Friday, September 9, 2011

The Best Friends I Never Met

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.


  1. My obstreperous uterus sends big love and smooches to your obstreperous uterus. You're so right, my dear--you're not alone. xo. -Tomago =)

  2. Jenny - We feel the same way. We do share a special bond that no one understands...

    I've been on a thread with five other women for over 20 months now and they have all become dear friends. Some I met IRL when they came to town to cycle and others I know I will meet someday. Four have already had their babies (three singletons and one set of twins), one is due with twins next week, and then there's me - who is "bringing up the rear" because I m/c'ed when I cycled last September and had to cycle again. When I did m/c, one thing that made me saddest of all was thinking I would have had to drop off their thread because I'd NEVER become a mommy. Now I know we will be in touch for many years and watch our children grow up together.

    The way you are able to set aside your own heartbreak and find hope in the stories of us who worked hard and FINALLY found success shows how strong you truly are. Like you, I used to find inspiration in the stories of my virtual "friends" like Melissa, Godiva and so many others who came before me. These women reminded me to have faith and keep going. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. In fact, I never joined a due date thread because I always felt a special kinship to the women on "our" TTC thread.

    I look forward to continuing to follow your journey and can't wait for the day you will welcome your child(ren) into your arms - no matter how long that takes or
    how it happens. I KNOW you're going to be a Mom someday!

  3. Flygirl - Thank you for proving my point so perfectly! Y'all are AWESOME and your support means the world to me.

  4. I love this post! I can really identify with this as well. Infertility is a buzzkill, for sure. It is so awkward to talk about with someone who doesn't get it. I have a party coming up this weekend that will kind of be like a high school reunion and I'm not really looking forward to it, because when people ask me what I've been up to, I just have to make up stuff and my life is totally consumed by trying to make a baby now, but I cannot talk about that. I love your Venn diagram. I have to keep reminding myself that this stage is just temporary!

  5. Turtlemama - I know exactly what you mean. I hate when someone asks me "so, what's been going on with you?" and I can't think of anything to say because it feels like the only thing that's been going on with me is TTC, 24/7.

  6. Reunions are filled with all sorts of questions. I just generally give a polite blow off kinda answer. "You Know? I'd much rather hear about you." Perhaps, someone has a better answer.

  7. Anonymous - that's a GREAT answer! Most of the time people are only asking to be polite and really just want to talk about themselves anyway!

  8. Gosh I want to post this on Facebook, send this via email, etc. to all my family and friends that didn't talk about the big elephant in the room. Or didn't understand how painful it is they they get to have sex and make a baby and we don't. . . . You are such a good writer - I LOVE IT!!! Keep it up - maybe you can make an Ebook or a novel out of your IF struggles (and sell it - which could help pay back some of the $$ spent on treatments!


  9. Hi Cali! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. What, you mean some people actually make babies by having SEX?! Incredible. Those lucky bitches. :)

    I'm glad you like my blog - the thought of anyone paying to read something I wrote is incomprehensible to me, but that would be so cool!!

  10. This really hit home... I am not a very gregarious person and do not make friends easily so it has been particularly hard on me losing the only few friends I have. I have been so obsessed with IVF the last few years and it is so difficult to talk about it to anybody that has not been through it that I really no longer had anything to talk to my friends about. As for family I think they have just gotten to the point where I feel like they are just sick of hearing about it. So basically me and my husband spend all our time with just each other and it is a good thing we are above all else best friends. I feel most of the time that I am not the best of support for my online fertility friends but I know I couldnt go through all this without them. Thank you for all your support over the last few years! We will get there I just know it!

  11. Adk - my husband just read your comment, looked at me and asked, "did YOU write that?" This part: "So basically me and my husband spend all our time with just each other and it is a good thing we are above all else best friends." totally describes us, too. As for the board, everyone gives support in their own way and you are wonderful. I'm still holding on to hope that you'll get your good news *very* soon, even if you are doubting. ((hugs))

  12. Infertility killed mine too. But now I don't feel as alone anymore. I wish I discovered blogging sooner - I was just reading blogs for months and finally decided to try it. It could be me writing a lot of the blogs I read. Its comforting to know there are others that feel how I do.
    Take care

  13. I'm glad you started blogging, too! I enjoy reading your posts. There is a lot of comfort in knowing we're not the only ones who feel like this and a lot of therapy in writing it all down!

  14. Dear Jenny,

    I feel you. And I agree. I am surrounded by rabbits. Help!

    Because it made me feel inadequate to an extent, sorry for my husband and generally wanting to love a little being I could call my own.

    The blogosphere has been an awesome support system for me. More than the TTC, my life with neonatal loss and the kindness I have received from this space is beyond words, and I am very grateful for it.

    I think I managed to keep my head over the water because I could VENT here, and the room was full of people who 'got it'.

    Post the loss, I have been terribly hurt by words said by my IRL people, and am yet to come across anyone here who I can finger out as in the same bracket.

    Much love. Be here, and 'use' this space to say what you really want to, 'use' it to get more empowered about your options.

    I wish you the best for your TTC pursuit.

    Much love.


  15. St Elsewhere - Thank you so much for your kind words. Love and hugs to you, too. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  16. Thank God for the internet. If you added an even smaller circle inside mine and squeezed in "Mom is dying -how awkward to have hospice in your home" I could get a t-shirt made. UGH( Mom recovered but the friendships that could not handle death up close and personal did not). I hung onto ONE friend from that time. ONE. I have made new friends, but ohhhh yeah I was a pariah. I still have a very small circle. Which is fine. But it was very isolating.

  17. Community is beautiful, on or off line. I may have the struggles you've had, just a couple m/c, but my seclusions come from moving frequenlty with the military. It takes about two years to start developing connections, and by then you're prepping to move again. My online friends are the people I'm closest too. They are the people I "see" and have "seen" everyday for years. hugs to you!

  18. Celia - Ugh indeed. While it's true that you're better off without those "fair weather friends" in the long run, that's cold comfort when you suddenly find yourself standing alone. Don't I know it!! I'm glad your mom pulled through and you've found a small but true circle of friends.

    Crystal - I can't imagine having to move so frequently. I'm so glad you've found online friends to give you that sense of community and continuity during the many changes and challenges! Thanks for reading and commenting.