War of the Infertiles

Learning to Support Each Other, No Matter What Our Stories Are

Woman looking angry at computer
Fertility forums should be a place of support... but sometimes, things turn sour.. Maskot / Getty Images

When I first looked for an infertility community online, I found a few really supportive groups. I was lucky. I didn’t know it then... but I do now.

We cheered for each other, and we held onto hope for each other. When one of us had a loss, we cried for each other.

But most importantly, the support was pretty much unconditional.

Trying for your first or third child? Didn’t matter. Trying for a year or eight years?

Didn’t matter. Experienced no lost pregnancies or many lost pregnancies? Didn’t matter.

If you needed support, you received support.

This is how it should be.

But it’s not. Not everywhere. I’ve seen the Dark Side. And it can get ugly...

Who Has It Worse, Who Has It Better Game

There is a mind game that many of us play, a game I like to call, "Who has it worse, who has it better."

The game is not unique to infertility survivors, but we do have our own version of the game.

There are two ways to play.

In Version #1 of the game, we have it worse, and someone else (or everyone else) has it better.

  • I've been trying for four years, but she has only been trying for two.
  • I have no children, but she has at least one already.
  • They have only taken Clomid, but I've done IVF.
  • They've tried for the same number of years as I have, done IVF as many times as I've done - but they at least miscarried once. They know they can get pregnant. I haven't even miscarried.

    Husband and wives can play, too.

    • He only has to go into a room with a cup, while I get prodded and poked with needles and ultrasound wands.
    • She only has to deal with needles and procedures, but I have to live with the fact that I'm the infertile one.

    Then there is Version #2 of the game. If you play this way, someone else has it worse, and we've got it better.

    • I've been trying for four years, and she's been trying for two - but at least I have the support of my family. I know I'm lucky for that.
    • She already has one child, and I have none. I can't imagine how she spends so much time around kids, thinking she may never have another. She knows what she's missing.
    • They've only take Clomid, and we've done IVF - I remember what it was like just starting out with treatments. Everything so new and foreign. Now, I'm practically best friends with the ultrasound tech, and that familiarity has made things easier, in some ways.
    • I can't imagine what it's like to be so close and then lose a pregnancy. That must be so heartbreaking.

     You can play either version of the game, no matter what your situation is. After all, there is always someone who has it better or worse than we do.

    Version #1 will probably make you feel worse about your lot in life.

    On the other hand, if you’re playing Version #2 of the game - while it won't take away the pain of what you're going through -- might actually help you feel a tiny bit better.

    Now, it’s natural to do this kind of comparing inside.

    It’s when people start playing the game out loud – and posting their judgments online – is when things can get really nasty.

    When IFers Fight: The Compassion Wars

    Infertiles already struggle for support and acceptance in the read world. All those lists of “What Not to Say to Someone with Infertility” come from the very real fact that IFers hear these things often. They are hurtful and painful... but they are coming from people who really don’t know any better.

    But what happens when hurtful words are tossed around between infertiles?

    I’ve seen online conversations where a women suffering from secondary infertility gets bashed – yes, bashed – for daring to express her suffering.

    Because why should she complain, at least she has a child.

    I’ve seen IFers get angry by others posting pregnancy success.

    If a fellow infertile gets a positive pregnancy test, I for one want to see it! So I can cheer and feel hopeful, both for them and myself.

    I’ve seen IFers get into arguments over whether someone who has been trying a short while should be allowed to mingle in the same group as those who have been trying for years.

    Like being an Infertile is some sort of exclusive club. With very, very strict admittance guidelines.

    To those of you creating drama – and I know you know who you are – why do you do this?

    Anger is one of many possible reactions to infertility. Go ahead and be angry at the universe for the infertility it’s thrown at you.

    But when you aim your anger at other infertiles, you don’t just hurt them and the group where you are doing it – you hurt yourself.

    That toxic emotion sinks in deep and just intensifies your emotional pain.

    What Do You Do When the Anger Hits You

    Some of you reading this have gotten burned by other infertiles, and some of you are the burners.

    To the burned, listen to me – those people making drama are just acting out their inner pain. This is not about you. This is not your fault.

    If a group you’re in feels toxic and drama is brewing constantly, find another group. They are not all like this! There are many positive, more accepting forums and Facebook groups online.

    Don’t put up with it. You don’t have to, and you don’t deserve this.

    To the burners, listen to me – maybe your hormones are running wild on Clomid now and you realize you’re lashing out. Maybe you’re in so much pain that seeing anyone else’s story that seems to you to be somehow "less bad” makes your own pain boil over.

    Three things… if you know it’s hormones, and you can feel it’s hormones, before you type that flaming post, walk away. Call a friend. Write it down on paper and wait. Hormones can make you do crazy things, but don’t let it ruin how other people perceive you.

    You don’t want to be seen as a trouble maker.

    Second, remember that there are groups centered around particular diagnoses or time trying to conceive. There are groups only for those with primary infertility, or only for secondary infertility.

    Find one of these groups instead of trying to change or break apart a group that includes people you don’t feel comfortable around.

    Thirdly, get help. See a therapist, join a Resolve Support group. Because all that anger and pain inside if you, it won’t go away by lashing out at others.

    You, too, deserve to feel at peace.

    More on coping with infertility:

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