Ken and Lynn Kaplan's unrequited desire for a baby, sidelined by infertility, was initially a bur den they endured pri vately. Eventually, the Canoga Park couple needed outside support and contacted RESOLVE.
RESOLVE is a support group for individuals and couples experiencing difficulty expanding their families. Like many members, Lynn Kaplan initially had mixed feelings about joining.
"At first you wonder to yourself, 'Are they normal; will they be nice or are they strange?' " recalls Kaplan, 36. "But when you get there, you realize they're people just like you, learning to cope with disappointment."
She has been an active member since October, 1990, and her husband joined soon after. Kaplan, who is still childless, firmly believes that her involvement in RESOLVE has immensely helped her to cope.
Founded in 1977 by Barbara Eck Menning, a former nurse, RESOLVE provides referrals, support and medical information to infertile individuals and couples. Menning formed the group because she was unable to find the emotional support she needed to cope with her own infertility.
Today, RESOLVE is incorporated with 45 affiliate chapters in the United States. San Fernando Valley RESOLVE members are part of the L. A. County chapter. Like other national members, they attend two types of meetings--general information sessions for between 50 and 100 people and/or smaller support groups supervised by therapists who have experienced their own infertility. These smaller groups average 12 people and meet in 10-week intervals.
The larger meetings are less interactive and feature lectures and information. Smaller groups, supervised by trained therapists who have also undergone fertility problems of their own, allow couples to share feelings and ask each other questions in a confidential, sensitive environment. The Kaplans, who attend a Sherman Oaks-based group with about 16 members, look forward to their meetings for a variety of reasons.
"We are able to meet other people who can understand what it feels like to not have a baby and want one so desperately. The only people who do are those who have undergone the experience themselves. It helps when you discover that there are a lot of really nice, good, deserving people struggling with the infertility challenge," Lynn says.
Infertile couples apprehensive about attending might be surprised to learn that several men attend with their wives. Lynn says her husband appreciates the emotional outlet as much as she does. Quite a few men, she says, are willing to share what they are feeling, although no one is forced to talk. The three groups that Lynn has attended have helped her cope with a variety of experiences and feelings, including pregnancy loss, medical treatments and procedures.
Several social issues are also covered. Members learn to cope with insensitive questions and survive the company of babies and pregnant women. They determine how much to explain to supervisors, co-workers, friends and relatives, and talk with others on how to cope with the expense (few infertility treatments are covered by insurance).
Alternatives such as surrogacy and adoption are also explored, as are post-parenthood topics such as acceptance, anxiety and even guilt often felt when friends and fellow group members remain infertile are also explored. Advance discussion of these and other sometimes-sticky situations prepare couples and individuals to deal with the outside world as they grapple with the very private nature of infertility.
"The coping strategies these groups provide helps members regain more of a perspective on their lives and helps them deal with the obsession that surrounds infertility," explains Dr. Lisa Rivo Peterson, support group coordinator and psychologist. "By educating them on medical treatments and introducing relaxation and stress management techniques, we help them to normalize their feelings and help them realize they are not going crazy."
WHERE TO GO
What: RESOLVE support groups.
Price: $35 annual membership dues include monthly national and local newsletter, medical information and attendance at general information meetings. Participants in smaller groups pay $15 for an individual or $25 per couple per session in the Los Angeles County chapter.
Call: (310) 326-2630.