Friends Before Infertility and Far Beyond
Okay, we were friends well before infertility.
We've been friends since we were five years old. We've gone through our entire lives together. Ice skating lessons, elementary school, being embarassed by our mothers and their friendship, middle school (called Junior High School back then), high school, weddings, disliking each other for periods of time, working together, anniversaries and, yes, infertility.
What brings this up now?
My best friend, Pamela Madsen, who blogs at The Fertility Advocate, is celebrating her thirty-first wedding anniversary to the same man. Pamela and Kai Madsen got married thirty-one years ago today. Oh, the stories I could tell about that day. Me, with the worst memory in the world, I can remember clearly the fresh flowers on the cake because the cake had a little, ahem, accident. It was gorgeous with bright, vibrant zinnia's adorning it--perfect timing for an accident.
And do not ask me why, because it makes no sense. There is no rational reason on earth that I still have the dress.
The bridesmaid dress.
I refuse to count how many moves I have made in 31 years that included lugging that dress from one home to another. Suffice it to say that it's made a few moves and lived in a few states.
I will admit here that not only do I still have it, but that it was easily accessible.
Big, big sigh.
I have no clue whatsoever as to where my winter comforter is. Or the bin of summer dresses I put away last summer (which would have been really great to have had for THIS summer). Wouldn't even know where to start to look for Halloween decorations or the dog's shampoo.
So there is no good explanation on why I could walk down into the basement, know exactly where this dress was, even though I have not worn it in 31 years; Why finding it was absolutely no problem, taking less than about 12 seconds.
Even bigger sigh.
Made a big mistake.
Told Pamela that I still have the dress.
When she stopped laughing (which took quite a while), she asked/dared me to put it on facebook. To take a picture of the dress, as I held it up, and post it on facebook.
What else are best friends for? Pamela, remember the incident with the wet cement? And your still daring me?
It's not a good thing to dare your best friends. Especially if it's me.
So down I go into the basement and up comes the dress.
Only why hold it up and not at least try it on?
Can you actually believe I am even telling you this story? Do you promise never to be embarassed by anything you ever do again in your life? Because, really, nothing can top this.
On goes the dress.
It went on.
It zipped up. (There is no elastic and it's a size 2.)
I could breathe. Talk. Walk.
It zipped up.
Just like our friendship, Pamela, a perfect fit, even after many, many years.
Stay tuned for our adventures through infertility, fertility treatment and being cycle buddies.
Distinguishing the Voices During Infertility
Infertility. Lots of conversation recently about fertility treatment and timing. Timing about when to do a cycle, when to wait, what we're waiting for.
Some thoughts on the subject:
In the face of an obstacle which is impossible to overcome, stubborness is stupid.
Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay.
~Simone de Beauvoir
The same woman said both of those things. They look contradictory, don't they? Somewhere within lies the balance that I seek.
What to Fight For? What to Accept?
I just keep looking for which is which. Which is the piece that is stupid to rail against? How do I tell the difference between that piece and the life that I want to change?
Listening to myself is helpful.
Listening to others is equally as helpful. Okay, often more helpful. Knowing who to listen to and making sure that I'm listening with my ears and heart wide open.
Specifically: I make sure that I go to professionals that I trust and have respect for and to whom I ask questions and who are willing to answer questions. Those professionals include doctors. Do you see a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist who answers your questions? Is it someone with whom you feel comfortable asking questions?
I listen to trusted friends, whom I frustrate often as I don't take their advice.
Knowing What To Believe
Why don't I take their advice? Why do I typically get the comment that I re-package what they say, several minutes or more after they say it?
I need to incorporate what I have heard into my life and my belief system.
A dear friend shared a statement with me recently that fits, so perfectly. Instead of paraphrasing it, let me share it with you:
no matter where you read it or who has said it,
not even if I have said it,
unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
Talk to us about what you need for your fertility treatment. We are listening and we know that you are too.
When I read my horoscope this morning, it brought up many conversations that I’ve had with women over the years about how relationships fare in the midst of infertility or fertility treatment. It seems that the balance of privacy and support are always precarious and ever changing.
On the positive side for sharing our infertility journey with our friends or family, support and sympathy if not empathy are often offered. We all agreed this past weekend in our peer support group that there is often no right thing to say, that what could be right one minute, with one set of circumstances could be most unwelcome the next moment. In that sense, the simplest, quietest support from our loved ones is often the most appreciated. Someone who can listen to what we need to express and not ask too many intrusive questions.
The reasons for not sharing our fertility journey with our friends and loved ones were numerous. They came easily and quickly and included; intrusive questions, keeping information about pregnancies from us, pity, suggestions, stories about others, reasons why this is happening to us and even sharing our private information with other people.
My own personal story is that I shared the information. But as I was further into my infertility experience, I also learned that I had to set up boundaries, not only for my own sanity but for the health and welfare of those I loved. I made up rules and I handed them out. I’m not sure that I ever posted them on the blog, but they went something like this:
- I am the only one allowed to bring up the infertility conversation
- The conversation will only last as long as I want it to
- The conversation will start and end as I need it to
- No questions asked in-between conversations no matter how curious you are about how things are going, or even if treatment worked
- Information may only be shared with your partner as long as they will commit to keeping it to themselves
- Suggestions, new medical treatments, success or failure stories can be offered only if asked
Sounds kind of bossy, doesn’t it? I do credit that simple list with saving several friendships. Most friendships are not designed to tolerate such strict boundaries, but in fertility situation, it worked for me.
I am including my horoscope here, not because I believe that the moon and stars aligned on Saturday to determine my fate for the week, but because it speaks eloquently to the balancing issues around letting people in and keeping them out. It speaks eloquently about staying in relationships, even if you need to set up the Draconian measures that I did.
You may sense that there is a gulf growing between you and the people you care about today, and your first response may be to retreat into isolation so you can mull over this development in peace. However, doing so may actually cause the rift to open wider, as your loved ones may interpret your actions as neglectful. Consider how others will respond to your decision to seek out solitude today. If you believe that your absence may damage your relationships, you may choose to reach out to family and friends in order to explain your need for time apart. They will likely be reassured by your attentions and less apt to react badly to your need for privacy.
Often, the only way to bridge the distance that grows up between ourselves and our loved ones is to reach out. We may not always feel inclined to participate in social activities, yet we need to take the needs and desires of our loved ones into consideration before retreating into solitude. There will occasionally be times in our lives during which we feel aloof, but friends and family are in need of our company. We must weigh our own wishes against the importance of the relationships affected by our decisions. Whether or not we ultimately choose to abide by feelings of detachment will sometimes be less important than our willingness to give the people we care about due consideration at all times. However much you wish to be alone today, the love and tenderness you feel for your loved ones may keep you from seeking out isolation.
Ever wonder who you should talk to about your experiences with infertility? Who might have some insight or some helpful advice? Ever wonder if it’s worth the risk of feeling a lack of privacy by sharing your struggle with a friend or family member?
Sharing this with some one close to you can feel scary. There’s often a sense of embarrassment or shame, as though our reproductive organs not functioning properly reflect on who we are as men, women or people.
We are men, women and people regardless of whether our reproductive organs and systems allow us to become biological parents or not. We work, we play, we care about our friends and family, we are real people.
Sharing the burden of infertility with just one friend or family member can make the weight lighter. Picking just one person and taking a deep breath and telling them what’s going on for you and allowing them to help can also make a friendship stronger.
Can you think of just one person? If you’re not ready, I understand. Everything in its own time. Just please consider that your closest friends love you and care about you and while they may not say just the right thing, they can be helped by you to say what you need to hear and they can be asked not to say those things that you don’t find helpful.
This is an opportunity to create stronger bonds in a friendship. An opportunity to tell the truth and give a friend a chance to hold your hand or keep you company while you’re feeling pain.