Thursday, October 16, 2008

Once An Infertile...

Technically speaking, I don't know that I can even take on the label I've assumed in the title. First of all, my own body is an untested quantity. Second of all, Co's fertility was never in question. Yes, we had obstacles to conceiving, but in the end we did so within six tries.

But certainly I have the mindset of an infertile, of someone who has struggled to figure out how to even go about conceiving, and had to study charts and OPKs and make decisions about medications.

We've both blogged before about the fertility tensions in our mah-jongg/friendship group. Co and her two closest friends all started trying to conceive around the same time...Co and her college roommate ended up with the same due date...and Friend #3 is still trying, and coming up against bigger and bigger obstacles. There are six of us who play MJ; the original threesome, myself, and two other friends. One of the two others started trying to conceive sometime last spring, and she announced last month that she is pregnant, due in May.

Of course I am happy for Newly Pregnant Friend. (I am going to have to use creative monikers, because everyone in mah-jongg except Co has a name that starts with J. or L.) But my first reaction was a pang for Struggling Friend (who, thank goodness, wasn't present when Newly Pregnant Friend made her announcement). NPF hasn't had an easy time of it; she's pushing 40, and was so nervous that after just a few months of trying she actually went to see an RE. She ended up finding out she was pregnant through a blood test at the RE's office! (It was our own Dr. Quick who told her.) But her journey was short compared to Struggling Friend's, who is still in the thick of it, still discovering more obstacles to success.

I feel badly that I feel so anxious about this pregnancy. Even with my beautiful son in my life, am I still so bitter that I can't be happy for others?? But I don't think that's the case. I have a cousin and two colleagues who are expecting, and I couldn't be happier for them; not to mention my many blog friends (and more on the IVP). I am just worried about Struggling Friend, because I remember being surrounded by babies and pregnancies in the midst of my own pain.

I spoke to Co's college roommate/Leo's Mom last week, and she is really worried about Struggling Friend. She told me we should be sure to check in on her regularly, because she is so depressed, and according to Leo's Mom, "lots of people have fertility issues but they don't walk around morose all the time." I have to say, I don't agree. Struggling Friend is definitely having a hard time of it, and I wish she would seek help. But I see her reaction as kind of, well, normal. Facing obstacles in creating your family is one of the worst kinds of pain there is. My impulse (Co's, too) is to try to share with her own experience, and the stories of so many brave and wise folks we know who have made their families in whatever creative ways they could. But Struggling Friend doesn't want to talk.

When Newly Pregnant Friend shared her story of TTC, and her funny pregnancy test at the RE's, she mentioned that she had difficulty with the OPK's; Leo's Mom said, "Oh, I never could get those to work, I told you, just have lots of sex!" And I felt a pang, not for us -- we never imagined that sex would lead us to a child -- but for the absent Struggling Friend, who had to give up that dream. And for us a little, sure, for anyone who has to buy more sensitive and expensive OPK's to make sure they work; not to mention needles and drugs and retrievals. I'll never see pregnancy as simple or easy (in fact, I shudder at NPF's blase assumption that she will have a babe in arms in May). But compassion is never a bad thing.


j.k-c. said...

Compassion is never a bad thing. And even though struggling friend doesn't want to talk, I think often compassion is felt deeper than conversation. It is about feeling understood and validated. It is about sitting there with the other friends when struggling friend isn't even there and feeling how the conversation would feel to her. I often wish this process was not so confusing and painful for ourselves and for our relationships.
Thanks for writing this.

jay said...

indeed, compassion is never a bad thing. i'm so glad they both have you.

i can imagine it must be hard - some of my friends want children and haven't even started trying yet but i find myself feeling anxious for them already because you never know what might happen :-|

i hope struggling friend gets knocked up soon. and i send you hugs - you're a brilliant friend to have. xx

calliope said...

your friend is SO lucky to have people with such compassion in her life. It sucks ass to be (or feel like) you are a friend left behind. I felt like that for a long time with one of my closest friends. We both started trying in April of 2005 and she has a two year old. It was hard on both of us and we had to give each other lots of space and reestablish boundaries. I think just being aware of is key- and also I would curb baby talk around this friend unless she brings it up. Regardless you both are wonderful friends.

Clare said...

I agree with j.k-c compassion is never the wrong path...I have just started to think of having another baby (10 years after my first successful pregnancy, 18 months after Gaye's first success) and I feel a bit of a fraud as describing myself as having infertility issues (after all I have a 9 year old and an 18 month old) but both Gaye and I took years and years to concieve and a good many heartbreaks in there too. I feel terrified of getting back on the path of TTC...anyway when I told one friend who saw me through it before that I was thinking of it - she just said 'you are so brave' and I felt so much better knowing someone understood that it wasn't just a trip into easy bliss. I think you are right to be thinking of SF as well as hoping that NPF will be both cheerfully right in her assumptions but careful of SF in her discussions. THey are lucky to have you

fostermama said...

At least from my perspective, when we were struggling (foster/adopt) it didn't bother me when other people were successful where we hadn't been but it did bother me when they didn't understand that they were lucky and that their situation/experience was not something everyone could expect to have.

So, while I'm sure it must suck to not be able to help Struggling Friend (since she doesn't want to talk), I'm sure your sensitivity about the topic is worth something to her.

Misery might love company on some level, but I hate hearing about others who have gone through what we did (just found out about another one today) and I'm happy for people when it goes the other way. I also enjoy sharing in their victories. I like kids & babies, and I like being part of my community. So I would HATE it if people had thought they should keep their baby stories and babies away from me while we were baby-less. Don't assume - why not ask her?

Lizzie said...

This spoke to me. (This is Lizzie from IVP, I'm a lurker here.) ..... People say such unintentionally hurtful things all the time (just have more sex!). People seem blind in some ways. And if I'm seeing more acutely with regard to infertility, then what am I blind to? What careless comments do I make, what do I take for granted? How do I unintentionally offend? Thanks for this post.

indigoscot said...

you know, i wonder if there is always that extra worry/compassion with lesbians who are ttc or are parents because we know exactly what could go wrong and the various issues that can make ttc all that more difficult. my co-worker and his wife just lost their baby at 9 weeks. he's my age - 39 and she is 41. they have a 2yo dd. when he happily told me his wife was pregnant (at 6 or 7 weeks no less), i immediately worried inside knowing it was too soon for him to tell me. at their first appt, the baby was fine, measuring normally with a heartrate of 166bpm. i was so excited for them...but then the bad news 2 weeks later that baby had passed at 9 weeks. he was genuinely grateful that i took the time to call and let him talk through it (we're pretty tight and talk about all kinds of stuff at work) and that i was able to offer some advice and insights. they plan to try again just as soon as his wife's cycles are back to normal. i pray that things work out differently next time.