It's not a new topic, but one that we (Homme InFertile and myself) continue to revisit. Support. It was what my blog post during Infertility Awareness Week was about. (Ps. if you haven't voted and are enjoying my blog, I'd love your "support" ;) vote here). But support is something I'm realizing not only ebbs and flows, but is and always will be something we have to ask for, seek out, muster within ourselves, and accept the lack of.
Support shouldn't be hard to come by, but for infertiles it often is. Perhaps because the topic of infertility is so taboo. Perhaps because the topic is so sensitive. Perhaps because the majority of people don't (and/or can't) really understand. Perhaps because many of the people in our lives aren't capable of giving the kind of support we need. Regardless of why... it sucks. And it hurts.
See being infertile means a lot of things. Your identity is thrown to the wolves, and you either let them gobble it up, or you fight to retain as much of it as you can. But no matter what, you lose a little bit of yourself along the way. You might be hardened by the fight, you might be broken and lost. Each journey is unique... and ever evolving. For me, I am constantly fighting to regain a part of myself. But what I've been learning is I have been changed. I can no more easily become the person I was before, than a soldier forget the war. I have never served in the war, and I cannot imagine what it is like. However, comparisons to the mental-emotional damage have been drawn by experts and I am not surprised. I feel like I'm fighting a war. Each failed cycle a battle lost. But the war forges on without an end in sight.
But I have my husband, and I remind myself how lucky I am to have him, how lucky we are to have such a solid supportive marriage. Some days we're enough for each other. Other days we're both down and broken and we need someone else to pick us up together. It takes a lot of strength to pick someone up when we too are broken, but that's what our marriage has become. I put my own pain, sorrow, misery on the shelf for a moment, and hold him in my arms and tell him it'll be okay. I tell him I love him, and support him. In that moment, no one is supporting me. Another day, and he does the same for me. It's survival. But it's not easy.
When you have been on the infertility journey as long as we have (5+ years) you notice that people you open up to and share your vulnerability with choose one of three paths.
1) Stop asking.
These are the people who don't know how to handle it. Our situation makes them uncomfortable. They don't know what to say, nor do they know how to ask what to say, so they just stop altogether. Maybe they themselves have gotten their happily ever after and life has become busy and overwhelming for them. They're not capable of supporting, so they don't extend the olive branch. Or maybe they harbour guilt, so they avoid the source. Maybe they themselves are also going through some sort of emotional life crisis. No matter the rationale, in my humble opinion, none of these are a valid excuse. If you love someone, "Stop Asking" is not an option. You're only further isolating those individuals and making them feel more alone, and unsupported. I don't stop being a part of my friends lives because I'm struggling. I still call up and offer support to any of my loved ones when they need it. I might not always be the best support, but I'm there, and they know I care even in moments I can't fully show it.
2) Ask. Provide support.
These are the people who may have experienced infertility themselves. Or they have had close friends or family members go through it. Or they are just damn good people who can put their own sadness/pain on hold and provide support to another person in need. These people are the ones who ask what they can do, even when they have no clue how to handle it. These are the people who check in, and call you just so you know you still have friends and family members who care. These are the warriors of our lives. Thanks to these people, we feel less alone, and know there is support when we need it.
3) Try and help.
These are the people who feel helpless and powerless watching infertiles struggle. They try and offer well-intentioned advice in an effort to fix our problems for us. Having to tell them we've tried that, or that's not relevant to our journey, or why that's not a valid option for us, only creates more stress. In reality, the only way to really help someone struggling with Infertility is to become an "Ask. Provide Support" person. It's not your job to fix us. That's our job, and our doctors and specialists.
Anyways. I'm saying all this because we as infertiles need to learn to ask for the type of support we need. It's not always easy telling someone that the way they are handling your interactions is unhelpful or causing more harm than good. But it IS necessary. If those people can't handle or respect your needs/wishes... then maybe it's time re-assess that friendship. That being said, remember that your struggle is no more or less than anyone else's. Wanting people there for you, means being able to step outside of your own struggles and be there for others when they need you too... especially if this hardship sticks around for you as long as it has for us.
Finally, an end note. I often write poems to express the way I feel. So a new one below about the identity struggle of infertiles:
Me. I. A dissolving persona.
Masks of truth.
Masks of youth.
Me. I. A broken fraction.
Full of sadness.
Full of madness.
Me. I. A hopeless dreamer.
Years are passing.
Me. I. A mother, a father.
Without a child.