Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Infertility and Friends -- by Laura

I spent five years trying to get pregnant. Desperately. It was the most painful thing I have ever been through, and when the test finally came back positive, the world seemed like and all-you-can-eat buffet of joy. But not everybody was happy for me. And I understand why.

When I was trying to get pregnant, it seemed like everyone else in the world could get pregnant but me. Every other month I was pushing a shopping cart through Babies-R-Us, until I just couldn’t even drive past the exit without wanting to throw up in my mouth. There was only one other person in my life who could not get pregnant. One of my best friends. I’ll call her Liz. We had been friends for over 15 years, and when we were together, we laughed like mad women. And our lives seem to parallel in so many ways, so when we both started trying to have children, we believed were in it together, and together we would triumph.

At first we were sort of private about our attempts. We wanted to endure the dreaded two-week wait alone. But we went through the same treatments at almost the exact same time. We even had the same doctor for the first two rounds of IVF. But as we continued our treatments, Liz became more and more bitter and more and more competitive. She was a wealthy woman, so she could afford to do more rounds of IVF and go to private clinics with more personalized care. I knew my shots were limited, so I plowed through books, trolled the Internet, and joined an infertility support group to gather as much information as I could. When I would present my findings to her over coffee, she called me obsessed and dismissed the conversation.

Liz was right. I was obsessed. If you want to get pregnant when you’re 40, you have to be. So I was, and I did.

There came a day when I had to tell Liz I was pregnant, and I knew I wanted to tell her in a good way. I wanted to tell her before I told my other friends so she would not hear it second hand. I wanted to tell her quietly and in person when her husband was there so he could be there to support her. I wanted to be calm and quick about it, and make sure the conversation shifted to other things at the right time. I practiced. My husband shook his head.

The right time came to tell her. It was a late November morning, and I had just hit the three-month mark. I drove an hour to her house, brought her muffins, drank tea and sat in her kitchen chatting about nothing in particular. Just catching up. Then when the muffins were eaten and the tea finished, I did it. “I’m pregnant,” I said. I could hear her heart break. I knew that feeling. I had sat where she sat many times over the last five years. It is miserable. It’s as if a sheet of shame has settled on the heart because you know you are supposed to be happy. You know you are, but all you want to do is curl up in the corner and cry.

Liz stammered. And stuttered. And I could see her face flush while her mind raced. She kept swallowing even though the tea was long gone. Her husband came in the room and placed a hand on her shoulder. I began to talk quickly. I felt like I needed to apologize, and I remember saying how hard it had all been and that I was still scared. And it was going to be a rough pregnancy with twins. “Twins?” she said. “You have twins?” And I could feel her world fall out from under her.

I changed the subject to her. To her adoption process. To her job. And then I said I had to go. She was relieved. And when we said goodbye, there were no congratulations from her. There was no more acknowledgment. I didn’t expect there to be.

After that day, she did not reply to my emails. She did not return my phone calls. She sent me a Christmas card but did not sign her name. I did receive a mass email from her four months later that she had successfully adopted a baby girl. I sent her a note congratulating her and wishing her the greatest happiness, but I never heard back.

To say I was hurt and angry about it is an understatement. At the same time, I knew exactly how she felt. I hoped that with the adoption of her daughter that somehow we could mend things. That her heart would be put back together. I was going to reach out and send her an email, but then my husband said, “Why would you want to reconnect with someone who treated you so badly while you tried to get pregnant and then was unhappy for you when you did?”

He had a good point. But there are other things to consider. Infertility brings out the worst in people. It’s a sad, sad thing. It’s grotesquely painful. Did she act badly? Sure. Would I have done the same thing? I don’t think so. My friendships are precious.

Perhaps it is time to let go. Perhaps there wasn’t the friendship there that I believed was there. But if I let my heart speak, it has its own take on the situation. It wants to pick up the phone and call her, so we can laugh the way we used to. It wants to see an email from her in my inbox with one of her silly titles. It would even take a Christmas card she didn’t bother to sign.

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Blogger Cara Meyers said...

I feel so sad for you, Laura. Losing a friend under any circumstance is hurtful at best. Ironically, I met one of my best friends through her trials of IVF. I was the one "brave" enough to give her daily shots throughout her pregnancy (she had many complications). She now has an almost 3 year old daughter and a son who just turned one, but she lost 3 other fetuses in the process which is also heartbreaking. She also said she lost a couple friends once she conceived. But she also gained others, like myself, who will always be there for her!

6:29 AM  
Blogger Jackie Shannon Hollis said...

If Liz is a woman who can look inside, then maybe one day she will be able to have some compassion for herself and her pain and to know YOU of all people understood it, and then, maybe she can reach out. In the meantime, I love that your husband is so wonderful in reminding you that this isn't YOUR burden to carry -- though there is the pain of the loss.


2:53 PM  

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