Canadian Infertility Awareness Week continues and with each passing day, I'm finding it harder to write posts on the subject. It's a difficult topic to write on and is emotionally draining as well. But since I'm all about advocating and raising awareness, I will do my best to keep trucking along and finish out the week.
Today's subject is tricky, as it talks about friendships and I am by no means an expert on this. I am still trying to figure out how to navigate the waters of friendship as an adult, especially as an adult without children in a sea of families. When you are the only odd ones out, it makes things complicated. Or as one friend put it "The difficulty of what it's like living with infertility in a world where most of our peers have a different life". How true those words are.
As one goes through life, friends come and go, it's a natural thing to happen. But infertility sometimes speeds up the process of losing friends, whether we like it or not. It is hard to maintain friendships when we are at different places in life. Or when it is too painful to be around pregnant bellies or babies/children. Or when we are too wrapped up in our own pain to be there for someone else. Some of these friends just drift away, without any solid reasons for the separation. Other times we discover that a friend wasn't a true friend and they didn't stick with us during our hard times or support us in any way, so we need to cut them off. Other times we just need a break from the friendship, a step back to protect our self from the pain. We may rekindle this friendship down the road but for the present, it is just too hard. And then sometimes, we hit the jackpot and find that one (or more) amazing friend who sticks with us and loves us when we're hard to be loved. Who listens to us whine and vent and complain, who brings us cookies when we find out another cycle has failed, who reminds us that our pain is real and needs to be felt.
Navigating friendships in the tumultuous sea of infertility is hard, but it can be done. There needs to be some give and take on both sides, like all friendships need, and there needs to be lots of understanding and forgiveness. Infertility can strengthen friendships and cross our paths with others who become some of our best friends. Some of my closest friendships have developed over these past 6 years and it is our similar journeys that have brought us together.
For those of you who are the friends of people who are struggling with infertility, I thought I would give you a few words of advice. Although I really don't like using that word, since I don't want you to think I know it all. But these are some things that I know I (and some of my friends) have appreciated over the years.
1) Validate our feelings. What we are going through is real and hard and cuts us to the core. Please don't blow it off as nothing or something that we will "get over". This is a part of us and we need you to accept us as a whole. Tell us you are sorry and that you love us.
2) Come over to our house sometimes. When all of our friends have kids, we find that most of our get togethers happen at their places, due to the fact that it is just easier. Which it totally is and we understand that. But sometimes, it would be nice to be able to host the dinner or games night or whatever, to open up our homes and be the hospitable ones. We don't need (or want) to do it all the time, but the occasional time would mean a lot to us.
3) Make time for girls only gatherings. We like to be able to spend time with just you, whether it's meeting at a coffee house, having a girls night or even escaping for a girls weekend. We need time with just you. And really, I'm sure you would enjoy a break too.
4) Initiate contact from time to time. We feel so lost and alone - like no one would want to be around us (in most moments we don't even want to be around us). Taking the time to text or call or send a card can really help turn an ugly day into a much better day. We often feel like we are on the outside and barging into your full lives, so it's helpful for us to know that we are wanted in your world too.
5) Be the friend you want to be and have. Simply put, be someone who listens, who is their own person, who has their own life (and doesn't tip toe around that fact) but is invested and fully present when they can be. Having an infertile friend means that their feelings of brokenness are triggered by different things than your brokenness. Build a friendship that makes both of you feel whole in and despite of your brokenness.
Like I said, maintaining friendships amidst infertility is hard. But it is possible and with some work and dedication, it has great rewards.
I'm going to end this here, because I'm not really sure what else to say. Before I do though, I want to thank my friend who helped with some of the tips, you know who you are, and I appreciate your input and encouragement. Yours is one of the amazing friendships that has risen out of this infertility mess and I am forever grateful for your patience and love.