Starting a family can be an exciting time for many women, but for some it means learning they might not ever be able to conceive a child.
“Infertility rips you apart from the inside out,” said Bre Soukup, who leads the infertility support group Resolve. “All I had ever wanted was to be a mother and it’s life-changing to learn you can’t biologically.”
Resolve is a support group, part of the National Infertility Association, which provides resources and education to women experiencing infertility.
Soukup said she first got involved with the group in 2016 and at the time she was the only member. She now leads the group and there are about six other women who come each month to share their experiences and support each other.
It allows women to open up not only about their different methods of trying to conceive, but about how infertility has impacted their marriages, emotions and other struggles. Most of the women in the group have been pregnant before, but have experienced miscarriages or had stillborn children, she said.
But talking to other women helps to give them hope.
“I can tell them what happened to me and how I dealt with things but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same for other women,” she said. “But I can share my story, I can show them that there are ways to be a mother even if you don’t have a baby out of your body.”
While Soukup now has an adopted daughter, she said the process of getting to that point was difficult. When she was younger, she never thought infertility would be an issue but at the age of 33, after she married her husband, it was something that changed her life.
Soukup became pregnant very soon after getting married but had a miscarriage which then created “unexplained infertility” for her, she said. She and her husband tried various methods to get pregnant but ultimately found it wasn’t possible.
And coming to accept that reality wasn’t easy.
Soukup said she stopped attending baby showers, stopped teaching vacation bible school at her church and ultimately shut herself off from anything having to do with babies and children. What made it especially difficult was she felt as though everywhere she looked, her friends and family were having babies.
“When you have a friend that has three or four children and has had no issues, you’re happy for them,” she said. “But you’re sad for yourself.”
She said many people don’t realize or consider they’re talking to a woman experiencing fertility issues when they’re discussing their own pregnancies, and while she wants them to be happy, it’s also hard on her.
That’s why the women in the group become such a support system for each other. They become sounding boards where intimate issues can be understood that might not be comfortable to discuss with other women.
But Soukup said the only way she is able to lead the group is because she has “been through the thick of infertility” and come to terms with it by adopting her daughter.
“For me, my child saved my life,” she said. “I just never felt like who I was before infertility but after, I started to feel like myself again. I started to get myself back.”
Soukup said she understands adoption might not seem like an appealing option to some women. Aside from being expensive, she said she was also concerned about the connection she would be able to have with the child.
She is now able to share her experience with women in the group and tell them she feels just as she would if her daughter had come from her own body.
The support group helps women to get to the point where they can accept their infertility and learn to live a fulfilled life in spite of it. For the women, this can be done through various ways but finding support in peers can be a large component.
“If you want to be a mother, it’s always in the back of your mind,” Soukup said. “Most people don’t know they have issues until they start trying. And this is a place where you can talk to other women about what’s going on.”
The group’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the Williamsburg Regional Library, 525 Scotland St. To learn more, contact Soukup at firstname.lastname@example.org.