Connection, Courage and Healing Through Support: A Peer Group Leader Speaks

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ViacordRNE is thrilled to announce that ViaCord has joined our sponsor network as a new Peer Support and Topic Discussion Group Sponsor.

ViaCord understands that the path to parenthood is difficult and isolating when you are facing infertility and their sponsorship ensures that our peer groups continue to grow and thrive so you can find the support you need, during every stage of your journey. In honor of this new sponsorship, one of our volunteer peer group leaders shares how she came to RNE seeking support only to become a peer leader after she resolved.

Peer Led Support Groups at RESOLVE New England

By Anne Brennan Belden

The power of collective energy carries us to the moon, finds cures for orphan diseases and, in my own experience, can even help us conceive. Having a great medical team is important and having a group to whom you can pour your heart out is just as critical. RESOLVE New England peer support groups offer just that space. They provide a soft nest in which to land when we fall, when we need gentle nurturing, and when the world around us just doesn’t seem to understand.

I have facilitated the RNE group in Portland, Maine for the past few years and have been connected with RNE for over 20 years. In 1986, I became an active member for the first time when we were diagnosed with infertility. Back then there was no online support, community boards or even phone support that I knew of. For that matter there wasn’t even a reproductive endocrinologist in my area and no mention of integrative care such as acupuncture or yoga.

When my MD mentioned a local support group (then called Resolve of the Bay State), which met 45 minutes from our home, I jumped at the chance and it became my lifeline. Our group was robust, meeting twice a month, with many of us taking turns at being the peer leader. Sometimes my husband would come, as would others.

Twenty-five years ago, infertility was most definitely still in the closet. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my inability to conceive; it struck to the core of how I saw myself as a woman, a partner and a sexual being. As I grew into my role as a Peer Leader supporting others, I also found courage to speak out beyond the group about what was happening in my life.

Being with others who were also trying desperately to build their families normalized infertility for me, helped me to feel not alone and supported me to begin sharing beyond the group.

My silence was broken and the shroud of shame lifted like fog over the sea. After three and a half years of trying, I remember the day in 1988 I announced to a group of colleagues, in our state capitol building, that that night I would be taking a shot which would release my many eggs and for them to all think of me the next day during my procedure. That was the day we conceived our son and I believe it was the power of collective energy!

Just last month I ran into one of those colleagues and mentioned that my son had turned 23. She replied: “I remember the day you conceived, we all felt part of it!” Six years after my son was born, having exhausted every form of ART available at that time, we finally adopted our daughter from China, thus ending our ten-year journey to build our family. I felt empowered and complete and credit RESOLVE New England with so much of that.

Today as a RNE Peer Leader I am honored to hear women’s and men’s stories of their struggles, their triumphs and their desires for children. I became a Peer Leader again after all these years when I established my coaching practice four years ago and naturally wanted to build it around fertility and adoption. When I discovered there was no longer an RNE peer support group presence in my community, I was surprised and knew I had to resurrect it.

With so many other avenues for support today online, people do not come out as often as they did 25 years ago. And yet, when they do come to support group, the value is palpable. Our face-to-face meetings offer that soft nest and create the safe space where all emotions are allowed and socially unacceptable, unspoken thoughts are encouraged to see the light of day. I love seeing the connections made within the group and the sense of community that forms so easily each month, even though different people may join us.

I am deeply moved when one person reaches across the room to another, whom they have just met, giving a gentle touch of knowing compassion. I love when someone finds courage through another’s story to tell a family member they cannot go to that baby shower. I smile to myself seeing some members linger in the parking lot afterwards, talking to one another, not wanting their new found connection to end.

RESOLVE New England peer support groups can help heal our own sense of being broken, help cultivate our sense of control and encourage us to discover new moons of our own. Great power and healing comes through compassionate human connection and collective energy. I am honored to bear witness to it each month.

About the Author

Anne Brennan Belden, MS, ACC is a professional member of RNE and volunteer leading the general infertility peer support group in Portland, Maine. She offers fertility and adoption life coaching at Sea Changes Life Coaching.

Interested in becoming a volunteer peer support group leader in your community? Learn more about starting a peer support group in your community today. And if you haven’t yet been to one of our groups, come to our general infertility or topic discsussion peer support groups: all are welcome!

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