improved the success rates of treatments. I decided that once I got back on that horse, I would do one or the other.

I chose acupuncture.

Not only did I choose acupuncture, but I decidedly chose acupuncture over support groups.

I have nothing against support groups. In fact, I attended a support group briefly in college for a non-infertility issue (was there really ever such a thing?). It was amazing. It was a life-changing experience. But it seemed strange to join an infertility support group when I was specifically on a break. “Yeah, still nothing to report this week. I’m still not pregnant. I’m still avoiding the doctor’s phone calls. Oh, I did have to go to the drugstore and buy some more condoms!”

Yeah, so acupuncture made much more sense. I have been receiving regular acupuncture for over four years (initially every 3 weeks or so for a couple of years, and then weekly for the past two years). Even though I was taking a break from TTC, I decided to start acupuncture to get the energy flowing, figuratively and literally. I also thought it could help some other chronic issues like back problems. After a year, I added Chinese herbs to the mix, since some practitioners believe that herbs have more impact on fertility than acupuncture. I am a big fan of both, and I have seen some clear impacts on my cycle and my overall well-being, but obviously I still have nothing to show for the thousands of needles and thousands of dollars.

And so I ended up in the infertility blogosphere, which has been the virtual equivalent of a support group. I have been entirely satisfied. The nature and content of my sleepless nights has entirely chnaged, and there are far fewer. Thank you all.

And then, last week, a support group essentially came to me.

I already know a couple of the members. I wouldn’t have sought one out at this point, but I couldn’t say no to this one. I think it could be really good. I’m curious to compare and contrast the online and IRL experiences.

I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow. And then the next day, I head to the hospital for surgery. It’s quite a busy week in terms of infertility! Especially considering that I’m not even actively trying to conceive this cycle.