As Executive Director of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada (IAAC), the most important thing I learned in twelve years of conducting infertility support groups around the world is that a support group is only as good as the people involved. If they’re active and open, the group works well for everyone.
OriginElle’s support group, held at 6 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month and free to any patient of the clinic, is off to a good start. The group serves as a sounding board to give patients a chance to talk about their infertility experience; from sharing stories about their assisted reproductive treatment to expressing frustration with their ability to console a partner at home.
Our groups tend to focus on emotional issues because these can be the most difficult for the couple to manage. The casual setting of our groups provides an open forum to share experiences or share in the experiences of others.
Occasionally some of our attendees are in the midst of particularly challenging moments in their lives and their fertility treatments. When they share their experience with the group, it gives everyone the opportunity to appreciate their own situation and perhaps put things into perspective.
Sharing your stress away
As the saying goes, when you share a problem you cut it in half. Sharing relieves stress! People in our support group often want to just “get it out” and by hearing other people’s problems, even if their problems are not similar to your own, you get a chance to contextualize your concerns and begin to move forward. Have you had five transfers without success? That’s heavy-duty stuff to deal with! You need an outlet to dump all that emotion so you can start over again, stronger.
On the other hand, sometimes people just need a good cry. Once it’s all in the open, it’s easier to take a deep breath, get ready to start over and get back in the game. That’s what our support group is all about. Don’t worry, people aren’t always breaking out in tears or having a melt down. But we do keep a box of Kleenex handy, just in case.
We also examine the frustration and the inherent stress involved with infertility. People have different ways of addressing this stress; some people attack their infertility, some develop anger and jealously. For the under 35 age group specifically, it can seem like everyone else but you can get pregnant, or have three kids, while you’re trying desperately just to have one. Our goal is to help you cope and persevere.
We also talk about issues in the workforce because not every employer is tolerant of fertility treatment. Some patients aren’t even able to tell their employers they’re undergoing treatment because of the inherent inconvenience and time required out of the office for treatments and tests. A lot of doctors want you to take a few days off after a transfer, but many women are afraid to ask for that time off. People need to talk these issues out, which is exactly what we do.
Increase your chance of success
Studies prove that anything mind/body related, such as attending a support group, relieves stress. In fact, Alice Domar, a world-renowned infertility psychologist, has done studies proving that people who attend a support group actually have more chances of getting pregnant!
Both singles and couples can come to our group. I find the men in our groups often make very meaningful contributions where women participants also get to hear a male perspective, and the group gives the men an opportunity to open up as well. They can be frustrated too!
Our role as group moderator is to lend an ear and gently guide the group’s conversation. From my work with IAAC, where I conducted 35 support groups, and as director of the Assisted Conception Taskforce, I can draw on the experiences of a lot of people—both patients with problems and the leaders in infertility care working on solutions.
I have lots of miracle stories to share that are highly encouraging. I also have many articles and resources available that apply to any infertility issue. I bring that body of knowledge and expertise to you and the OriginElle support group.
I also bring tea and biscuits to every meeting. Please join us. Our group can help you feel better and give you strength to carry on. And you can help someone else in the same manner, just by sharing and caring.
Thank you! Hope to see you soon.