Infertility killed my social life.
When Mr Wren and I first announced we were trying to start a family, some of our friends - our child-free good time crew with whom we shared boisterous cookouts and cocktail parties - started to distance themselves in anticipation of our impending transition into parenthood. Other friends, the ones who already had car seats in their minivans and baggies full of cheerios in their purses, prepared for us to join their ranks and excitedly shared pregnancy and parenting tips.
As the years passed with no happy announcement coming from the Wren nest, the first group of friends stayed away, finding infertility an even bigger buzzkill than childbearing. The second group eventually stopped starting sentences with, "when you have a baby.." and drifted away because they didn't know how else to fill the silence. No-one knew what to say to me, or where I fit. I didn't know, either.
A Venn diagram of my social life would look like this:
OK, that looks kind of pathetic. Maybe I exaggerate a bit. I don't mean to say that ALL my friends abandoned me because that's untrue, and unfair to those who stuck by me and struggled to say the right things and tried to understand what I was going through even though they couldn't relate to it.
But even those faithful friends stumbled at times. They didn't always say the right things. Sometimes they unintentionally said things that were very, very wrong. But even worse, sometimes they said nothing. I wish I could have given them these words of advice, taken from this blog post offering fertile women tips for supporting their infertile friends (emphasis mine):
Whatever you do, don’t pretend like nothing is going on. Don’t shy away from conversations about miscarriages and IVFs because it makes you uncomfortable. For me, nothing hurt more than everyone around me pretending that nothing was going on. I wanted to scream and shout until they saw me, until they understood that I was hurting. Ask your friend (regularly) how she’s doing. Ask your friend when she’s getting ready to cycle. Be there with a big bottle of wine when her IUI doesn’t work or she’s found out she’d had yet another chemical pregnancy or missed miscarriage.Some people are more willing to share details than others, but again, only your friend can tell you what she is comfortable with. But be sure to ask.
But no matter how good their intentions or how well they've been coached, people who haven't gone through it themselves can't fully comprehend how a piece of you dies with every failed IVF, every miscarriage, every fucking pee stick that only shows one line. Unless they've fought on the front lines of the fertility wars themselves, they just can't understand the fortitude required to put on your armor and march bravely into battle after facing defeat time and time and time again. There's just no substitute for experience.
And that's where the internet comes in. A resourceful gal in the pre-Google days could always hit her local public library and research diagnoses and treatments the old-school way, but social networking has really changed the world. As lonely and isolating as infertility feels today, it had to have been a billion times worse before hundreds of other infertiles were just a mouseclick away, ready to share their stories and lend support.
The women I've met through the fertility forums helped carry me this far. Their successes have given me hope and encouragement to persevere, and their failures have broken my heart but also demonstrated how to face disappointment and loss with grace and courage. Flygirl, Tomago, Godiva, Adkwmn, Egghunter, Goldenhicks, Illusion and more...many of them I know only by their usernames, but their friendship is as real and sustaining to me as any other.
And now that I've thrown myself into the blogosphere, my circle of support has widened. The sheer number of infertility blogs out there, and the amount of sadness, anger, hope and strength they contain is both stunning and sobering.
Even though it feels that way at times, we are NOT alone. We are barren and we are legion. We are the sisterhood of the obstreperous uterus and we shall overcome.