- Diagnosis &
- Family Building
- Support &
- Give Back
- Get Involved
By Jane Hutchinson Castanias
Published in Resolve, for the journey and beyond, Fall 2011 Issue
“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” -- Groucho Marx
The funny thing about support groups is that most people in them wish more than anything that they did not qualify for membership. That was certainly true in my case. Even after my infertility diagnosis, hope sprang eternal – well, for a few months, anyway – as I figured “why would I need a support group? Surely I’d get pregnant on my first treatment cycle.” What is it they say about life being what happens when you are making other plans?
Once it began to sink in that infertility would not be a few months process, I sought resources on the web. I found articles, boards, web sites and more. This, I thought, would provide the answers I needed. I did find lots of information – but there was something lacking. Often, after hours in front of the computer, I felt sadder and more alone than ever. Information wasn’t enough – I needed a personal connection. Despite having a wonderfully supportive husband and amazing family and friends, I needed someone to talk to who had been in my shoes and understood exactly what I was going through. So I gathered up my courage and joined a group.
Heading to my first support group meeting, I was as nervous as someone on a blind date. Would I like them? Would they be weird? Would they think I was weird? What would I say? Maybe I should just turn the car around and spend the evening at home – but desperation sent me in the door. And I found… a group of women just like me. Nice, normal, successful, otherwise happy women, all of whom so badly wanted to become parents. As we shared our stories, I realized – for the first time – that I was truly not alone in my struggle.
At that first meeting and in the months to follow, we shared stories of grief: heartbreaking setbacks, failed treatment cycles, periods of depression. We also vented our frustration – and laughed – at the stupid things people say to those trying to conceive. We shared survival tips, protocol information and a few of us even helped with injections. We celebrated the successes of group members who finally did become parents, with a special kind of joy that can only be shared with someone who has been through the struggle. We became friends.
After a while, I became a “veteran” support group member and realized how much help I could give those just starting out. I reached out even more, volunteering with RESOLVE. I found an entire community of people who had overcome the challenge of infertility or were in the midst of their journey. As the host of my support group “graduated” to parenthood, I took over hosting duties. And I found the more I shared with other people, the more positive and hopeful I felt about my own experience.
Once it became clear that treatment was not the answer for us, my husband and I joined an “exploring adoption” support group. I was angry and overwhelmed – here I had learned all this information about infertility treatment, and now I had to educate myself about an entirely new path to parenthood. But at my very first meeting, I heard about the adoption agency that addressed all my fears and was perfect for us. From others in the group, my husband and I learned tips to speed up the paperwork, information that de-mystified the home study and shared frustrations at the length of the process. And once again, we made some amazing friends.
Now that I am a parent, I have found that the people I met in my support groups are among my most treasured friends. Our playdates, cookouts and girls-nights-out do not revolve around re-living our infertility days, but we each have a special bond and a special appreciation for the fact that we are parents. With my friends who are adoptive parents, we are building a community of support for our children, so that they have peers who understand their background – in a sense, building a support network for them like the support network I found through RESOLVE. And I have found some meaning from my own journey by continuing to volunteer as a support group host, to help those who were in my shoes and provide the hope to keep going.
RESOLVE support groups gave me support, information, friendship and hope at the lowest point in my life. At a time when I felt I had nothing to give, I found the strength to continue my journey increased exponentially the more I reached out to help others in the same situation. Now that I have completed my journey to parenthood, volunteering my time by hosting a support group helps give meaning to my struggle and honors the gratitude I feel to those who helped me along the way.
Jane Hutchinson Castanias currently serves on the National RESOLVE Board of Directors and the Regional Advisory Committee for the Mid-Atlantic Region of RESOLVE. She has volunteered in a variety of positions for RESOLVE over the last decade, including Support Group Host. Jane is a former attorney and now is a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband are the proud adoptive parents of two daughters, ages 2 and 5.