I can feel myself getting more and more insular, more obsessed. I can think of nothing else. The yearning for a child is consuming me; it is all I do, all I think about. Suddenly the big world outside is fraught with potential for hurt – pregnant women and babies are everywhere, all daily reminders of my failing.
My friends and family, much as they love me, don’t understand what is going on inside me. They also don’t know how to handle this Tertia – this Tertia who cries little on the outside, who stores her tears inside her chest. A sad Tertia, an angry Tertia. The world of infertility is foreign to them. My mother is unbelievably fertile, my sister even more so. They don’t understand the world in which I live; they don’t recognise the person I've become. I don’t want to socialise, not with anyone. I just want to stay at home. I can’t bear to be around anyone but my husband. He is the only one I allow into my world.
The only time I feel even remotely happy is when I'm on the Internet, winding my way through the networked spider web of the cyber world. I find solace and information in the computer. I spend hours online, searching, researching, looking for stories, miracles or miracle cures, for stories of hope and inspiration. And on my travels in cyberspace, I discover the wonderful, fabulous, life-saving world of online infertility support groups and bulletin boards. There I find a safe haven, a best friend, people who understand, people who are just like me. At last! People to talk to.
Infertility bulletin boards are the coffee shops of cyber space. It's a place where you can hang out with like-minded people, people in the same boat as you. These people get where you're at. They can relate. They understand your pain. Suddenly you feel less lonely, less alone. You have a fabulous time bonding with your new best friends, swearing undying love and friendship for one another and forming little friendship groups. You laugh, you commiserate, you virtually hold one another’s hands. It’s you and your cyber friends against the rest of the world and all you want to do is spend every possible moment with your new family – the ones who understand, the ones just like you: infertile.
The Clomid Club
The first bulletin board I find is The Clomid Club. I find it by Googling ‘Clomid success rates’. It’s a group of 15 women, 13 of whom live in America. We chat, we swap stories, we share all sorts of intimate details. We're all embarking on the journey to have a child. There is something about the Internet that creates a sense of community. You meet the most amazing people. You form such close bonds with people whom you will never meet, people whose last names you may never find out.
The Internet is a funny place. It allows you to be whoever you want to be – just ask the 55-year-old perve pretending to be a 15-year-old girl in a chat room. Thank goodness my infertility bulletin boards are not invaded by too many 55-year-old perves pretending to be 15-year-old girls. Instead, they're made up of women from all walks of life – all backgrounds, social standing, class, race, ethnicity, nationality. In real life, I would choose to be friends with probably only 20 percent of all the people meet along the way, if I had to meet them face to face. But that doesn’t matter. We're all women and we have something in common, something that makes us different, alienated from the real world. Our infertility. So we share our lives.
Every morning, I wake up at five, grab a cup of decaff and settle down in front of my computer, excited and full of anticipation to read who has said what, what's happened at Kristen’s scan, how Laura’s egg retrieval went, whether Jessica is pregnant. I feel like I know these women personally. They are my best friends. I remember driving home from Hermanus once, so anxious to get home to find out whether Laura’s IUI had worked, whether she was pregnant or not. The minute I got home I logged on, and yes, she was pregnant!
Sometimes we chat in private chat rooms – you type something your friend can see in real time and get the response in real time. Back and forth you chat, like a telephone conversation, only typed. It's wonderful. It's so immediate, it really does make the world seem like a village.
Because of the time difference, I don’t manage to chat online too much. Sometimes I wake up at four in the morning, or stay up until midnight, just to join the chat sessions with my friends in the computer. I am that desperate for the support, the friendship. I'm that hooked.
Even though I spend hours and hours on the computer, holed away in my study, Marko never complains. In fact, I think he is secretly relieved. He knows it is either them or him to whom I am going to pour my heart out, to whom I am going to obsess. And talking, especially about emotional stuff, has never been his strong suit. So he leaves me alone to spend my days and nights on the computer. He watches TV. I spend my time online. It works for us.
Then, slowly, one by one, my Best Friends in the Whole Wide World start to get pregnant. And I don’t. And suddenly there is distance between us. I feel like I'm on the outside looking in – the class dunce. I begin to feel increasingly isolated. There's nothing like having your fellow infertiles get pregnant on you to make you feel like a real failure. See, even infertile people can get pregnant and I can’t.
And so I move on, to another bulletin board, another new home made up of people who are more like me. People for whom Clomid hasn’t worked, people who need to move on to harder drugs, more invasive procedures. New friends, old feeling. I've come home again.
Then they get pregnant, too. The first during the first month of trying, the next few over the following months. One by one. And I don’t. So I move around the Internet until I find a home that suits me, where the people are at the same stage as I am. There are plenty of us out there. I make amazing friends along the way. Friends I’d be friends with in real life. Funny, witty, clever people. Friends from all over the world. Janey in New Zealand, Bianca in Australia, Tess in Hong Kong, Nick in England, Mollie and Andrea in Canada, Julie, Bridgette, Charmaine, Sandra and many others in America. Friends whom I adore and whom I will never meet in real life but if I did, I'd choose them to be my friends anyway.
These women become my rock, my life raft. As do many other women I meet along the way. And I really need them, because Marko and I are leaving the relatively easy world of IUIs behind. We're about to enter the big, scary world of IVF.
Tertia Albertyn is a recovering infertile and current mother of twins. Her blog (www.tertia.org) about her struggle to have a child is consistently rated no. 1 by SA Topsites, boasting an average of 25 000 visitors a week.
She writes articles for magazines, including Shape, and specialist IT publications. Tertia has an MBA from the University of Cape Town, works full-time in IT and lives in Cape Town with her husband and two toddlers.
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