This month marks two years of RESOLVE leadership for me by hosting Peer-Led Support group (PLSG) meeting serving local community in East Bay Area, California. It is an extremely humbling experience to be serving fertility space in a way that is meaningful to me and everyone involved.
The memories from my first meeting still remains fresh.
Just like any normal person would, I was having butterflies in my stomach to host first ever couples support meeting mostly due to unfamiliarity with the meeting set ups and flow of the event.
To add to my restlessness that day, I unfortunately met with a minor car accident that occurred right an hour before the meeting where my car was rear ended at a gas station. Who in the world would imagine that someone would displace your immobile car two car distance away, almost hitting the walls of adjacent store while you were about to get off the car to fill gas in your car? Luckily, no one was hurt.
When I reached the meeting site, attendees had already gathered. Obviously, I was late, but no one had the courage to engage with anyone. I swiftly moved in and offered a warm welcome. It did not take a long time for them to open up and connect with each other as they all knew what it meant and felt to be among a group of like-minded people. The first meeting itself allowed a space for raw emotions, tears rolling down the cheeks of both men and women.
I call it a success. This is the first step towards breaking the isolation and providing them with comfort and ease for communication and empowering with needed resources to combat the journey.
What happened to me and my car? Life goes on.
Next day, I felt the aches and pains, sore muscles, bruised neck and occasional dizziness that made me take a trip to urgent care. The doctor certified nothing was broken, I was released in one piece with a prescription of Vicodin in hand 😊 and by then was driving a rental car 😊
The rationale for returning to community and hosting support meetings was simple; as a first-generation immigrant and first-hand fertility patient, I know how isolating and draining fertility hell is. Hence my mantra was whoever is needing support, seeking help, willing to share or learn are all welcome. I provided them with honest listening ears who cared and then gently nudged them to support on their individual path to success.
RESOLVE East bay general infertility group was established almost seven years back, with various leaders transitioning and moving forward in their life. The meetings have been conducted at local members’ homes, offices, public libraries, religious places, private rooms in local cafe, etc. The most fruitful meeting location in my humble opinion is open space with breath of fresh air, vibrant and comfortable seating preferably at a cafe to avoid gloominess of private meeting rooms or locations.
My PLSG meetings are always kept open to all, women participants bring in their partners depending on their comfort level. Usually there is a mix of crowd, that is multi-cultural, highly qualified professionals from health care and tech world. Fertility struggles leave no barriers. Although different ethnicity may experience differences in care at fertility clinics, it is never perceived that way in such support meetings.
My well-wishers suggested me to rethink the idea for keeping meetings open to couples as it may mean trigger for solo women participating in the support group meeting. However, the need of the hour felt different. Often women expressed benefits of having their partners with them as it was tricky to off load a lot of information to their spouses and they rather have them attend together to experience the similarities in fertility struggles.
And after all, men need a place to be heard. With rise in male infertility incidences, this was a most needed platform for men to overcome feelings of worthlessness and anxiety concerning potency and masculinity.
I am also noticing a shift in interest for these support meetings in our area. The meetings used to be fertility helpdesk kind of involvement from local community initially, women would join for few meetings, gather necessary information and then lose contact or hide back in their shells. It is different now. I have seen waves of women graduating together from fertility clinics, hanging out and supporting each other even during pregnancies and then as new parents. They form their tribe. This experience is so precious for me to witness the fertility stigma being shattered and folks willing to share and support each other.
The fertility journey transforms you, makes you resilient and helps you realize your true potential. We have members returning after their pregnancies and asking how can we help? I want to join the movement of supporting the community, what can I do? It creates the ripple effect in breaking the silence and mass empowerment.
I am truly humbled to be contributing to this shift in culture in fertility community, a moment of pure joy, love and gratitude.
#fertilitysupport #EastBayGeneralInfertilitySupportGroup #myfertilitypal