If I hadn’t had a very special set of friends while I was trying my hardest to get pregnant, life would have felt even more unlovely and difficult than it already did, what with injections, medications, doctor appointments and more.
That set of friends were not my usual, fantastic go-to friends.
They were friends I met in the trenches. The new friends in my life who were going through similar struggles with infertility, fertility treatment, pregnant friends, unwanted advice, pity and shame.
National Friendship Day
It’s all about friends, connections, relationships. One of the sets of relationships that is hardest hit by infertility? Our friendships.
National Friendship Day is such an excellent idea that we’ll forgive the fact that it actually did start as a Hallmark Holiday. Winnie the Pooh helped legitimize the “holiday” in 1998 when he was appointed the “Ambassador of Friendship” at the United Nations. Additionally, in 2011, the United Nations officially recognized the 30th of July as International Friendship Day. (Most commonly honored on the first Sunday in August.)
Friendships are, in fact, forged in some very strange places. And what creates the strongest bonds are often at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Joy and pain.
A strange, unexpected benefit of infertility is friendship
Yes, I’ve experienced what you have. I’ve walked into many waiting rooms in fertility practices where people studiously avoid looking at each other, finding even the most banal magazines utterly fascinating. Everyone’s there for the same reason, but there’s zero conversation. Not even any eye contact.
Because no one in the room wants to connect. And everyone wants to suddenly have the superpower of invisibility.
3 Reasons Why We Don’t Talk in the Fertility Office’s Waiting Room
Otherwise known as privacy. Sometimes we’re just barely holding ourselves together. Bursting into tears doesn’t feel like a way to improve a situation we don’t want to be in to begin with. Better to keep it all in.
2. We didn’t choose this!
This wasn’t a club, sorority, team, fraternity, or group we signed up for! We want to get in, get our fertility treatment, our positive pregnancy test, and get out. Maybe even forget all infertility the second that we achieve that goal.
3. We’re in enough pain
We don’t want to hear about someone else’s! It’s all we can do to manage our own emotions, who needs to take on more, from a perfect stranger, no less. No, thank you!
Infertility. Go from Alone to Connected
To quote Resolve: The National Infertility Association, from several years ago, now let’s flip the conversation. Why looking up and saying hi or coming to a support group can change absolutely everything. How it can help you go from isolated to connected.
Ladies Night In Support Groups are Confidential
Make August the month that you make a new best friend that will make all the difference in being in fertility treatment.
3 Reasons Why Talking to Other “Infertiles” Helps
1. Relieves isolation
It’s so common during infertility and fertility treatment that we’re NOT talking to our regular support people—friends and family, because even though they’re trying, they don’t get it. Talking to someone else who truly does get it because they’re going through it too, it helps. It really does. Validates that we’re not crazy, but that it’s also completely normal to feel crazy-ish.
2. Expressing frustration, disappointment, sadness, and rage
This is not being negative or the whole “misery loves company” type of thing. It’s about letting the very human feelings that we have during the process of trying to conceive see some light. We very often feel better when we say the worst things that we feel and think out loud and see they are received in an uncritical, non-judgmental way. And the sky doesn’t fall in, the sun rises the next day. We’re not going to be punished for feeling awful in a ridiculously challenging situation.
3. A good laugh
Yes, really, really, really. While our fertile friends either ignore our fertility woes, ask too many questions, don’t ask the right questions (at the right time, with the right tone), say well-meaning but still hurtful things, our infertile friends? They hit the nail right on the head. Funny examples, you ask? Here are some comments taken from a Ladies Night In Group:
- The acronym CAS: stands for crappy a*s sperm
- Oh, relaxing is the key? And here, I thought it had to with an egg and a sperm!
- Sex? Is that how to get pregnant? I remember it vaguely!
- Yup, you get it, you tried for 3 months to get pregnant, for baby number 3, so you know exactly how I feel! (Two years into fertility treatment!)
My Fellow Infertility Warriors
Friendships made in the hellish conditions of infertility are as strong as they come. Often friendships instantaneously ignite that they would never have in any other way. There aren’t other similar interests, there’s not a lot in common, you might never even meet in a social situation.
At Ladies Night In, a peer support group, perfect strangers come in, a little shy, maybe even anxious, and twenty-five minutes later, they’re nonstop talking. At the end of the group, they’re standing outside afterwards, in the boiling heat and shivering cold, continuing to talk, connect, and share.
The most amazing part of it all? Even when the infertility resolves, the friendships remain. It turns out that the shared losses and successes only strengthen the bonds! On our two very active private Facebook pages, Mommies After Infertility and Parents After Infertility (the latter showing an increase in popularity thanks to men joining the discourse!), this sentiment is clear. The emotional weight from our shared experiences still fosters friendship and conversation beyond pregnancy. We talk about everything; the pain that disappears and the pain that doesn’t. Infertility can change you and the relationships you form forever, even though it was never your choice to go through it.
Asking questions. Sharing experiences. Empathizing. Commiserating.
These friendships become stronger through the vulnerability that we allow to be seen, the tears that we shed, the laughter that we share, the stories that sound eerily familiar.
One More. An Added Infertility Friend Bonus.
We share hope. We remind each other and ourselves how to process a disappointment, grieve a loss, take a break and come back to it. We talk our way through IUIs and IVF treatments. We support each other taking the leap into third party, with donor eggs and sperm. We respect the space we all need in deciding when enough is enough and know that ultimately, these are all very personal decisions to make. We are honored when we let each other in to help through the hardest of it all.
It’s the club you never wanted to be part of, but it’s a club that will hold you, support you, understand you and love you.
From my heart to yours.
Do you have a friendship story?
Share it with me privately. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s continue National Friendship Day with a follow up blog on infertility friendships that last forever.