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The Secret Sharer
a blog by Jim and Joy
By now, you’ve probably guessed that I’m not very private. While many people I know marvel at my willingness to share private details of my life (in real life and in this blog), it just feels natural to me. I am simply unable to keep my feelings and experiences to myself. I often think about what it would be like to keep a secret. A couple of my friends are quite private, much more guarded than me. Sometimes I try to emulate them - I’ll coyly respond to questions about what I’ve been up to. But, to me, it feels like I’m betraying both my friendship and myself. Holding back just totally goes against my nature.
Then I had a miscarriage. That first pregnancy, I did what you’re “supposed” to do. I didn’t tell everyone. I told my inner circle (which is quite large). I remember a friend saying “just tell the people who would be there for you if you miscarried.” Cue the death knell. As I slipped further and further into the depths of my despair, I felt I needed to explain myself. Normally a gregarious, social person, all I could do was sit around and cry. I couldn’t concentrate on work, and I cared not one bit about going to a new restaurant or movie. After months of isolation, I decided to fill more people in. It felt good to unload some of the grief.
What I didn’t realize, though, was how burdensome all of this sharing would become. My wonderful friends would check in on me often, and if I didn’t feel like returning their calls they would worry. Or worse, some friends who were out of the loop had hurt feelings. What had I done? What started as a coping mechanism became a maze of social rules and friendship maintenance. To boot, I had people knowing things about me that I didn’t care to share. They knew that I was taking hormones and they knew when I went in for a retrieval and a transfer. Which meant that they could figure out whether I would (should) be pregnant at any given time. Did I really want people asking me “so, how are you?” with that knowing smile?
There’s the double edged sword that is my life. I need support. But I want to pick and choose when and how to get it. But then I don’t want to appear selfish or bitchy (too late). Argh! This is when I really envy my private friends. Once again, I find myself wishing that there was some kind of Handbook for The Infertile. At this point, I suppose I could write it myself.
Telling people about this stuff is weird. Most days, I can’t keep track of all that’s happened, let alone relate it to someone else. It’s not that I’m too damaged to talk about it, I just really don’t remember (defense mechanism?). Time just goes by while I hope to forget about the crappy things that have happened.
I guess I’m bad about telling people. I think I’ve got the whole thing backwards. The people who should know the most get very little information while complete strangers get all the gory details. I find it easier to tell people who don’t know me well because it gives me a little emotional distance. I can tell my story, get it off my chest, and avoid the baggage that goes with telling loved ones. Maybe I don’t want to see my family struggle to find the right words or ways to act around me. Or maybe I don’t want to see them grapple with unfamiliar emotions, the way I have for years now. I get very uncomfortable expressing deep feelings.
In crisis and in regular life, Joy has always handled our social stuff. She’s on the phone all the time, so I can be sure that she’s passed along all the updates. So I don’t think too much about which friends to tell or who not to. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get mad when I feel like Joy is airing our grievances too freely. But her morale really improves the more she connects with other people. She’s a good counterbalance to my reticence.
In the end, I know that it would be good for me to express myself more (Now would be a good time to tell you that Joy and I are opposites). The deeper I go into my head, the harder it seems to have healthy relationships.
My emotional obstacles go way beyond this episode of infertility, and may be a topic for another blog, or maybe a shrink. But it does feel good to know that when I’m ready, my family is there, as they’ve shown me countless times during this crazy ride. And, of course, Joy is ready to talk anytime.