“I’m pregnant!” - Two little words with enough power to sever even the strongest bonds. Let’s look at how infertility affects friendships.
When experiencing infertility, you develop a pregnancy radar. You become hyperaware of baby bumps and gain an uncanny ability to sense when yet another of your friends is about to make a pregnancy announcement. You’ve been a tight-knit group for years, but as they break away into the world of motherhood, you find you’ve also joined a new group. Welcome to the global sisterhood of women struggling to conceive. It’s a bit like a secret society, people don’t always flaunt their membership, but trust me, we’re here. I joined the club when I was 30 and had been married for two years. I assumed that like my peers, having children would be a case of when it happened, not if. What I was not expecting was to lose my first pregnancy at 13 weeks, to start IVF treatment while still grieving that loss, and having to do it all in the face of smiling friends with baby bumps and newborns. The support network you would normally turn to are suddenly contributing to your unimaginable pain. Where do your friendships go from here?
Take a break
When I got off the phone from a friend who called to tell me she was pregnant, I crawled into the bathroom, shut the door and sobbed on the floor. Even though she had also experienced infertility, and deep down I was happy for her, the grief was louder. I had recently lost a pregnancy and in that moment, I’m ashamed to admit, it felt like she had stolen the baby that was meant for me. I knew that if our friendship was to have any chance of survival, I needed time away from her while I worked through my pain. It was a difficult and tearful conversation to have, but being completely honest with her helped, and when I was ready to be around her again, it meant there was less damage to the friendship to repair. I also took a long break from social media and asked friends if they could text me rather than tell me in person when they got a positive pregnancy test.
Talk to a counsellor instead
Well-intentioned friends and family will inevitably say the wrong thing. It can make you feel alone even when you’re surrounded by people who want to support you. That’s where professional counsellors are great because they are removed from the situation and provide a safe space to be completely honest about your feelings free of judgement, no matter how ugly they are.
Some friendships will deepen
When I shared my struggle with infertility with wider friends, I was surprised how many had been privately dealing with tragic stories of their own. The shared experiences brought us much closer than we had been. I gained an incredible new support group of fellow fertility warriors whose strength amazed me and whose friendships created a silver lining to the fertility journey.
The grass isn’t always greener
Your friends may also be having a tough time. Being a new Mum is nothing like the perfect pictures you see on social media. It is relentless. The lack of sleep is torturous, it can take a long time to heal from labour. Marriages become strained and there is zero time to yourself. Your friend could be grieving their old life and viewing your freedom wistfully. Until now you and your friends have likely cycled through the same seasons of life at roughly the same time. These drastically new dynamics may test your friendships. Respecting each other’s needs as you all adjust to these new phases of life will help protect your friendships. Even if your relationships feel strained right now, there’s a reason you became friends in the first place, and ultimately that is what matters and what will bring you back to each other in time.
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