Infertility can be a very scary and isolating place. I was – and still am – the only person in my group of friends to have visited this place. The eight of us have been friends since high school and over the years the friendships have changed and evolved as friendships normally do. But nothing rocks a friendship like infertility.
When I first opened up about my struggle, few of my friends really understood. Almost all of them mothers already (yes, I have been lapped multiple times by multiple friends). Perhaps they just lacked the focus or mental energy to take on someone else’s burden. The common response was to tell me to seek treatment or tell me that a friend-of-a-friend did this or that and they now have twins.
In short, they consistently minimized my experience and my pain.
As my journey through infertility went on, I could no longer bear the pain associated with baby showers or sprinkles. Soon after missing one, I was simply no longer invited to attend. Slowly, I withdrew. And slowly, I was excluded from other gatherings. I withdrew because I told myself that any good friend would simply understand. I withdrew because I could not talk about it.
It was only later, when I was forced to advocate for myself at work, that I began to understand the extra burden placed on us infertiles. We have the unfortunate responsibility of educating the world around us as we navigate our journey to baby. By default, we become the experts on all things fertility and what seems obvious to us is not always obvious to someone who has never had to fight for parenthood. This realization was a tremendous challenge for me. I was tired and depressed from failed treatments. I was scared (SO scared) that I would never become a parent, and I was angry that life had thrown us this curve ball.
I did not have the energy to educate others.
Now that I find myself in a better, stronger headspace, I see just how much I actually contributed to my own loneliness. I had a part to play in the dissolution of those friendships. That’s not to say that they were blameless (they were not), but I now see that by not talking about it – by not really talking about what infertility means to me – they could not have known how to support me.
All that said, some people just get it! Treasure these friendships! I am blessed for the amazing friends who never left my side and who have provided me with compassion, empathy, and unconditional support. I am also eternally grateful to my new friends within the infertility community. Women with a shared perspective and experience. Women with whom I can commiserate without having to detail every aspect of Assisted Reproduction.
It’s impossible to get through it alone and I am so fortunate to have found my people!
My list of friends is shorter than it was four years ago. If I could turn back time, I wish that I had done things a little differently, but hindsight is always 20/20. If I could leave you with one piece of advice, my friend, it would be to open up about your struggle. Show people how to support you. And if they still can’t, then you can kick ‘em to the curb because there is a whole community of us out there to support you!
By Kelly, thencomesmaybe.wordpress.com