No one should go through IVF alone, and sometimes friends and family just aren't enough. Here's why sharing a struggle with infertility on social media can help.
When I was 20 weeks pregnant last April, my husband and I announced on Facebook that we were expecting a baby girl. Like most people who post such news, I was flooded with congratulations. The next day, I posted this status:
"Thank you all so much for your lovely messages. I know it was strange for me to have been so open in such a public space about infertility but sharing helped me in so many ways. I gained a ton of support from my family and friends and from the amazing people who came out of the woodwork to share their own struggles and successes. Your stories made me feel less alone and also so hopeful."
Rewind a few years.
Starting in the fall of 2012, a year after I had started trying to conceive and within a few weeks of starting IVF, I decided to come out of the "infertility closet" on Facebook. My family and close friends already knew about my issues and I had already told many of my colleagues. However, trying to get pregnant was now my life and because social media is a place to share, I decided to do it.
It's not that I was lacking support. My husband was my rock throughout the process and I received a lot of support from family and friends, but it's hard to completely understand what an infertile woman is going through if you haven't had that experience yourself.
You need someone who isn't going to tell you to "just relax, it'll happen" or "it's all in God's hands now." You need someone who is going to understand why you cry hysterically when you learn that your cousin is pregnant with her third child or a friend conceived on her first try. You need a person to get why you feel like someone kicked you in the stomach every time you see a pregnant person on the street. Social media gave me a place to vent and also made me realize I was not alone.
The social support network
Once I started being open on Facebook, I received many messages from women who had gone through infertility struggles themselves. Thanks to their stories, I grew much more hopeful. Also, I used Facebook to reach out to a friend who had told me about her own struggle in passing. After I sent her a message about starting treatments, she became my IVF coach and my go-to person for every step of the process. She helped me to advocate for myself, do my research and be strong.
I also started coaching a few other women in their own fertility journeys who reached out to me through social media. It felt good being able to help other women—to answer their questions, cry with them and cheer them on when one after another they got pregnant (all before I did!).
When their journeys were complete, they returned the favor and supported me every step of the way. They had all experienced the same feelings of loneliness. They all had stories about insensitive comments made by well meaning relatives or the desperate jealousy they felt when they knew people who got pregnant instantly. They understood the humiliation of having your partner give you progesterone shots in the butt. They told me I wasn't an awful person when I left my sister-in-law's baby shower early after failing a round of IVF only days before.
Good news feels even better
When I finally got pregnant, those women shared my joy in a way that few others could. They understood why I was scared every time I had an appointment, why I held my breath until I heard a heartbeat and why I didn't want to tell anyone for the longest time. It was nice to have friends to share my good news with from the moment there was a positive blood test and heartbeat. They understood why I never fully relaxed until I held my daughter in my arms.
Infertility is a very lonely, uncertain and scary struggle. No one wants to admit to not being able to get pregnant and couples tend to suffer in silence as everyone around them has children. But, if I hadn't shared my story so openly, I never would have created a little team to support me. I never would have developed the courage to trust my gut, to seek out expert help and to be strong through four failed rounds of IVF.
Outside the status box
You don't need to post your story on Facebook, but you do need people. You need a team of women who know how you are feeling and what you are going through. Maybe that's someone you're already friends with, a relative or maybe it's someone you meet at a support group or anonymously in a web forum. You need someone you can cry desperately with or vent in frustration to, who won't spew platitudes at you and who will understand—in detail—every step you take to have a baby.
It took me a lot of courage to share my story but it wasn't one that was worth hiding because the benefits far outweighed the risks. I am forever grateful for my infertility coaches (I should have named my daughter after them!) for giving me strength, hope and courage. I hope all women out there vocalize their own stories one way or another and build their own teams. Remember, we're all in this together.
Author Dorothy Sasso with baby Claire, born after IVF
Dorothy Sasso wrote for Soap Opera Digest for three years before becoming a private school history teacher for eight years. Currently, she is raising her daughter, writing book reviews and covering Philadelphia events for the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, as well as contributing to the website TV Recappers' Delight.