Trying to conceive can quickly escalate from a fun, flirty couple’s project to an emotionally intense and overwhelming medical undertaking in just a few months.
I know this firsthand: my husband Brad and I spent years trying to conceive and it was the toughest time in our relationship. What started as something light-hearted and beautiful (“We’re going to have a baby!”) quickly deteriorated into something stressful, expensive, and completely overwhelming (“What if this never happens for us...”). We went from being a healthy, happy 30-something couple with every opportunity ahead of us to broke, hormonal infertiles who avoided parties, travel, and all the things we once loved. And while our usual support network tried to be there for us, it was really tough for anyone who hadn’t been through it firsthand to understand the intensity of the ordeal.
This empathy gap and lack of understanding is why 61% of women going through infertility don’t tell anyone about this struggle. Not their moms. Not their friends. No one. Which is absolutely heartbreaking, because the only thing worse than going through infertility is going through it alone.
Infertility is a complicated, emotional, messy-as-hell experience for 1 in 8 couples (1). The whole ordeal can quickly hijack your life, because when you’re dealing with fertility issues, you’re also dealing with marriage issues, medical issues, financial issues, friendship issues, and oftentimes mental health issues. That’s a lot of issues!
The good news? Today, suffering in silence is completely optional. There are many ways to find new TTC (trying to conceive) friends who know what you’re going through and can support you in a real, meaningful way. In fact, there’s a whole underground world of women sharing their journeys and supporting one another right under your nose.
So how can you find the emotional support and community you need when trying to conceive? Here are a few awesome ways you can start connecting with other people who get it.
Fruitful:Fruitful is a fertility mentorship matching program. Individuals struggling emotionally with infertility are paired with a mentor who has experienced it firsthand but is now on the other side. The service is a great way to talk one-on-one to someone who truly understands the struggles of TTC. The benefit of having a mentor? It’s less competitive than going through the experience with someone else actively trying to conceive, and mentors are also able to offer the perspective, knowledge, and guidance that only comes with a bit of time and distance.
Instagram: The Instagram #TTC community is massive. Just search the hashtag #TTC or #IVF or any other fertility code word, and you’ll see a bevy of women (some anonymous, some loud and proud) sharing the most intimate details of their journey – from positive OPKs to confessionals about ditching their friend’s baby shower. It’s a great place to read other women’s stories and find “cycle buddies” who are also going through what you’re going through. The only downside? Lots of BFP pregnancy test photos, bump pics, and ultrasound scans...so if seeing these might trigger you, this is a huge downside to consider.
Private FB Groups: Private Facebook groups are another way to connect with women also struggling with infertility. It’s a great resource for finding others going through the experience but offers a lot of the same pitfalls as Instagram (mainly, potentially triggering posts and photos from others TTC). Perhaps the greatest downfall of Facebook groups is that even if the group is private, it’s still connected to your personal account. And as you probably already know, nothing on Facebook stays private for long.
Support Groups: In-person fertility support groups are another great way to find fellow #TTCSisters. Listening to someone tell their own story, and in turn sharing your own, can be incredibly powerful. There’s something about looking someone in the eye and really seeing their pain and hope that makes you feel less alone. The only downside is the availability of these types of groups in more rural areas, and also, it can be terrifying for introverts to share their story or even go to a support group in the first place.
What resources have you found useful? Please share your favorite TTC communities and why you love them in the comments below. And remember, you do NOT have to go through infertility alone.
Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility. It took her and her husband Brad 3 years, 2 rounds of IVF, and 1 frozen embryo transfer to see their first positive pregnancy test which brought them their daughter, born in March 2018. Elyse lives in Minneapolis and loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyoncé, and pretending she’s into yoga.