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Support Groups: A Personal Story

RESOLVE Support Groups: A Place to Find Strength, Friendship and Hope

I remember feeling deeply embarrassed the first few times I confessed that we were having trouble starting a family. My confession meant that I had failed in some way. My embarrassment only deepened when instead of sympathy, I was bombarded with advice. “Go out to dinner, order a bottle of wine, and just relax!” “You’re putting too much stress on yourself. You should go on a cruise/take a vacation/quit your job.” “I know this one couple who were trying for a really long time. And then they stopped trying and they got pregnant!

My embarrassment quickly gave way to exasperation. People treated me as if I was at fault. I wasn’t trying hard enough. In some people’s opinions, I was trying too hard. I felt that no one understood. They didn’t understand the extensive tests and examinations. They didn’t understand the invasion of privacy that accompanied these tests or the months and months of fertility treatment. Most of all, they didn’t understand the loss of our pregnancy.

Throughout it all, I still resisted the idea of attending a support group. I was scared of what I might find behind those doors. Would this be a touchy-feely group with hand holding and trust falls? Who were these people? Why would I trust strangers with my darkest fears and my saddest and most tearful moments?

What I found behind those doors was a unique group of men and women. They suffered from PCOS, endometriosis, male factor infertility, and unexplained infertility. They had never been pregnant. They had miscarried early. They had second and third trimester losses. They were already parents and struggling the second time around. They were teachers, doctors, social workers, and nurses. They were all different but they all understood. They were strangers when I walked into the room but by the end of the meeting, I realized that we were all part of the same tribe. There were no trust falls, but there were plenty of people to hold my hand when I cried. This was a group of people who knew my pain and did not judge me for it. We shared in each other heartbreaks and celebrated each other’s successes. These men and women cried with me when I cried and made me laugh at times I didn’t know laughter was possible.

When my husband and I made the decision to adopt, we had to learn a new language. My support group was amazing. They asked questions and shared their personal experiences with adoption. They were willing to learn for me and from me. Still, I missed the feeling of having a group that spoke my language. Unable to find a group like this in the area, I made do with online forums and books to help us navigate this new territory.

After some time, I realized that although we had to do this alone, I could help others who were starting out in their journey and connect with those that were further along. I contacted RESOLVE and began the process to become a peer-led support group leader. After gaining so much from being a member of a support group, I hoped that in a small way I could give back to this community that helped me through so much. I hope that the people that come to the group find their tribe. I hope they find a place where they can learn and share without judgment and gain strength, friendship, and hope. I hope they find a group of people that understand.

Infertility can be an alienating experience. Many of us tend to suffer in silence. I’m grateful that with the help of my support group, I didn’t have to. By volunteering to host a support group, I hope that I can make the world feel a little less alienating for others.

Contributed by: Anna Slager is a RESOLVE peer-lead support group host.