LISTEN & CHAT
The path of friendship and infertility can be bumpy.
Not every friendship will make it to the end.
Of course, the journey of infertility can also make friendships grow too.
Infertility takes up every ounce of your being – sometimes there is simply no room left for a “how are you?” text to a friend. Infact, you’re the one that needs that ‘how are you?’ text more than ever. The truth is, it takes a lot to make a friendship work during the hardest moments of your life. You need people more than ever, but also.. you need silence too. It is a double edged sword at times, but the journey is made a whole lot easier when you are able to share the load and talk about what you are facing – without fear and without judgement.
I can imagine it’s also difficult to have the right words for a friend suffering. What would I say to a friend experiencing something I perhaps had no experience of myself?
When I spoke about this subject online recently, the response was overwhelming. I had the most replies to this question than ever before. Some positive and some, not so much. I felt that the best way to sum up the impact of infertility on female friendships, was to ask you guys to have your say, anonymously. Below I have shared some answers I received and I think you’ll agree that there’s a mixed bag of experiences. If you feel you want too, please do leave your experience in the comment section below too.
“Inevitably during a girls get together, my friends talk about their babies. Every time I find myself crying on the inside and smiling on the outside. It’s exhausting to find myself in these conversations sometimes. I try hard to join in with the first birthday chat and I am so happy they have not experienced infertility and miscarriage, but it just reminds me of my losses. A sadness that I carry with me every day that I feel I can only talk to a few close friends about. I’ve turned down the invite to the baby shower, the catch up with a friend and her husband who moan they no longer have their freedom, due to their baby (what I’d give for this!). I’m getting better at putting myself first and I hope my friends can understand that I love them, but sometimes I just need to distance myself on the hard days.”
“Navigating friendship during my infertility has been heartbreaking. My friends don’t know what to say to me or how to approach the subject and it hurts. I wish they would just ask me what they can say or what they can do, rather than avoid it at all costs or make conversation awkward.
I want to scream – I am still a human, I am still me.
I face such dark, lonely times and I have no friends to talk too, incase I make them feel uncomfortable and I wish they knew how that felt, even just for a minute.”
“Since experiencing infertility, my relationship with friends has changed completely. Some friends I’ve lost, some friends I’ve gained and others, our relationship has changed. We’re all viewed as being able to have kids, until we can’t. And when you’re that one person, you’re viewed differently.
The friends I’ve lost? Good riddance. They were ignorant and downplayed my pain and grief to a point where it was laughable. The friends I’ve gained? Worldly angels. I’ve joined a club of the most courageous women and whilst I would never have chosen this club, I’m honoured to be a part of it.
We’re bonded through experiences only we understand and I’ll forever be thankful for you all.
The changes in relationships are the hardest. I’m now viewed with pity rather than resilience. Powerless instead of powerful. Social media views us all as broken when actually, we’re more like Kintsugi. Kintsugi or, Kintsukuroi as it’s sometimes known, is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with glue mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. The philosophy behind this is that “broken” should be treated as part of the objects history, rather than something to disguise. And that is precisely what infertility should be viewed as, part of our history rather than something we disguise.
To me, infertility isn’t all consuming but my friends have and still do view it that way. Is it exhausting? Sure. But it’s more exhausting to deal with the sympathetic looks and the “I’m so sorrys”. Treat infertility as part of me and my make up but don’t stop seeing me as your friend”
“For me this time has been a bit of a ‘friendship filter’, only a few have struggled to understand or even acknowledge our losses, and by not being comfortable enough to open that conversation it’s lead us to become quite distant. The majority though have made it through that uncomfortable stage by encouraging me to talk about our losses with kindness and sensitivity, and we have become even closer friends than we were before as a result. As the song goes, a friend is somebody who is there for you ‘when the rain starts to fall’, not just when times are easy.”
“As the last of my friends without children I am the one who has to accommodate and make the effort. Struggling with an infertility battle and all of your friends time now includes their children can be hard when sometimes you need just a chat with a mate but it ends up just another reminder that you don’t have this thing that you want so much.”
“I’m sorry to also write about having a baby too but another interesting thing was that so many friends & family never messaged me when we were going through loss but were the first to pipe up to say they couldn’t wait to see my rainbow baby when they were born. I actually said to a few of them I needed you when I was going through the worst time in my life, not now I’m on the other side. It’s like people are so quick to want to celebrate with people and share happy moments but don’t want to be there through the crap too, again, I sometimes think out of fear. I’ll never forgive some people for the way they treated me when I needed them. If I learnt anything through fertility and loss it’s just two simple things.
Always be cautious, and always be kind.
I wonder sometimes how different I’d have been if I hadn’t gone through it. Would I be posting photos of a baby bump or jokes about how many times my baby kicked that day? Because I’d never do that now, knowing my joy is someone else’s pain”
“For a long time, I didn’t speak to friends about my infertility. But one day I decided to open up: and I haven’t looked back. Telling a few trusted people about my journey has strengthened our friendships in ways I’d never imagined. Doing IVF during lockdown was tough, especially without hugs, but some days I’d get a message from a girlfriend asking how I was getting on, or if I wanted a chat, and it felt like they were wrapping their arms around me. Some have even shared their own stories about going through fertility treatment.
When I had an early miscarriage after IVF, and was due on a Zoom call with two friends, I didn’t know if I was up to it. So I messaged them beforehand to say I wasn’t on top form. One said, ‘that’s what we’re here for, to be alongside you, support you through the hard times and celebrate the good bits together.’ I joined the call and shared what I’d been through. They were amazing – I felt so relieved to tell my story and be my real self without hiding anything.
Opening up to friends has helped me, but I hope it’s helped them too. Together we can break the taboo of infertility and let other women know they’re not alone. And our friendships will be so much stronger for it.”
A huge thank you to those that contributed to this post.