Walter often hears stories from that that start with "today one of my IG girls..." and he has become very familiar with many of the names as well.
(For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about... IG is short for Instagram. It's a social media site where you are able to post photos that you take of your daily life and meet people with common interests by labeling a photo. A photo of Sullivan might have some hashtags like #ivf #miraclebabyboy #successafterinfertility etc.)
I have met so many wonderful women through this site, and I have 'met' some people who I may never speak with face-to-face but who have become true friends. These girls are all over the country, but I share some of the most personal moments of my day with them. We've sent gifts to each other, talked on the phone, and invested into one another. Some of them call themselves "Sully's aunties" and it is such a joy to know that I have great girlfriends praying for us all over and sending us good thoughts. Some of these women are moms as well and I love to see photos of their kids. Some are in the midst of struggling with infertility and I do my best to offer advice, a listening ear, or something in their mailbox to brighten their day.
February 23rd, 2012 I posted my first Instagram photo. It was a snapshot of Walter being silly in his parents' kitchen and I loved playing with all the filters...
...and I really had no idea where this outlet would take me. I only had a few friends, and I wasn't even sure if I would stick with it because really, who wanted to see a bunch of silly pictures?
I forced my best friend and husband to get it as well, and we started taking a photo every day. It started being a silly challenge of how 'artsy' we all could be.
Then Walter and I began our first round of IVF and it became an awesome way to document my 'not-so-glamorous life' at the time. I really didn't know ANYONE who had gone through IVF except one woman I once was in a Bible study with who wouldn't return my calls, and IG was a way to vent out my confusion, worry, and fear day by day.
Our first IVF failed. So...
We got Lucy.
We started getting serious about raising money for adoption. We had our 4th annual Yard Sale for Adoption, and started the Adoption Jar Project to collect 'unwanted' change for our adoption fund.
Before the summer was over I got to be a nanny to some awesome kids (for the third summer in a row), dye my hair a fun color (teal, for PCOS awareness!), go on a vacation to a bed & breakfast with my husband, and welcome a niece.
Then we got ready for IVF #2, and I started tagging my photos #ivflife.
I found a few women on Instagram who were also doing IVF, and they were my age! Call me ridiculous, but I had no idea. My eyes were opened to a whole new world I had never known before! No longer was I the only woman in her 20's doing IVF because I was sooooo 'broken'! I was slowly learning that infertility is a lot more common than I thought! I felt comforted, safe, and no longer alone and like I had the worst case.
I stopped pitying myself. I realized how lucky I really was.
I tried to keep myself preoccupied during my second two week wait, and Instagram was there. I was uploading old pictures and playing with them to get that "Instagram look" and ordering them on Printstagram for my Smashbooks (like a scrapbook)! I was in love with this photo app. Yes, a little late on the bandwagon, but I was soon becoming seriously addicted.
FINALLY the dreaded two weeks was over, and after my third blood draw I finally got to announce that we were pregnant! I used Instagram as my first source to get the word out on August 26th, 2012.
My sweet little baby grew and grew and I just kept on Instagramin'! I started using more hashtags and getting more and more fellow IVF friends and other TTC friends. It was nice to be able to talk to them and encourage them. I often wished I would have had a little more of that, and it made me feel wonderful to be a friend to these ladies.
Soon I was finding other mommas who were pregnant thanks to IVF, and we would refer each other to friends. Our #ttc community grew and grew and soon I had a whole group of friends who were anxiously awaiting to see if my sweet baby would be a boy or a girl. I was getting updates on IG almost every other minute asking how the gender reveal planning was going, and when I would let the IG world know. I so deeply wished a few of my 'social media friends' could attend, because they had been with me through my entire first trimester cheering me on and checking up on me.
I got to donate the rest of my IVF meds to girls I met on IG, and even started to text and FaceTime a few of them. We posted many cute prompts to get to know each other as well. We understood things that most other people in our lives didn't understand. It was nice to be able to ask questions, have encouragement, and just have others who understood the ttc lingo! Haha!
Then, a day in December just out of the blue I received a package from one of my IG friends- a beautiful Vera Bradley wallet. I was in shock by her sweet generosity, and I was soon out the door searching for a gift I could send her in exchange. After talking with my husband, that shopping trip grew. He allowed me to pick five girls who had really encouraged me to send surprise gifts to! I sent them each a small charm that symbolized infertility, our journeys, and our friendship.
My "IG community" soon became the first thing I thought of when I woke up. I wanted to update "my girls" and see how their days were going and what I could do for them. We just 'got' each other, and it felt great.
I wrote notes to these girls, prayed daily for these girls, and really had deep friendships with these women. We were fighting the same battle, and we had bonded together in a way I have never known before. How was it possible to be such good friends with someone you had never met?
Soon, since we were checking in with each other every day, we knew when each other needed some lifting up. On a particularly bad day I found a box on my doorstep. I opened it and the tears immediately started falling. It is still- to this day- one of my favorite gifts I have ever received. A friend had made my son a personalized quilt and it was BEAUTIFUL and exactly my style. It matched his nursery perfectly. I couldn't believe it. I was so touched.
It started off as a joke (with lots of truth in it!) when I told a few girls they should come out to my baby shower a few weeks later. My heart really did ache with wishing they all could be there! But, I knew we lived all over the country, and I knew it would be crazy CRAZY for someone to drive a long trip to meet someone they had never really 'met' wouldn't it?! :)
Throughout the next couple of weeks the joking became serious, and a few girls were actually very interested in making the trip! I was shocked and feeling so so so loved. Finances and schedules got the best of us and we soon found out that it just wasn't going to be possible...
...except for one.
One, very very special friend drove (with her husband!) from Ohio to attend my baby shower. After months of IG stalking, texting, FaceTiming and more I was finally going to meet one of my closest friends face-to-face! I couldn't believe how amazing this girl was! We spent three wonderful days hanging out! We went on double dates, we hung out, and attended my baby shower together. My love for her and for our friendship grew even stronger with every minute. Funny this is, our husbands really hit it off as well!
But that's not all. SO many packages and letters and gifts came through the mail for Sully and I. I knew it was CRAZY to expect anyone to be able to attend, but I was so amazingly blessed by this outpouring of love from these women. You can call it hormones, but I swear I was in (happy!) tears almost every day when I got the mail from these deeply cherished friends. One even 'attended' my shower via FaceTime (don't you just love this love story for technology?!)!
As Sullivan's due date grew closer so did the due dates of a few other of my IG girls. We had been together throughout most of our pregnancies and it was finally time! We all took bets on who would go first, since our due dates were all within a month of each other. After months of bouncing ideas and symptoms and stories with each other, it was go time and we would finally get to 'meet' each other's littles!
I made this collage and with each birth we celebrated with the new momma (and prayed that we would be next)! Our stories were all different, but we had become more than friends to each other. We were each other's supporters, prayer warriors, and confidants in this new journey of our lives!
And now our children 'grow up with each other' on this beautiful social media called Instagram...
We are able to check in with each other, ask questions, and keep updated on these sweet babies. I can say I truly love these other babies I've never met and pray for them often. Maybe our babies will never meet, but hopefully we'll be able to gather them together someday. Until then they'll continue to be almost like classmates on IG. Sometimes they even play dress up with each other...
What started being just a few, soon grew to be HUNDREDS of women who have been battling #ttc, #ivf, #iui, #infertility, #pcos, and more. Not only did I love giving to them, they gave to me. They gave me a community that understood the fight I went through and will continue to be going through for a sibling for Sullivan. They helped me realize that it doesn't just go away with those two pink lines. The symptoms of infertility are still there. The hurt is still there.They give me comfort and a reason to not forget where I have been. These women will help me never to forget to take my little man for granted.
Sully also loves to encourage his 'aunties' as well. :)
Infertility is not a game. This community is not a game to me. And though I am not the judge of all things infertility, I am the judge of who is involved in my life. I have recently deleted over 200 followers to protect Sully and to protect myself from the constant negativity and bickering. It had gotten out of control, and I couldn't tell who was who or what was what anymore. The constant negativity may just be a pit stop on your journey. I have stopped there quite a few times. I also have made stops at the 'bitter', 'hopeless', and 'condescending' stations. However, thank the Lord so many great friends gave me great inspiration to keep fighting on. You have to make yourself open to that if you ever want to survive this road. If you're unwilling, there's nothing anyone else can do and there is nothing anyone can say.
Basically this is a (very) long-winded blog that (has been a WONDERFUL trip down memory lane for me and...) reminds me to remember what this wonderful 'world' has given me. I have been so incredibly blessed by all the amazing friendships that have grown from just a silly app for your phone.
Thank you guys so so much, you know who you are.
Brooke, Stephanie, Lindsey, Brittany C, Claudia, Martha, Trish, Amanda R, Katie, Desirae, Porshe, Courtney, Betsy, Megan B, Heather, Samantha, Lauren, Meg B, Tiff, Desha, Jillian, Liana, Michelle, Abigail, Kaeli, Kyle, Brittany C, Bridget, Chelsea, Amber, Rachel, Laura, Kristen, Tiffany, Cely... (these are just the few that my husband knows by name!!) and so many more.
I don't know what I'd do, or where I'd be, without you guys. Thanks for being a blessing.