Sunday, 5 August 2007

Infertility and fertile friends

I guess you could say any friendship is fertile - if it's a good one - but I'm not really using the word in that way. I'm using it in the baby making way. I hate that my beautiful daughter Maya died. I hate that she is not here with our family like she should be. I hate the fact that I have balanced translocation. I hate IVF. I hate failed IVF cycles. And I hate the effect that all that has on my relationship with fertile friends.

The fact is - I feel alone.

I know eveyone is alone when it comes down to it.... that is what my friend K was trying to tell me..... "you're not alone in that". But it is different. She told me that becoming a mother did not change her friendships with other women who are mothers. If that is so, why does becoming a mother of a child that has died, and not being able to conceive again, change all my friendships with other mothers? K admitted it. There is a big gaping hole between us. Not because either of us put it there or want it.... it's just there because of circumstances. But the thing is, while she is angry about the effect it has on our relationship (me too - we are good friends) I am angry because I now have that gaping hole in all my friendships. My sister who has recently had a child, my close friends have both had babies, and now another close friend is pregnant.

What is that hole? What is that seemingly unbridgeable distance that has appeared now?

It is many things. From the side of my friends (I speak only from what people have said to me) they have to overcome their own feelings of non-worthiness ("I don't deserve to be pregnant/have a child"), of clumsiness ("I don't know what to say/how to be around you"), of questioning how to make a space for their celebration or day to day life with baby ('how much should I say about my pregnancy/child?") and though no-one says it this bluntly, their's the good old guilt. ("Being around you makes me feel guilty for being pregnant")

From my side, I have to overcome the deep pain at being around someone who is pregnant or with a child. Let's call a spade a spade - it fuckin hurts and I have to pretend in front of you that I am OK when I am so not OK, you don't see it but I always go home and cry on my own after seeing you. I have to deal with your clumsiness which never used to be there... that hurts too. I have to find a way to handle all the comparisons that continually rear their ugly head. When I see your child, I only think how big my daughter would have been. When I see your belly I think how far pregnant I should be if my last IVF attempt had worked.... I am sorry my friends.... but I struggle to see you on your own terms. I see, or more accurately, I feel your life as the photo of my negative...... What is a baby in your arms is a dark hole in the negative. What is a pregnant belly in your photo is deep blackness in my image.

And what of being a mother? To you breast feeding is OK/a pain/ have I drunk enough water?/ my nipples hurt. To me - who has had milk stream from my breasts but never had the experience of holding a child to it, breastfeeding is pretty amazing. I long to be able to give to a baby in that way. It seems mystical and profound. I could go on in the difference of my perception of being a mother and your experience. And you can't tell me my perception is not true -even though it may not be your day to day experience. Some truths you only know in absence rather than presence. But it is another part of the gap that now exists between us.

So my question is this? How do we be friends? How do we find a way to continue to participate in each others lives? I find it so hard. It hurts me to the core seeing the difference between your life and mine. Seeing things move forward in your life where I have stalled. Seeing your child grow while my experience of being a mother is visiting the grave of my daughter and looking at photos that are now a year old. Watching your family get bigger (and with such ease!) while we struggle to have one living child. Trying to be genuine in my sympathy for your day to day drama's, while in my head i think "well it's not that bad" and "I would give anything for that to be my problem"..

I do not know the answers to these things.

I do know that I do love you and do not want to loose your friendship. I just don't know how to keep it.

31 comments:

The Town Criers said...

I loved this line so much: "I feel your life as the photo of my negative...... What is a baby in your arms is a dark hole in the negative. What is a pregnant belly in your photo is deep blackness in my image."

I don't have a good answer. I think I naturally gravitate towards other IF women so as friendships have naturally faded due to distance, circumstances, etc, they've been replaced with IF women. My circle of friends is definitely more IF heavy. Some of these people I met from online too. Another blogger in my area called everyone together for a dinner at a local restaurant and about 10 people showed up. We now get together about once a month and some of us get together one-on-one during the week. I think surrounding myself with women who get it makes the times I'm with someone who doesn't a bit more bearable.

jeanie said...

I wonder sometimes what I will say to those women on the playground, if I ever do get lucky enough to be there with them. For me, it's not just a hole in the friendships I have now that makes me lament lost connections, it's also the ones to come. Or maybe not come. I so wish I had an answer for you (and for me). Maybe time will take care of this for us for all of us. (The me I was a few years ago couldn't have contemplated the idea of daily injections!). In the meantime though, I hope you'll find a way to honor both your feelings and your friendships.

Kami said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter Maya. We lost our son, Ernest (first and only child so far) shortly after birth at 27 weeks gestation. It is so hard to struggle to have another child after coming so close.

I think that friendships come and go. Good friends stay friends, but the relationship can go from close to not-as-close depending on circumstances. I think the closeness of those relationships depends so much on where we are in our lives. If you have ever had a good work friend who faded into obscurity when you no longer worked together (despite your belief that it wouldn't) you know what a mean.

I guess I am saying that these friendships may fade for the time being and I think that is ok. Good friendships will rekindle when the times is right.

In the meantime, you are not alone. Please consider me part of your internet community.

sharah said...

"Trying to be genuine in my sympathy for your day to day drama's..."

That is exactly it! I have a huge amount of trouble trying to find any sympathy for my friends' drama anymore. What they complain about, what they're going through, I just want to say "suck it up and move on." Which is completely wrong, but I can't help it.

B said...

Thanks for your support friends.

I spoke to my counsellor about this one. She told me it was important to remember and remind myself of what I can do in friendships.

Eg. I can talk to that person about...... insert something not pregnancy related, i can leave if i feel uncomfortable or sad, i can send emails and postcards. Sounds a bit trivial but I can see her point about self fulfilling prophecy. It would be easy to let my fear of pain rule the day and not let me engage with these friends at all. And while it might be understandable. It probably isn't what is best for me (or them) .And I can do those things. They are in my capacity. And I will.

Pamela Jeanne said...

This is a powerful post that brings to mind a friendship I've let lapse simply because her pregnancy succeeded where mine did not. Her family grew later with an oops baby while we had to face the brutal reality that my body couldn't carry a child. I tried to put my best foot forward but watching her breast feed eight months ago nearly sent me around the bend and I told her I couldn't see her while she was still nursing. I feel guilty but only to a point. Thanks for capturing so well what's in my head.

Fertilize Me said...

This post is a glimpse of where I will be in a few weeks. For i am the last one in my circle of friends that does not have a child or positive pregnancy story now. I am afraid that my pain and just life itself will tear us apart - for I am now left behind. I am so sorry beyond words that you are having to experience all of these truly raw and rough emotions. I do hope that you will find some sort of support from the online community! Blessings Farah

LJ said...

This post really means something to me. As I sit here and comment, I am waiting to go out to dinner with girlfriends. Two of whom will give birth in the next month, two of whom aren't even dating anyone. Leaving me. Alone. In the middle.

It is painful, and alienating, and I can only pretend around them.

Trish said...

What a powerful post. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes.
It resonates so clearly. I feel like I'm in so much pain all the time that no one else's (the fertiles) can compare.
I know logically it isn't true, everyone has their own problems, but I FEEL SO RAW all the time, that sometimes I just want to scream.

Courtney said...

I just wanted to say that this is a beautiful post, and it captures so many emotions related to the void of not having a child.

You are a true example of resiliency, and I hope you find peace.

I would like to add you to my blog list to continue reading your thoughts are experience.

Zee said...

Thank you for writing this, B. It so eloquently captures how I feel around the pregnant and the fertile, and why I've let a number of very old friendships lapse these past few years. It's just way too hard and way too awkward for everyone. And it uses up too much energy to pretend to be OK, when all I can see is the "deep blackness in my image" when I look at them.

Irish Girl said...

Just found you now ... I'm sorry you had to endure such pain. Thank you for writing what I've thought so many times. The friends issue is a big one.

SarahSews said...

I found you through Mel and this post has me in tears. I'm so sorry for your loss and your continuing struggle.

We've been trying for over 2.5 yrs and need IVF but are stalling for financial reasons. In the meantime my brothers and Dh's sisters have had eight pregnancies, resulting in 5 children so far.
My older brother and his wife have one planned, one oops with another oops on the way. That, combined with our IF, has almost ruined our relationship. His life, with his children, is a painful daily reminder of what is missing from mine.

You touched a white hot nerve.

Erin said...

I found you through Mel also and this post brought me to tears. I am so very sorry for the loss of your daughter, and for all you've gone through since her birth. I've been lucky enough to join the moms of the world and yet infertility leaves its scars so deeply that I never feel as though I'm fully one of them.

r.a.w. said...

I found your post through Irish Girl. You've certainly hit the nail on the head - I am in the middle of some of my relationships being torn apart because of this, but I feel powerless to stop it. (And I'm feeling a LOT of what sharah was commenting on!!).

Glad to hear you are scheduling your next "round." Sending up prayers for you.

hopeful mommy-in-waiting said...

thanks for this post. I absolutely feel the same. The loneliness is the worst part. Every pregnancy, every birthday and baptism, only reminds me of what I lost and don't have.

lifefromhere said...

came over from la creme of 2007 and just wanted to say I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter. this post is so beautiful in its clarity and in the way you so accurately capture the reality of friendships during infertility and after such a sad loss. I lost my only baby at just 21 wks and though I never got to hold him I still feel the same feelings, those comparisons, the gap between my life and theirs. the inability to see anything except as a measure of what I have lost. thank you for expressing this so beautifully. ~luna

msmiranda said...

Also here from Creme to say that I found your post very moving and I am so, so sorry for your loss.

The Dunn Family said...

Came over from the creme and your post made me cry. I am SO sorry for the loss of your daughter, and the pain you have felt. I wish you peace.

Ellen K. said...

Here via CDLC and bookmarking this post because it's among the best I've ever read. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Kathy V said...

I came here via creme. Dealing with IF and Loss is hard enough and then to have to go through feelings of oddness around friends doesn't help either. I have been in a similar situation with some of my fertile friends. Some of them being the "why don't you have children" type. It is hard to feel awkward amongst friends (and even family sometimes) because of the void caused by loss and infertility. I have recently started to feel this also. I don't know where to turn to find new people to hang out with either. Good Luck in trying to figure out what to do with the void in your friendships.

Jen said...

Thank you for putting that into words for the rest of us. You are not alone in those feelings.

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By the way, a couple that has tried unsuccessfully to have a child for a year or more is said to be subfertile meaning less fertile than a typical couple.

Anonymous said...

I have been doing so much research on how to get pregnant with ovarian cysts and without the money for ivf. What really upsets me is when my close friend complains about having a 7-month-old and being 5 months pregnant. Then IF she notices how upset I am, she carries on about how sorry she is and how she can're imagine what I must be going through. Did I forget to mention she has 2 other children? One is 8 and the other is 4.

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