Today's topic is a sensitive one, but worth discussing.
As you can imagine, I have known and met many, many women who have been trying to conceive.
It's interesting how that goes....once you're in 'That Club' (the one no one wants to be in), you are privvy to more info. and get to be 'in the know' on who else is also trying to get pregnant. Yes, there is bonding. Similar to the moms chatting at a play group. Except there's no play group. And a lot of talk about pee sticks, doctor's office adventures, and what you're going to try next. But, it's actually quite wonderful to have someone to talk to. I guess, too, there is something comforting in knowing you really aren't the only one.
But, what happens when someone in 'The Club' does get pregnant? How does that go? Does that person dare tell her remaining infertile friends? Does she ignore sharing the news as long as possible and hope that her infertile friends will find out from others? Will the infertile friends now want to avoid their pregnant friends, because it's too painful to hear about babies kicking and nursery planning? Oh man, what awkward - even painful - social situations could arise here.
Well, since I'm a veteran here, may I take a stand and encourage us all to just rise above these silly encounters, if possible. It is just a shame to let a pregnancy or lack thereof change the level of love and respect and friendship that two women can have for each other. The truth is, pregnant women need friends. Women with babies need friends. Infertile women need friends. Women who have chosen not to have children need friends. And it's up to all of us to support our friends in whatever stage they are in.
I have amazing friends, I tell you. Just recently one of them got pregnant. And she sent me an email from across the country to let me know. I was one of the first she told. I felt honored that she let me in on her exciting news. I was so happy she didn't feel like she had to hold back. And recently I got one of those awesome attack-hugs from a dear friend who got pregnant after many, many years of trying. Best thing ever. I've had SO many friends share their excitement of pregnancy or the love of their children with me as they normally would - just because we are friends. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
Here are a few bits of advice for friends who are mothers or who are pregnant:
1. Realize that women are at many different stages when facing infertility. There often times is a dark stage 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 some day 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 awhile.
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.
Dear friends, I would LOVE to hear your input here. I am sure many would love to read your comments, too, as this is a situation many face. What have your friendships been like during infertility? Or with an infertile friend?
Much love to all,
(Images: 1-Heiner Luepke, 2-unknown, 3-Rose & Crown, )
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