The homework that my coach gave me this week was to think about who's in my support network - not just who my friends and family are, but who I can really rely on and turn to for help and support, both emotional and practical, in this whole business.
One of the ideas behind this is that if someone I have identified as not being in my support network disappoints me, or says the wrong thing, or upsets me in some way, the sting will be taken out of it somewhat by the realisation that they're not one of the people I'm relying on.
I've been thinking a LOT about this all week, identifying people in my mind and mulling over whether they're one of the four or five key people who will help me to get through this. And it's surprising how many people, regardless of how much I love them and know they love me, I've realised are not in this network.
One of the limitations for me in identifying people who can truly offer emotional support when I need it most is that there are very few people in the world that I'm prepared to cry in front of. And if I can't cry in front of someone, there's a point at which, when I'm at my lowest and most vulnerable, I have to stay away from them, or back off from the thing which is hurting me the most.
There are also those whose feelings I try to protect by not talking to them about how low I'm actually feeling, or how difficult I'm finding things. Or perhaps I worry that they'll think less of me if I admit to some of my uglier feelings.
A combination of those three factors means that my mother and sisters are not part of my support network. They know what's going on, they're very supportive, and I have told my mother some of what I've been feeling. My sister is wonderfully understanding about some things, and I know how much she wants this to happen for us. But there's always a big part of me that holds back, to protect them and to protect myself.
DH is going through this with me, and has the dubious honour of being someone I'm not afraid to cry in front of, or get impatient with, or show any other ugly and unpleasant feelings to. And he's patient and loving and tries hard to understand, but a lot of the time he's too close to the problem. And sometimes I get frustrated with the different way he chooses to deal with our situation.
I have a couple of friends who live locally and are always willing to offer practical support - the one who drove us to the clinic and picked us up when I was having my egg collection on IVF #1 and #2, the one who drops round with flowers and chocolates when I'm feeling low and offers to do my shopping for me when my back's bad. But although they'll ask how it's going when we're in the thick of treatment, neither of them wants to have children and they don't really understand how I feel.
And my BFF has demonstrated in the past that she's willing to drop everything and come to me whenever I need her. But she has three children and a lot of commitments, and I don't want to abuse that willingness by making her drop everything when she doesn't need to.
There are two or three close friends that I know I could call at any time to talk about things if I needed to. One went through IVF twice herself - the second attempt resulted in her now 9-year-old twins. Another had her own fertility struggles and really gets the sort of decisions I've had to make over the last couple of years. But I always hold something back - I don't want to cry, I don't want to upset them, I don't want to overburden them.
Most of all, I don't want to become that whiney friend who never talks about anything else and never moves on - I have personal experience of the compassion fatigue that can result when someone you've propped up through a difficult time in her life is still making the dramatic 2 am phone calls about the same issue several years later.
I met a couple of people through one of the internet forums - we were having treatment at the same place, and all three of us had failed IVFs around the same time. We propped each other up through it all, experienced it all together, and shared our impressions of the clinic, the buttoned-up consultant, the lovely nurses, the side-effects of the drugs and our hopes and fears for the future. One of them had her baby three weeks ago, after a successful third IVF treatment. The other is now about 18 weeks pregnant. They're not in the same place as me any more.
The last time I saw the latter of those two was when she told me she was pregnant. She sat there saying, "The thing is, I never gave up. I prayed really hard, and my DH and I have a really strong relationship. I think those two things are what made it happen." That made me feel as though if it didn't happen for me, it would be because I hadn't prayed enough, or because my relationship with DH wasn't good enough.
She also kept saying, "I know it's going to happen for you. I know you're going to get pregnant too."
And I kept thinking, "No, you don't. We can both hope as much as we like, but nobody knows."
I felt worse after seeing her than I did before, and although I'm sure we'll remain friends, she's certainly no longer on my list of people I could turn to for understanding.
So my support network, in the end, boils down to two 'people'.
One real-life person who I can talk to about anything, I can even cry in front of without feeling too uncomfortable, and who is always at the end of the phone when I need her. She sends me little notes and text messages that let me know she's thinking of me, and she's the only member of my family that I would ever want to read my blog. She gives practical advice as well as emotional support, and is a wonderful sounding-board. I just wish she didn't live quite so far away...
And the other 'person' is the blog itself, all the anonymous people who read it without leaving comments but who make me realise that there are people listening to my ramblings, and the wonderful people who leave comments to let me know they understand and send me virtual hugs when I most need them.
So I'd just like to say thank you for all your support - and let you know how important you all are to me.