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A blog by Ellen Glazer
There is nothing better than having a buddy when you are going through infertility.
How nice to find someone who speaks the same language as you do (“follicles,” “retrieval,” “PGD” and “ICSI,” to name a few of the words that your fertile friends probably can’t relate to). How nice to have someone who understands why you are dreading your cousin’s upcoming baby shower and why you may make up an excuse so you don’t have to attend.
A buddy is terrific, also, at comforting you when you find out that your younger sister is pregnant or learn that your friend, whom you were sure had stopped at two, is pregnant with her third. A buddy is great — until she gets pregnant. Then it can feel like there is nothing worse. Sometimes…
Infertility friendships are complicated. As I tried to capture in the examples above, having an infertility buddy — or better yet, more than one — can reduce your isolation and reassure you that you are not only not alone, you are also not going crazy. With a buddy, you can laugh at the insults and injuries of infertility in a way that no one in the fertile world can understand. The problem inherent in these relationships is that you are both trying to have a baby, and it is highly unlikely that you will become pregnant and stay pregnant at precisely the same time.
When friends are going through infertility (or a series of pregnancy losses) together, and one moves on to a successful pregnancy, the other wants to feel happy for her friend. After all, you know what she has been through, how much this matters to her, how hard she worked to make it happen. You want to feel happy in a way that you can’t feel for your fertile friends. You may be surprised, upset and disappointed with yourself to find that you actually feel more upset when an infertile friend becomes pregnant. Why is this, and what can you do about it?
The Other Side of Infertility
I think that successful “infertile pregnancies” are especially and unexpectedly difficult because it feels like your friend has now “crossed over to the other side.” She may tell you that she still feels infertile, but the fact is, she is “with child.” She may say that you will remain good friends, but if your history began with infertility and you no longer share that experience, it can easily feel that the friendship lacks a solid foundation. Having a friend “cross over,” not only leaves you feeling that you may lose the friendship, but also feeling that you are really “defective.” After all, this proves it: even someone really infertile is now having a baby.
When You Get Pregnant First
Lest, I make it sound like it is inevitable that your infertile friend will become pregnant before you do, I need to acknowledge that you may be the one that gets pregnant first. Now that may sound like good news, but, in fact, it too is difficult. Now you face the last dilemma you could have imagined: knowing you will cause pain to someone else when you tell her you are pregnant.
I wish I could offer some simple, foolproof recipe for navigating infertility friendships. Unfortunately, there is no way around the collision of goals that you and your friend face: you each want to have a baby, you know that it won’t happen at same exact moment, and you want to build and maintain a friendship. I can only suggest the following:
- Talk with your friend in advance about how you will handle “the telling.” Make sure that each of you understands what the other prefers in terms of a phone call, an email, the wording etc.
- Acknowledge that your friendship has been built on your shared infertility experience and that without it, you will need new common ground for the friendship to survive. If the relationship is important to each of you, explore other ways you can sustain it.
- Remember what you have learned — I hope — from your fertile friendships — that relationships that matter can survive and grow despite the strain of infertility, that you need to figure out what you need from a friend and let her know, that there may be times when the best thing you can do for your friendship is to temporarily spend some time apart.