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Infertility and Friendships

Infertility and Friendships

May 5, 2017 - By Sam Mann

Mother of Two Donna Starling shares her experience of the downside to parental bliss. 

Once we'd decided we were ready to start a family we wanted it yesterday, we were ridiculously fortunate that we only had to wait a few months before we were 'in the family way' as it were. 

I then spent the following weeks popping folic acid and nibbling ginger biscuits fending off what felt like a horrendous hangover, I read the emails from the copious number of baby websites I had signed up to sneakily in the office, amazed at how soon our lil' bean had grown finger nails, developed to the size of a kidney bean, apple, pepper...

And then finally came the relief at the scan, where teary-eyed, bounty pack and little black and white images in hand, I became a fully fledged member of the parent-to-be club. It's an incredible time. As myself and the other half drove home we discussed who to call first and got onto it as soon as we walked through the door... and then it came to the few friends who have desperately wanted to experience what we were going through not for just a few months but for years, without such luck. The dilemma - do we call, or take the easy way out with a text. I put it off, I didn't want to 'rub their noses in it', and would struggle to find the right words. The thought of breaking one of my friend's heart makes my stomach churn. 

I do believe children are a blessing, a gift and it seems like a growing number of fit, young healthy couples are experiencing infertility. Of my circle of friends, eleven couples in total, three have struggled or are still struggling to fall pregnant and two took over a year. These are good friends and I couldn't help but put myself in their shoes. I certainly didn't want them to hear from someone else in the pub that I'm pregnant, notice my little bump or even worse ...read it on Facebook!

A couple of sleepless nights, a few draft texts, a quick dash around Sainsbury's in case my cover is blown and time was getting on. I needed to bite the bullet. An evening of toying with the idea of doing it over a coffee and a chat turned into me begging my partner to do it. I was scared. I'm sure if my friends had known how much I didn't want to tell them, they'd have been hurt. 

For one particular couple my other half told the guy over a beer in the pub - phew thank God that's done I though at first. The outcome? We haven't seen them for 4 years! My friend didn't want to see, speak or hear from me. They had been together longer than we had, they were married and in her opinion 'they deserved it more' than we did. Wow. Harsh? Quite possibly. But they had already been through a long and painful grueling 7+ year journey to start a family, to have my bump under her nose would have been too much for her to bear.

She tearfully explained how she had fallen pregnant and the baby was due a couple of days before ours was but they'd sadly lost their baby at 10 weeks.

More recently, while pregnant with our daughter. Another couple we were close friends with, got 'the text' and just suddenly stopped contact, almost overnight, I'd hassle mutual friends about what I'd done wrong. None the wiser, I put it down to new jobs, busy work schedules and my hormones turning me into a big round paranoid heap with fat ankles. Edie was born and we didn't hear anything. I was hurt and upset. I'm quite sensitive and hate the thought of my actions upsetting anyone. But I couldn't help but feel hurt myself, there I was experiencing something amazing and wanting to share it with my close friends, and they didn't seem bothered. 

It wasn't until our baby was 4 months old when I got a text, she wanted to talk. I felt physically sick. I had no idea what she wanted to say. When she arrived I put the kettle on and we sat, awkwardly, and made small talk. It must've taken everything she had to sit across from me as I held my baby. She tearfully explained how she had fallen pregnant and the baby was due a couple of days before ours was but they'd sadly lost their baby at 10 weeks. To see me at every stage of pregnancy, where she should've been, to buy a baby gift to congratulate us when they were thinking of what they should've been buying for their own baby was just too hard for her. It was easier to shut me out. I sat and I listened. It was very hard, but what do you say, do you apologise? 

I explained how she could have come to me earlier, I would have done everything I could to support her. I reassured her I would have understood. 

I cringe at just how patronising this must sound. How exactly could I begin to understand how she'd feel. 

I remember desperately willing the 'clear blue' stick ...well sticks...to tell me I was pregnant, and for the months it didn't I was haunted by travel systems everywhere, pregnant bumps, cute babies and one born every minute! I can't begin to contemplate how it feels to lose a baby, at any stage of pregnancy.  I was hurt she felt she couldn't talk to me sooner, but in her shoes I may well have done the same. The pain must have been unbearable and I have to respect she still needs space and time. If it means our friendship has faded as a result I have to accept that. I'd love to see more of her,of course. Perhaps I'm being selfish? 

I do have a great old school friend full of life, she would make the most incredible mother, she has so much to give, an incredible marriage, a beautiful home and its just not happened. She's investigating her options, although like other friends of mine now approaching mid 30's she's worrying they're running out of time. I told her on both occasions about our pregnancies, I played it down, swiftly changed the subject, as the months went by, I tried not to mention this huge bump with limbs protruding in protest, so as not to hurt her feelings. But being the strong woman she is she'd ask me how I was feeling, she made them beautiful gifts to welcome them to the world and is genuinely interested in what they're up to. 

This must take a huge amount of strength and I love her for it. But I hate, as for many others that for reasons out of her control she can't experience it for herself. Yet. Children are a blessing, a gift. But a gift that many good women are being put through so much heartache to get, if at all.

I can only hope that the next time she drops in for tea & cake she's holding black and white pictures of her own. 

Donna Blogs at Cardies & Crumbs

Tags: Pregnancy


Juat to say thank you for this article - My dearest friend in the world ( for over 13 years, met her husband through me, been inseperable for most of our adult life ) , has unfortunately seemingly had the same struggles to get pregnant as may of your friends - our friendship dissapeared into the ether in a matter of weeks after i got pregnant depsite my many efforts to down play the pregnancy, support her in her plight to get pregnant herself and to involve and include her... it was obvously too difficult for her...our friendship was a great loss to me , especially in the face of the blessing that is my daughter amelie, who i know would've loved my friend dearly. I just hope one day she is able to share the joy of her own preganacy and to make contact with me so we can resume our friendship once again - i'm sure it will be like time never passed.....thanks you for addressing this issue sam.

Great read. Thanks for sharing your story Donna.

I've been that friend, but I have never, even when heart broken ruined any of my friendship. Shed tears - yes even with my pregnant friends, but supported them every step of their journey enjoying their excitement. I went down the adoption route and currently have a 3 yr old wriggling on my lap who has been home 7months.My involvement in friends pregnancies and families has helped prepare me for a screaming toddler arriving in my life.

Thank you so much for writing this, and tweeting about it. :-) I have had very many miscarriages, (and no children,) and have felt what it's like to be one of the friends. It's great to hear what it is like to be the person who is expecting - thank you for being so brave, and sharing that. I have been in the situation where a friend and I were both exactly the same amount pregnant, and I then miscarried, and her daughter is now 10, and a walking reminder of my baby which didn't develop. And at the time it was torture. And I vividly remember what it was like when a close friend told me she was expecting. It felt like a cold hand had squeezed my heart and not let go. I wanted to be happy for her, but it hurt me like a physical pain. I really appreciated it when friends took the time to tell me. The times when I found out via facebook were excruciating. I'm 44 now, and there are only 2 of us left who couldn't have children. One by one, the others have conceived and had healthy babies, and I am pleased for them. I found it was easiest when my friends emailed me to tell me. It was very painful indeed when a friend took me out to lunch to tell me, (and then threw her lunch up shortly afterwards, bless her, with her morning sickness.) I'm sure she felt it was the right thing to do, but I always found it very much easier to get over the initial shock in private, at my computer, and not to have to hide the acute pain and distress and jealousy and sick feeling which happened spontaneously when they told me. It's horrible, to be feeling that about a good friend. It made me feel really bad about myself, at the time, but I couldn't help it. I've worked as an alternative therapist for the past 10 years, and last year I set up a business providing emotional support and practical tools to help women recover from miscarriages. I'm pleased to say that it now feels as if I haven't had any miscarriages - what a blessed relief! But I still find being with my friends' new babies to be challenging and exhausting. Although I feel as if I have been able to completely resolve the traumatic experiences which I went through with all the miscarriages, being childless continues to be painful, although only when I am around the babies. The rest of the time I am happy and peaceful and enjoying my life. I have loads of information and free resources on my website, if anyone is interested: www.miscarriage-support.com . I'm walking proof that it really is possible to make all of this easier to cope with. :-)

Thank you for sharing this.. This article could really help someone who desperately needs it.

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