How Making Friends on the Internet Changed My Life

I was 29. I was trying to get pregnant. And it wasn't going well. 

If you've been there, or are there right now, you know how lonely this feels. A few friends knew that we were trying, and they were too. And then, they were pregnant. And I still wasn't. Fear and shame started to spiral. Anxiety and depression started to kick in. I was talking to doctors, peeing on sticks every chance I got, trying very hard to "just relax," and worrying constantly.

I don't remember what made me do it, but I started Googling and found some blogs online written by brave, honest women who were talking about the exact experiences I was going through. I remember sitting at the desk in the second bedroom of our Brooklyn apartment - the room that was meant to be a nursery - reading about some woman in England having her first HSG. She wrote about being terrified, feeling alone, how it hurt, how she cried. I sat there and read and cried and read and cried. 

Then I noticed that she had a Twitter account. I had a Twitter account, too, but had never done anything with it. So, I went over to Twitter and starting playing around. What I found there changed my life. 

It turns out that Twitter is not just for fashion bloggers and politicos. It's also full of real people sharing the experiences of their everyday lives. For many, it's a safe place that they can turn to to share the struggles they face every day. Twitter, surprisingly and thankfully, was PACKED with women Tweeting about infertility. Can you even believe it? I know. 

Women's lives have been marginalized throughout history; our narratives pushed to the side, hushed, and even silenced forcefully. We see it everyday and we live it every day. But, with Twitter, we can take up as much space as we want to and need to. (Well, within 140 characters...) We can tell our stories. We can speak our truths. We can heal ourselves and others. We can build community. We can be the full, powerful forces that we know we are.

Once I made my Twitter account - anonymous of course - I was hooked. I was connected to hundreds of women who were TTC, waiting to POAS, dreading AF, grieving a MC, having an HSG, praying for a BFP, and making our ways through IVF. (Yes, that is Twitter short-hand. Don't worry, it's easy to pick up.) I made friends. They listened to my virtual tears and very real fears. They sent hugs and kisses and #hope and love. They cheered me on, answered medical questions, checked in, gave invaluable advice, but mostly they listened. And that's what we all need so very much. Twitter gave me a safe space to leave all the thoughts that were swimming through my head. To process everything that was happening to me. To grieve my losses without being alone. Twitter became my lifeline. 

It's been seven years since I started Tweeting about my vagina and it's happenings. In that time, I've met many of these women from the internet IN REAL LIFE. We have brunch and horrify bystanders with stories of putting our feet up in stirrups. We meet up when we travel for work or pleasure. We go out of our way to connect in person for a few hours to give hugs with our arms, not just our phones. We've even gone to Capital Hill together and talked about our uterus' there. (We also talked about legislation, don't worry.) These women are near and dear to me. They are always a Tweet or text away, and they always reply. I know I'm never alone, because we've built this community together, we've each felt the power of it, and we know we couldn't have gotten through this alone.

If this sounds like something you need in your life, keep reading - there's a step-by-step guide to finding your community on Twitter.

In Washington DC, ready to share our infertility stories with lawmakers. Beautiful, strong, amazing women!

In Washington DC, ready to share our infertility stories with lawmakers. Beautiful, strong, amazing women!

 

HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND TALK ABOUT YOUR UTERUS ON THE INTERNET

Step 1: Sign up. This first step might sound super scary, because omg you don't want people you know IN REAL LIFE to see what you might Tweet about your vagina. I get that. This is why people make super-secret-sneaky anonymous accounts. I tweeted under an anonymous handle for years, and eventually when I "came out" as an advocate for infertility, I switched over to using @jenrutner. But, that's for later. Right now, anonymous is safe and good and easy. First, make a new email account to use to register for Twitter. (I like to use Gmail.) Second, go to Twitter and register an account, using a hilarious handle like @alittlebitpregnant @bustedkate @the2weekwait @gotnosperm @brave_IVF_mama @mylazyovaries. <-- These are all real women, Tweeting anonymously about infertility. You will also have a chance to write a brief description of why you're on Twitter in your profile. Be honest - if people see that you're dealing with infertility, they'll know why you want to connect, and they'll be more invested in talking to you. Here's mine:

Step 2: Explore! Start doing some searches, find your crew. Use hashtags. (If you don't know what this means, watch a tutorial online about how to use Twitter. There a bunch of them on YouTube.) Try #infertility #IVF #endometriosis #miscarriage #BFN ("big fat negative"). If you have a diagnosis try that - maybe #endo or #PCOS. Start reading tweets, get a feel for how the conversations flow, read some interesting stories. If you feel like branching out, follow a fashion blogger or a comedian, just to lighten the mood. 

Step 3: Connect. Once you find your people, follow them! They'll probably follow you back. Twitter is cool like that.

Step 4: Tweet. Woah, right? Take your time here. It's ok to just listen for a while. Maybe reply to a few tweets that pop up in your feed. Or maybe, dive in and start talking about the doctor's appointment that you had this morning, and the test results that you got yesterday, and the period that you're expecting tomorrow. This is your new platform full of people who HEAR YOU. We want to hear what you have to say. 

That's it! You're ready! Get out there and tweet, ladies! Remember that every time we open up, speak out, share our stories we are helping ourselves heal and manage, helping others learn and connect, building community, and changing the world. I'm not kidding here - we are changing the world. 

One last thing - you can always follow me! (Or not, because you don't want me to know what's happening with your vagina, and I respect that.) @jenrutner