I am lucky to have some truly wonderful friends. I have a couple of friends in particular who were really there for me while I was going through the mess of trying to get pregnant and the subsequent coming-to-terms with not.
These women made me cups of tea and put an arm around my shoulder when I couldn’t hold in my tears. They met me for lunch and asked how things were going. They didn’t push the issue when they could see I didn’t want to talk and they didn’t try to help by offering solutions, based on zero knowledge, or sharing hopeful stories of miracle pregnancies. They seemed to know exactly how to be there for me, and yet when we talked about those times later, they admitted they were just as lost as I was and were winging it all along. I guess I just got lucky.
Other friends weren’t quite so lucky in their “winging” and I wish I could have helped them to help me. I wish I could have put into words what I needed from them, kind of a mini instruction book, so they wouldn’t feel so helpless. I wish I would have known then what I know now and been able to explain it to them.
I wish I’d known that what I was going through was a huge life-changing experience and that I would be a different person for it. I wish I could have told them that I’d still be the same old Lisa, but changed, just a bit.
I wish I’d known I would be okay in the end, no matter what the outcome.
I wish I could have explained that much of the time I didn’t want to talk about it because I was working so hard to keep my emotions at bay.
I wish I could have told them that some days I really wanted to talk about everything and tell them how angry and frustrated I was.
I wish they’d known I was lost.
I wish they’d known I was scared.
I wish they’d known that I could no longer see the future for myself beyond the end of my next cycle.
I wish they’d said, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”
I wish I’d been brave enough to just cry when I needed to and I wish they would have known to just hand me Kleenex until I was done.
I wished they would have known how much I appreciated their friendship and how, even if I went astray for a while, I’d be back, stronger than ever and ready to be a good friend for them, too.
If you could have told your friends (and family) what you needed, what would you have said?
I still wish I could say… anything.
Mostly because of all the things that people say to back stops me from really saying anything. My mom still makes statements like “You don’t know what life is about, until you are a mother…” but then will say things later like “you can talk to me… i will listen”. So sometimes I just wish I could say anything… I just kind of want to put it up on my Facebook Wall and say “Barren… and dealing with it. No we are not trying anything since the one time we did the fertility medicine nearly caused me blindness a la “Grey’s Anatomy”, and no, we are not going to take it all the way to adopting a child from Africa. Thank you.”
Why is “Coming Out” so hard?
J thorne says
“Coming out” is very hard especially when you are not the type of person who wears their heart on their sleeve. I have told friends bits and pieces but never everything – like the roller coaster of emotions that I feel. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry but I do want them to understand. As for my family, it has been a sort of unspoken understanding that I feel from them. I do not openly discuss it but I think my sister and my mother somehow understand anyway. As for acquaintances, forget it. So many people make insensitive and hurtful comments about “people who don’t have kids” that I don’t even bother caring anymore . I wish I could say something to those people that would change their ignorance into understanding but that’s not likely to happen in many cases.
I am a very private person. I’m also very strong and independent and do everything for myself by myself. I remember how much I was hurting and I chose not to say anything to anyone except my husband and one close friend because the last thing I wanted was have people talking about me behind my back and pitying me. Recently I started talking about it openly with my family. My mother has surprised me by being understanding. My one sister has been very supportive and I think it gives her an opportunity to talk about the loss of her first pregnancy. The rest of the people I have talked to (some friends and other family) are still clueless and say stupid things but I’m at a point where they don’t hurt anymore. I don’t think there is anything I could say to those people to get them to understand or be supportive. Sometimes, you need to be very careful about who you tell what because not everyone is capable of being sensitive, understanding or empathetic.
I think I handled it pretty similarly to you, Maria; for the same reasons.
What would I have told friends and family? This. As I was reading it, I thought “maybe I should direct my sister to this post.” Because in the midst of the worst (an extended loss of a second ectopic pregnancy – took months to resolve), I asked her not to phone me, because it was too hard to talk. Actually, as I write this, I know that she wasn’t the sister I should direct this to. Hmmm.
I don’t know that I have much to add – you’ve covered it beautifully.
I want to repost this post because this is everything I want to say. I want others to understand that sometimes I can’t put it in to words. Sometimes I just need to be told it’s ok (the way I feel) by the closest people to me. It’s ok to be lost, confused, sad, uncertain, scared, lonely, it’s ok because it is how I feel and I don’t know how to feel any other way right now.
Actually a close friend asked me directly via email what kind of responses I expected, so I told her and my other close friends that other than, “I’m sorry to hear that/that you have to go through all this. It must be really hard” and/or “I’ll be praying for you to get more peace of mind”, nothing else would do. I’m really grateful for her to ask that question directly to me.
However, grief is very very personal and when that same close friend had a miscarriage, I asked her what kind of responses she was expecting, because she said that what we had given her wasn’t enough. Turned out that for her, any word would do as long as she knew that our responses were more than just a few lines. That’s why I think it’s very important for the grieving person to be open to those close enough who really want to support her.
That said, I’m GLAD you’ve got such lovely friends. 🙂
I just wish people had asked me. It feels as though because it might be a difficult or awkward conversation people prefer to say nothing. At my worst when people asked how I was and I replied ‘surviving’ – no one ever asked me why that was my response and what it meant. I have felt very much alone in coming to terms with my inability to bear a child. It will always be there but by the grace of god I am coming through to the ‘other side’.
I really like what a lot of have said on here its heartbreaking yet comforting and hopeful in a way. I really thjink you guys shouold read ‘trying to get pregnant (and succeeding)’. It has really changed my mindset and I know sooner or later I will be on my way to having the family I desire! 🙂
Rainbow Brite says
I think you’ve missed the point of this website. This is for people who have already given up the hope of having children and are moving on to a childfree life. A book like that wouldn’t be helpful at all to us. I hope that your future works out for you the way you’d like, but sadly there are no guarantees in this life.
I’d like to have asked my sister why she was giving up on me just as I was suffering the full impact of stopping treatment.
Whilst I was going through ivf we seemed to be getting closer, although when I look back it was just five or six supportive emails and some awkward phonecalls. When everything failed and I was in a morass of confusion and sadness, things really did get awkward; she would say things like “I want to ask you about all that stuff but I don’t know how to”, making me feel prickly and “difficult” – to allay her own discomfort, I presume. She had never been able to keep big news to herself and eventually told one too many people about my failed ivf. I was mad, and when I told her I felt hurt and betrayed, she turned the tables on me 100%: attacked me out of the blue for a lifetime of being snide and treating her badly, screamed that it was ME who had devastated HER by saying that I was devastated about her telling people about my ivf (convoluted I know, but way to make it all about her!!…), screeched that she had offered to donate an egg and I was throwing this back in her face (she was 40 when she offered… I turned her down very nicely), that I had no empathy, I was repressed, I was cruel. Attack is the best form of defence, I suppose. I couldn’t eat for three days afterwards, I felt like dying. Since then things have become worse, and my IF was never mentioned again. If I write to her about how humiliating, confusing, desperate the IF made me feel (I tried this, a couple of times), she reciprocates with how hard work is, how hard bringing up her kid is, how demanding the people in her life are; it’s like a misery competition, so I stopped bothering. When I brought up the argument recently and tried to open a dialogue, face to face, she screamed at me and now I no longer feel welcome in her house. We now communicate only by email.
I should have said to her: this is my disaster, the only time I’ve offloaded a major experience onto you in my life; let me have my moment. I guess I was hoping she’d realise herself that IF makes people go a bit crazy, and just be a bit kinder to me.
Rainbow Brite says
Ugh 🙁 I’m SO sorry you’re having to deal with such an unsupportive, selfish sister. There is no excuse for her behavior.
Thanks Rainbow. I don’t think people have any inkling how it feels to go through infertility & failed treatment. If my sister did understand, surely she would be aware that not only have I lost the chance for my own family, but being ostracised by her, her husband, her son (my nephew) and her stepchildren makes it 100 times worse.
I would have said “please don’t try to encourage me to keep going.” After the decision to stop because all our attempts were not a success, my family thought it would be best to examin our options openly infront of their friends and without any consideration to how it feels to be the topic of everyone’s opinion. At one point my sister actually said “I believe that anyone can be a parent, IF they really want to.” It hurt to know that my family thought I didn’t want to try anymore, they just didn’t realize how hard the dissapointment was after that dreaded pregnancy test that said no yet again. We looked into other options and decided they weren’t for us, but for some reason people see this as a failure.
I also wish I could truly say thank you and I love you to the sister who was my rock and tried to protect me. I have tried in many ways, but it always seems like not enough. She asked me questions that were considerate and never made me feel bad for my emotions.
Rainbow Brite says
I know EXACTLY what you mean Shelley!! I haven’t updated my blog in almost a year, but I think the last two posts may speak to you:
Thankfully nobody has said anything insensitive to me about taking a break and/or giving up in quite a while, but I’m always expecting the next comment won’t be far away. Our society has no idea how to let people give up without meeting their goal. We become an outcast in normal society for not having kids and an outcast in the IF community for moving on. I’m so happy to have this blog and website to turn to!
I know I’m late to this discussion but I wanted to tell you how much I can relate to what you are saying. I had the same experience with my family talking about me behind my back. And the wife of a couple we used to be friends said something very similar to me at a party at her house, e.g. she looked very annoyed with me and said, you know, you COULD always adopt, like she was disgusted with me having stopped trying to do anything anymore. I found out after the fact that another couple she was friends with was trying to adopt and managed to do it successfully after 5 tries. These people just don’t know the pain of the constant disappointment. For me, I could not survive 5 rounds of trying to adopt after 5 years of trying to get pregnant. I didn’t have the emotional strength. But other people just don’t understand that.
Big thanks for an excellent post.