Last week Tuesday I received an e-mail from one of the co-founders (let’s call her Doris, just for ease of discussion) of my real life support group. She mentioned a few things that we may want to discuss at the next day’s meeting. One of the items that she wanted to discuss was this:

“Also also, I’ve noticed that lately there are a lot of pregnant (or recently pregnant) women in the group now — maybe someone would like to talk about how to make sure this doesn’t tip the balance of the group in one direction over the other?”

I should mention that Doris was the first one in our group to get pregnant (she conceived about a month after we started meeting) and had her son about a month and a half ago. Since we’ve started meeting, we’ve had three pregnancies, Doris and two others (who are both currently pregnant), and the remaining five women are not pregnant yet.

Anyway, when I showed up to the meeting, it ended up being only me and three other women, none of which were Doris and none of whom were pregnant. We spent nearly the entire time talking about what we thought Doris was trying to get at in her e-mail regarding the pregnant women in the group.

I remember at my second or third meeting, we were discussing how difficult it can be to be around pregnant women and how it can bring up feelings of jealousy, unfairness, “why me?” etc. Someone made a comment about how they just absolutely hated being around pregnant women and how it was impossible for her to happy for anyone who is pregnant. She had just finished her sentence and then modified her statement to say how she would be so happy for any of the women in the support group to get pregnant because we’ve all been there and struggled with infertility.

I thought that was a great opportunity to ask the group how they felt about what would happen when women did get pregnant. I had no idea if they had already discussed pregnancy and how it would affect the group or not, but I was curious. I also thought that it would be kind of important to make a decision before anyone in the group did get pregnant so that we could have an open and honest discussion about it without hurting anyone’s feelings. I knew from experience with my online buddy group that the dynamics of a group can definitely change when some of the members have what all of the rest want. Hearing pregnancy talk while you’re still trying to conceive is not an easy task for some women to deal with, especially as more and more women get pregnant while a few still struggle. It was enough of a struggle for a few women in my online buddy group that the group itself was no longer a safe haven for support anymore.

It was because of this that I asked “So what will happen when someone DOES get pregnant?” Doris (who already knew she was pregnant, though she hadn’t told us yet) said “once infertile, always infertile! Everyone is welcome to stay as long as they want to whether pregnant or not.” No one disagreed, though no one specifically agreed with her either, and that was that.

I thought it was kind of a hasty decision and one that I thought deserved more discussion and reflection, but no one, myself included, said anything about it. It was the next meeting where Doris revealed that she was nine weeks pregnant.

It is because of her declaration of “once infertile, always infertile” that I was shocked by her e-mail. First of all, I’m confused by “maybe someone would like to talk about how to make sure this doesn’t tip the balance of the group in one direction over the other?” Just what does this mean? Is she suggesting that the pregnant women should not be involved in the meetings anymore? Is she saying that the discussions should be focused only on issues that deal directly with infertility as it relates to conceiving a baby, as opposed to infertility as it relates to pregnancy?

I certainly hope not. We’ve had a lot of discussions regarding pregnancy after infertility within our group since March of this year. Is it something that I can relate to? No, I’ve never been pregnant, so I can’t relate. However, it is definitely a learning opportunity for me. I now know how three different women have felt about their pregnancies after infertility and it’s not necessarily what I would have expected. I know that I may not feel complete exuberance and joy after finding out that I’m pregnant. I may feel depressed, anxious, detached and even jealous of others who are pregnant regardless of the fact that I’m pregnant myself. I also have three local women that I can talk to about the choices that they made regarding testing and prenatal care options. Beyond the benefit to me, I do believe that those who are already pregnant still appreciate and need to attend the group.

On the flip side, I can also see how it could be painful and difficult for some within the group to have to deal with pregnant ladies showing up at an infertility support group meeting. To be subjected to having to hear about ultrasound appointments and nursery ideas when you want nothing more than to be in those shoes is without a doubt a tough thing to handle. And the original purpose of this group was to support women who were dealing with infertility as it relates to trying to conceive. I’m not naïve enough to think that once you get pregnant all of the struggles of infertility just fade into the background. I’m well aware that there are plenty of issues to deal with once pregnancy is achieved, but do supporting those issues take priority over those of the women still trying to conceive?

Looking at it from the pregnant woman’s point of view, (and I can only speak for how I think I would feel about it), I think I would feel very reserved in my willingness to share what was going on with my pregnancy for fear of upsetting, alienating, or causing pain to those who were not yet pregnant. I have come a long, long way in accepting and being happy for others who are pregnant, but I know that for a long period of time, hearing about anyone’s pregnancy was enough to ruin my week, and I would never want to cause that pain to anyone else.

So I can see things from both sides. There are definitely positives and negatives to both scenarios. For me personally, I would much, much rather that we all stay together as a group. I have gotten to know these women so well over the past 10 months and I have a special connection with them that I don’t have with any of my other friends. I wonder what is going on with them on a daily basis and find myself e-mailing them frequently to check in and see what’s going on with them. The thought of losing my biweekly meet up with some of them just because they are pregnant, or not being able to support them at our meetings just doesn’t seem fair.

Neither of the two pregnant women showed up to our meeting last week. I really, really hope that it wasn’t because of this e-mail. I am definitely interested in how the conversation goes regarding this topic next week. I hope it all turns out well.

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