Last week, I wrote a blog post titled “Friendship vs. Infertility.”
“Becoming someone’s mother meant that my role in the world had changed --I wasn't just the same old me trying to be a new, improved version. I was a mother, really and truly and forever, and the question was, what kind of person, what kind of mother, would be reflected in my child's eyes?"
As a new mother, my thought processes shifted and I began focusing on what became a lengthy period of self-exploration and realization. I sat and thought of all the things in the world I could do better, in turn setting a better example for my child. I set goals of being healthier and fitter, and I made small and large changes to my lifestyle. Things as simple as brushing my teeth at night again, because being lazy and skipping this crucial ritual to grab the bottle of Listerine isn’t setting a good example for my son Some were larger changes – like cutting people out of my life I no longer felt were benefiting my growth, or influential in my son’s life.
As I grow as a parent, I want my son to think I’m a good person, and not just a good mother, but that I’m honest and honorable, and that the world is somehow a better place because I’m here. So I sit down and have conversations with my almost two-year-old about the beauty of the cultural and linguistic differences we share with our diverse friends and family. I know he doesn't really understand me at this point, but I've already started to instill my values upon him. And his sweet smile and baby babble makes me feel like he actually does understand. I give more to charity than I used to and I make more karmic decisions because I don’t want any bad ‘ju-ju’ to bite me, or my child, in the ass. I sat down and really began to reevaluate my life. I went from having an abundance of freedom and the ability to get up and go where I pleased, when I pleased to realizing how selfless and sacrificial I had to be in order to be the mother I wanted to be. And I did just that.
I find solace in that. I find solace in knowing that I may have failed in this friendship, but I am not a failure. Life is a lesson. And I’ve learned mine.
When talking to other mom's who have had friends battle infertility, the consensus I've found is, "we're damned if we do, we're damned if we don't." We have something 'infertiles' want. Something they want more than anything in the world. No amount of understanding and support will unconsciously take away that resentment and bitterness an 'infertile' may feel when seeing you with your child.
It's like 'oil and water.'
However, I have been doing my own research. And in doing so, I came across several articles and posts. Specifically, a blog titled A Blog about Love: Infertility and Friendships that I found had some helpful information in regards to what to say (or not say) to an infertile friend. What I loved about this was there was also a piece of advice for infertile friends to take into account. I didn't see that in any of the other articles or blogs I came across. Again, society was reinforcing the lack of information on what to say to an infertile friend, at the same time providing little insight to 'infertiles' on what it must feel like being a friend trying to offer support.
A Blog About Love was different and refreshing; here is a bit of what I took from it. (I copied and pasted the tips below - they are not my words)
1. Realize that women are at many different stages when facing infertility. There often times are dark stages when women feel much despair and feel on the outside of society - even among friends and family. Many women get through this time and come to a place of peace. As a good friend, you could try to be sensitive to the stage one might be in at the time. You could even ask them directly how they are doing and how much they'd like to talk about what they are facing.
2. Try not to judge. An infertile friend might be acting in ways she normally wouldn't (she also may be drugged with hormones). She may need your patience.
3. If you are pregnant or a mother - include your infertile friends in conversations that you would naturally want to have with a friend and see how it goes. Personally, I prefer that friends don't have to walk on eggshells around me. And as a woman who would love to have kids, I love getting the scoop on motherhood from my friends and often initiate those conversations. But, if that normal conversation doesn't seem to be going well, you can ask your friend directly if she needs some space from talking about babies.
4. Respect boundaries, if they arise. Realize that though you may be very involved in many conversations about her treatments and even dates for big days, there may come a time when you get an abrupt silent treatment and you may feel as though you're no longer privy to the info. Any more. Most likely, your friend is pregnant. Or had a miscarriage. Either way, give it a wee bit of time and play the dance. Hold back the infertility questions if your friend has pulled back. Though I'm sure anyone would appreciate someone just checking-in periodically to see how they're doing.
5. Include your friends in your kids' lives. I absolutely adore my friends' kids. But their parents are so sweet and include me in their kids' lives. It has been such a sweet and generous offer - one of the most beautiful I have ever experienced.
And here are some bits of advice for infertile friends:
1. Try not take offense. May I kindly suggest that most people have good intentions (though their words may come out wrong in the moment when they are nervous about how to act or what to say to a friend who is infertile or they simply do not have the knowledge or experience.) Also, in many cases, I've noticed that some infertile women take offense to comments by people who don't even know the situation. I think it's unfair to blame them. As in all situations in life, taking offense harms you more than it harms another person.
2. Do not hold a friend's pregnancy or motherhood against them. There is a huge opportunity here to learn how to replace your jealousy and pain with real love for your friends. Being able to extend genuine congratulations, happiness and excitement to your pregnant friend is a big deal...but it's possible and worth shooting for.
3. Look on the bright side of knowing some mothers and pregnant women. There's a lot to learn (I have learned sooo much!) Plus, you'll want all those connections someday if you have a child.
4. Communicate with your friends, as soon as you feel the time is right. Most women I know have had an immense burden relieved when they have let their closest friends and family know that they are facing infertility. I highly recommend it. Also, along the way, feel free to directly tell people if you need some space or if you prefer to not talk about things for a while.
5. Try to remember that you aren't the only one facing a difficult time. Your friends - though they have kids - actually may be facing something difficult in their lives and they may need your support, too. Trials come in all shapes and sizes and they don't come to a halt when someone gets pregnant or has a baby. In the end, we are all in it together - no matter what we are facing.
We ALL need support, encouragement, and love in our lives.
That being said...