Imagine this – you’re in an ice cream shop and everyone in the shop is enjoying their favorite flavor, except you. You really want to have some ice cream, but you can’t figure out how to get to it. You’re happy that all your friends are able to enjoy their own bowl (or two, or three) and you do your best to convey your happiness. You also know that your friends want you to have your own bowl and they do their best to show their sympathy, but they need to eat theirs before it melts.
OK – maybe it’s not the best analogy, but it’s all my sleep-deprived brain has right now.
I was 28 when my husband and I first started trying to expand our family. Prime baby-making time for me and all my friends. The first few months we were just waiting to see what would happen, so as the pregnancy announcements came, I grew more excited for our own. Each month that passed, I adjusted my vision for when our baby would be born, as the due date month got pushed further and further out.
For our situation, it took only four months for us to seek help. I flat out did not have a monthly cycle and you can’t get pregnant if you don’t ovulate. At around the six month mark I was coming back from one of my first appointments to figure out what was going on. The doctor confirmed something was amiss, but at that point he didn’t know what. It was the first time the thought crossed my mind that I might never be able to have a baby. While this was a dramatic, extreme thought, it was a possibility I had to face. Especially given when I asked the doctor if I would be able to get pregnant, he said “I hope so.”
That same day I got a text from a friend announcing she was pregnant, and I completely shut down. I didn’t respond to her. I unfollowed her on social media. I avoided her all together.
I immediately felt a rush of emotions that I still struggle to identify. The best way I can describe it was a mix of jealousy, anger, fear, and devastation. I now know that I didn’t feel these feelings toward her; I felt these feelings toward the situation.
I didn’t handle that situation well. I lost touch with her for a long time – well after my son was born. I have since reconnected with her, and we are in a good place now.
Before I go any further, please understand that at no point did I ever feel anger or resentment toward any mama-to-be. That being said, every pregnancy announcement, every baby shower invitation was a sharp, stinging reminder of what we didn’t have, and of what we didn’t know if we ever could have.
In the months that followed that first doctor’s visit, something in me changed. I cried. I withdrew. I withdrew from a lot of my really close friends. Especially those who got pregnant during those long 16 months. Right or wrong, that is what I had to do to be able to mentally handle what we were going through.
Eventually, I found a support group in Iowa City and made some really amazing friends. I am still close to a couple of the girls I met through this group. This group helped me deal. They pep-talked me when a baby shower invitation came, hugged me when things weren’t going right, and shared their own experiences. I can’t tell you how therapeutic these girls were and still are for me. For the first time in a year I didn’t feel isolated and alone.
As with a lot of things in life, being infertile is something you will never understand the trauma of until you have been through it. Kind of like how you don’t truly understand what it means to be a parent until you are one.
I was lucky. I had friends who wouldn’t allow me to push them away so easily. They waited. Then they cried with me when I miscarried. And then they celebrated with us when those two pink lines stuck and we welcomed our son.
I don’t have any magical advice for anyone on how to be a good friend to someone who is experiencing infertility, or how to be a good friend when you’re experiencing infertility and your friends are not. I know the way I dealt with it and things that helped me, but every situation is unique.
During this week of National Infertility Awareness (and always), please know that you are not alone, and there are many of us who understand the challenging physical and emotional journey you are on. Please find a friend or a group to open up to, and allow them to offer you support. If you have experienced pregnancy loss or infant loss and would like to connect with others with similar stories, consider joining the Iowa City Moms Blog’s Facebook support group.
No matter what side of this you are on, what are your thoughts?
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