Guest Blog by Stephanie Fry, author of The IVF Journal book.
Back in 2009, I was lucky enough to help the folks at Circle + Bloom as they developed their IVF/IUI Mind-Body Program by giving them a patients perspective on an IVF cycle. Since then their product has helped thousands of women and I hope my guest blog, How and Why to Build a Support Network during Infertility Treatment, will too.
After my first round of IVF resulted in an early pregnancy loss I was at a very low point in my already distinguished infertility career. It was then that I realized I needed some support. And quick.
So I did what I do best. I made a plan. A plan to get myself some much needed help.
As I researched my options I immediately started to feel better. I was thrilled and uplifted to learn that there were individuals, organizations, websites and businesses dedicated to infertility education and support. Finally, I didn’t feel so alone, so isolated.
After some initial research, my first step was to call my fertility clinic and talk to my nurse. I felt really comfortable with her and she seemed like a good place to start. When she got on the line I blurted out a simple statement and asked a simple question.
“I’m really struggling. Where can I get some support?”
Not very eloquent and certainly not the easiest thing I have ever done but I am so glad I took that first step. It was the beginning of my healing process and without it I’m not sure I could have continued with treatment.
She referred me to a therapist who specialized in fertility. What a relief it was to find someone who fully understood the process of infertility treatment without my having to explain everything! My therapist helped me identify and work through the incredibly complex range of emotions that infertility can bring and she also introduced me to RESOLVE and The American Fertility Association, two wonderful non-profit resources that I still rely on today. I began attending a peer support group and with the help of my healthcare providers, non-profits, organizations, on-line resources, individuals and some great books I found everything I needed to educate myself about my situation.
It took some time but within a few months I had surrounded myself with a network of people, organizations and information sources that supported, educated, comforted and understood me. With all this support I began to really understand my diagnosis, my treatment and what my options were for coping with it all.
Understanding brought comfort. Comfort was followed by strength. When I had regained my strength I knew I had successfully created a support network and I can’t imagine having gone through the next few years of fighting infertility without it. It is the one thing that I universally recommend to anyone battling infertility.
Here is a bit more on why and how to build a support network,
“THE IVF PROCESS is not always easy, and having access to your own personal support network is a great way to stay positive, informed, and connected during your treatment. It is also a great comfort to know you have go-to resources when you are faced with difficulties, whether it’s a small bump in the road or a larger emotional or physical crisis… As you consider your options, keep in mind that your support network should provide you with resources that not only educate and inform but also help you feel connected and comforted while you go through treatment. Strong resources help offer emotional relief by providing opportunities for you to soothe yourself in whatever way you are most comfortable with.
They also help you:
- Explore and vent your feelings—including unsettling ones
- Learn and gather information
- Make decisions—both large and small
- Develop coping skills
- Mourn loss and celebrate success
- Relax physically and emotionally”
Excerpt from The IVF Journal, Chapter 13: Don’t Go It Alone: Complementary Therapies and A Support Network.
No matter what stage of the infertility journey you are in or what type of family building you are pursing going through infertility alone is never a good idea. I encourage you to try creating your own support network. As you do so just keep in mind that every person who experiences infertility is unique and has different needs. Your network should reflect your needs, likes and personality. Also, it doesn’t need to be huge and complicated just jotting down a few resources, even if you never need them can’t hurt and might be just what you need if you find yourself needing some extra support.
Stephanie Fry is an advocate, volunteer and respected member of the local and national professional community serving those with infertility. A former marketing executive turned professional infertility patient, her work in infertility advocacy began in 2010 as a Board Member and the Marketing Chair for RESOLVE New England, the largest regional infertility organization in the country. Currently she is the Director of Corporate Partnerships for RESOLVE New England and continues to volunteer as an Infertility Peer Discussion Group leader in Massachusetts, a role she has enjoyed for many years. She created The IVF Journal as a personal coping mechanism based on her own experience with extensive fertility treatments and hopes to educate, empower and comfort women who are building families through IVF and other infertility treatments.