The journey of infertility is full of losses.
Loss of pregnancy, loss of the role of parenthood, loss of a sense of identity, and, unfortunately, loss of friendship. Google “losing friends infertility”. The results are filled with stories of people coming to terms with a new reality of friendship at a time when the support of friends is most needed.
The sad truth is that not everyone is willing to get to know the new you, this you sculpted by grief. Some people, for a myriad of reasons, are not going to stay by your side while you figure out how to make it through. Perhaps they have their own journey that is taking their energy; perhaps it hurts them too much to see you hurting; perhaps they are simply unable to understand why you are taking this so hard; perhaps they just weren’t that good a friend.
In addition, being infertile means falling more and more out of sync with our peers.
As our friends are busy raising children, doing the one thing we want more than anything, we are preoccupied with body basal temperature, medical interventions, and the possibility that we may never get to join the parent club. In other words, we start to grow apart.
I absolutely adore my friends’ kids, and while I value every moment I get to spend with them, there are times when it is just too emotionally difficult to be around happy families, and that makes it harder to spend time with friends.
Meanwhile, my friends are juggling parental, work, and familial responsibilities, as well as dealing with their own identity crises, and they hardly have a moment to spare. And even though I fully understand how all-encompassing child-rearing is, I confess that there are times I resent the fact that because I am the one without kids, my schedule is the least important.
We may sometimes try and make the most of our situation by having mid-week spontaneous pub nights, but when you are the only people you know who are able to do that, and it seems you have to book your friends’ time months in advance, it can become lonely. This sense of isolation, this disparity between our friends’ lives and our own tests friendship, and not all friendships will pass.
Most of the people I know struggling with infertility have lost friends along the way.
I am no exception. In most cases, I can intellectually let go of these relationships because I know that maintaining them was probably not in my best interest. I can recognize that these friendships played a role in my life, and it is okay to move on because we are different people now, but it still hurts. It is another loss rubbing salt into a raw wound, and it really sucks.
At the same time, I cannot stress enough how much I truly cherish the friends who have gone through this journey with me – the ones who cried with me, and who cried for me when I wasn’t even there (I know they did). My infertility is also a loss for my friends who would love to schedule play-dates with the kids we all wish I had, and their grief is as real as mine. These friends, who mourned with me, who understood when I needed space and welcomed me when I could come and took me out when I needed distraction, they will always have a special place in my heart.
And then there are the new friends.
The ones who understand the most because they have been there. Friendships made in infertility groups can be tenuous because even though we wish success for each other, we may not be able to be a support for the people who do get their happy ending. Nevertheless, these friendships are extremely valuable, especially when that sense of isolation hits hard. There is such relief in connecting with people who feel the same. I am as grateful for these new connections as I am for the old ones.
I hope this is also true for you.
I hope that for every friend who drifts away, you have two who hold your hands. I hope that rather than focusing on that friend who disappears, you are able to cling to those hands and hold onto a small sense of yourself during this difficult time.
If there is a silver lining to infertility, it is that grief highlights strengths in people and relationships that might never have been noticed otherwise. My grief has changed me, but it has also changed the people closest to me, and that is genuine love.