When the fertile and infertile mingle:
By: Jennifer Hutton
My husband and I were married 10 years ago this winter. If you had asked me on that day where I saw myself in 10 years, I would have painted you a very pretty picture. We’d be happily married, with a couple of kids, SUV/mini-van driving, carpool, PTA parents leaving work and rushing off to soccer practice and ballet lessons. Kid oriented holidays like Christmas and Easter would be full of laughter and excitement as we watched our offspring tear open their presents or frantically fight each other for the last found Easter egg. Our cupboards would be filled with boxed macaroni and cheese dinners, and cartooned themed fruit snacks, and we’d have other “family” friends and our kids would hang out with their kids and we’d be knee deep in plans and play dates. We’d be exhausted and probably broke, but nonetheless we would be a happy family doing exactly what society expected of us.
What I didn’t see was 6 un-successful fertility treatments, I didn’t see the pain miscarriage would cause, and I didn’t see the social ineptness that comes with it and I certainly didn’t expect how “different” I would become and how quickly. When we started out, we were the first of my peers to get married, the first to buy a house, and the first and only to struggle with infertility. Now why did I change that “We” to “I”, it’s simple really, as a woman you become inferior to your peers really quick after the first of your circle has her first baby. On the other hand my husband’s male friends don’t give the back-end of a rat if he has a family or not. His friendly conversation hasn’t changed one iota in the last decade. To his guy friends, he’s the same guy he always has been. They call, they write, they chat, they hang out, and they don’t judge. In fact, many men he becomes friends with don’t even ask if he has kids. They judge him as the person he is not how many kids he has. Being a woman, in my case at least has been a completely different experience. More than three quarters of the female friends I had the day of my wedding are distant memories. It starts with being invited to baby showers and politely declining out of fear you will burst into tears at the mere sight of the baby belly shaped cake in the forefront of the punch bowl, which if spiked you will undoubtedly overindulge in and diminish any self-control you had over those tears. Then you’ll sneak out of the affair because you won’t want your own pitty party to overshadow the actual party. Next, the invites just won’t come and then you’ll be living somewhere between “Thank goodness she didn’t invite me” to “why wasn’t I invited”. You’ll be elated with not having to see the glow in her eyes as she un-wraps the latest Baby Bjorn™infant carrier as her BFF writes the name of the gift inside the card and everyone claps and ooohh’s and awww’s. All the other “Mommies” will give their opinion on the item and when you chime in the silence ensues as the puzzled look of your so called friends glare in your direction wondering “how does she know what this is? She’s not a Mom”. On the other hand if you weren’t invited; it will hit you. I wasn’t invited? Are we not friends anymore? Is it because I have no children? Is she trying to spare my feelings? One will never know because it will never be talked about again. The next time you hear from her will likely be a few days after she’s delivered. You’ll watch Facebook for the first few days, and then after 150 comments on the Baby’s first picture, you will feel guilty for not being among the first to offer congratulations and then you will text her because surely that will be more personal and will cancel out the coldness in your lack of Facebook message and she will assume you were just busy, or out of town! That way you won’t look like someone who stalked her profile for the last two weeks somehow anxious for the news because you know it could trigger a major “what did I so wrong in my life that I can’t have this joy” moment. You’ll hate her. Yes, you will actually hate her. Then you will comb your own friends list and unfollow any parent or grandparent of a child under 5 and move on. After all, you have no time for this. You have your own business to take care of. The daily 6am appointments at the fertility clinic to hang out with the blood work nurse and the internal ultrasound lady who at most says “are you allergic to latex”. You’ll be too exhausted and emotional from the drugs to focus on such things. Then around day 12 of your cycle you’ll become Mrs. Positivity. This will be the cycle that works because you’ve done everything right. In between your daily clinic appointments, you went to Yoga twice this week, saw your acupuncturist three times, had two appointments with your naturopath and you saw a rainbow on your way to work. You are pumped because this is it. You drive by the maternity store and for a brief moment considering going in and buying yourself a sweater. That’s how positive you are!
Wait just a minute, reality check. One of your “mom” friends calls and you excitedly tell her about your cycle and your enthusiasm and then you freeze. Every hope, every everything melts right away because she’s experienced a successful pregnancy so she feels the need to curb your excitement and remind you that miscarriage is very common and although it didn’t happen to her she cautions your excitement and reminds you not to dare tell a soul for 12 weeks because what shame you would feel if you got pregnant and then had to tell people you had a miscarriage. That is what being social is like for me these days. My girlfriends call and text me to complain about their sleepless nights and their bratty children, and most often or not jokingly offer one or all three of them because apparently being a parent isn’t as rosy as I think it is, but honestly I’d rather find that out for myself.
Finally, what would an article about infertility and loss be without a “What to say or not to say to your infertile friend list”? Here’s the top ten my friends and family have dished out this year:
- The clinic appointments are tiring, yes. But we had to do it every other day for two months before I got pregnant, believe me it’s work either way.
- Oh yay, you’re pregnant. Maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone else because if something happens you will be so embarrassed.
- You got pregnant once, so I’m sure it will happen again.
- Go on vacation and do it, that worked for my sisters hairdressers friends cousin.
- I struggled with infertility too. It took us 6 months to have our first; luckily the next one happened right away.
- You guys are happy the way you are, maybe you should just give up on having kids.
- Maybe you guys just aren’t compatible that way?
- Checkout the local SPCA, there are lots of dogs waiting to be adopted.
- You paid 10,000 for IVF? You are crazy.
And last but not least
- You are this upset over a miscarriage, good thing it wasn’t a real baby.