Inside Infertility: Dealing with the emotional struggle
COLUMBIA- Infertility affects an estimated 1 in 10 couples in the U.S., but some doctors think that's a conservative estimate. The number could be as high as 1 in 7 couples. While doctors work to try and help treat the physical side of infertility, they recognize sometimes the emotional side needs treatment, too.
In Columbia, a support group called Graceful Wait meets once a month. For those meetings a Columbia craft and decor store called Plume transforms into a place where women come to try and make sense of one of the most difficult things they've ever gone through. Kelly Gillion has three children now, but it took years and eventually In Vitro Fertilization for her and her husband to have the family they wanted. She says at times she felt very alone in her battle with infertility, so she started the Graceful Wait support group. It is a faith based group, but they welcome women of all different backgrounds, and over the last four years about 100 women have come to both talk and listen
"We normally start out with a meet and greet, and we have everyone share as much or as little of their personal story that they feel comfortable with," Gillion said.
As they go around the room at Graceful Wait meetings they share both laughter and tears. Each woman has a different story about how infertility or pregnancy loss has affected them. The American Pregnancy Association says infertility can put a lot of strain on a marriage, and it can lead to depression, high anxiety, and loss of sleep or appetite among other things.
"Definitely just sadness, fear about what the future could look like if they don't become a parent, a mom. There are marital strains, anger, anger at God, anger at life circumstances. There's jealousy over friends who are getting pregnant one after the other and having to go through baby showers and all of those things you want to be joyful about, and many times you are, but it's in the midst of your own heartache," Gillion said describing some of the struggles women she works with have gone through.
Brynn Bryan, who suffers from endometriosis, felt she got a lot out of the group meeting, "Perspective. There are a lot of people that have a lot more difficult challenges to face than we do, but also really just not feeling like i was so alone."
Bryan and her husband, Brad, decided the several thousand dollar price tag of IVF would be too expensive for them, but they will try four to five rounds of intrauterine insemination to try and get pregnant. While they try to treat her physical ailments both Brynn and Brad have also worked hard to keep an emotionally healthy perspective as well.
"We kind of go back and forth," Brad said. "One of us will just be ready to give up and move on and start the grieving process, and the other one will have to become the cheerleader and say we have three more tries. We won't know anything until we do those things, and then it will switch."
They say open communication and being honest about their feelings has helped to keep both their marriage and faith strong. While they're hopeful Brynn will be able to carry a baby, they are also open to other options like fostering.
The Graceful Wait support group meets the third Wednesday of every month at Plume. The store is located at 165 E. Hoe Down Drive on the south side of Columbia off of Providence Road. For more information, email GracefulWait@outlook.com.