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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barren Advice: Twenty-Five

This is the 25th installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.

Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday-ish. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.

Dear Mel:

So...early on in my IF blogging, I bonded with another blogger. We had a lot in common and lived in the same city. For a very long time we wrote each other every day, catching up on the trials and tribulations of our IF journey. Now she's pregnant and I'm not. And I'm honestly thrilled for her. But she seems to be having issues with it. I understand the guilt that a successful pregnancy might bring up when those around you haven't been successful but shouldn't friendship transcend that? If I can deal with her success shouldn't she? I'm not really sure how to bring this up with her without sounding clingy. I know that she has a lot on her mind right now but I'd love to share the positive parts of her journey with her just as I shared the hard times.


I think most people are accustomed to seeing the inverse of that situation: the pregnant infertile forgets how difficult it can be to hear pregnancy news and the not-yet-pregnant infertile is grumbling about drowning in emailed sonogram pictures. It's nice to hear the other side, still have a problem on your hands. A problem that can be overcome with time if it falls into the first possibility or a problem that may not have a solution if it falls into the second possibility.

Here's hoping that she has picked door #1!

The first possibility for her behaviour is survivor guilt. How the hell do you still communicate with someone who is back in the trenches when you're in the comfort of your living room, away from the chaos of War of the Ovaries? Of course we know it can be done because friendships survive all the time. But still, it can be a bumpy transition from both being on the same side of the stirrups to having one person compiling layette items while the other is still spending their money on fertility drugs.

She may be worried that she's inadvertently hurting your feelings simply by existing and unless you tell her otherwise, she will probably continue to assume this. Unless we help guide another person, they can only go with assumptions and perhaps that is what she thinks she would feel if the situation were reversed.

Behind door #2 is a very different possibility.

Her distance may not be sensitivity for you but could be a desire to distance herself from anything that came before this point--the disappointment, the depression, the physical pain, the financial choices. Just like the celebrities who claim they never had any help getting pregnant with their gorgeous fraternal twins, she may be looking to close the door on the infertile portion of her life and join with other pregnant women.

I once had a close friend from childhood that I drifted apart from once I moved back into town. I didn't work hard to carve out time for her after awhile because all of our nights out had become a running monologue about her new boyfriend, though it was strange how she also pulled away from me at the same time. I was still the same and presented more of a salad approach to conversation--a little whining about my dating life here and a little whining about my apartment search there--whereas she was singing a single note--an aria of "Daaaaaaaaaaaaavid is wonderful and I am in loooooooooooooooove."

I know why I pulled away (a girl can only look at so many pictures from a beach vacation that she didn't attend), but my mother mused that my friend pulled away because I reminded her of the Laura she used to be. The Laura who never had a boyfriend (this was her first serious relationship), who never felt pretty, who never had things work out for her. With that thought in mind, I kept my distance and the few times we have reconnected since have supported my mother's theory: she is happy to talk about the wonderful present, but never wants to remember the past. She pretends she doesn't remember old friends we had in common and brushes off any talk of pre-2000 as unworthy of her attention. She isn't on Facebook--a site that looks back probably a little too much for her tastes.

Your desire for friendship is rooted in soil that is very pure--the best dirt for friendships to grow. You truly love your friend when she's down and you love her when she's up and you never wanted her company solely because misery was screaming for it. If it had happened in the reverse order--if you were pregnant and she were still trying--you may see a very different behaviour just as my friend could be there for me until the thing she wished for most--a relationship--came true for her and suddenly, she didn't want to be with me, not just because I didn't have a boyfriend and therefore we had nothing in common, but because I reminded her of a time period that had been the source for a lot of emotional pain.

My advice is to remain rooted--to still be there as a support. Perhaps even point out the behaviour in case it is merely survivor guilt. You can help her get past the survivor guilt: tell her that you'll guide the conversation so she'll never worry that she's talking about it too much or dumping information on you during a time that you're unable emotionally to hear the details. If this isn't helping the friendship and you still sense her straining away from you, let her go because that's what a good friend does. Hopefully, she'll miss you and return. And, if not, you know that you did your part as a good friend to let the other person do what they need to do in order to be happy.

Even if doing so absolutely sucks for you and you lose the friendship in the moment. Good friends always seem to have a way of returning to your life when the door has been left open for their return.

No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely.

Leave a comment in the reaction box below--only keep in mind that conflicting advice is embraced and rudeness is not. Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice


Lori said...

Door #3 occurred to me.

We tend to think of others' reactions in terms of our own reactions.

She may simply be projecting on to you how she would deal with the situation if the roles were reversed. She may be afraid that she would push you away if your ovaries triumphed and hers didn't.

So Barren Sharon's advice holds: communicate.

I sure hope it's not Door #2.

Cassandra said...

Having been in this situation multiple times, I will admit that there are friends that I have been 100% happy for and have not begrudged at all. I have joyfully purchased baby presents, listened to extensive pregnancy and baby talk, even flown out to spend a week helping to care for babies. It really is possible for a still-infertile to be truly happy for a pregnant infertile.

There have also been friends that I have been less than 100% happy for (ranging from 99% to 1%) and that I begrudged for not working hard enough to achieve pregnancy, not "deserving" it, not being likely to be a good parent, etc.

The funniest part is that one particular very close friend is in both categories, one for each pregnancy.

So communicate, yes, but be prepared to move among the different doors as circumstances and moods change.

Oh, and Mel, there are other reasons not to join Facebook. I'd actually love to look back, but I'm less keen on looking into the present at all of the bumps and babies that my cohort is sure to have. And I'm even less eager to field their inevitable questions about my absent babies or bump (not counting the extra padding around the middle courtesy of IVF meds). This is the same reason that I attended my 10 year high school reunion but not 15 year. Wholly undecided about the upcoming 20 year elementary/middle school reunion.

Kristin said...

Lori's could be door #3. Anyway, the advice is fabulous!

..soo.see.. said...

Mel's advise hit it just right I think. I've been on your side of this situation and I'll tell you it's hard to get through at times and others not so much, but we got through it.

I, now, am on the other side situation-wise, like your friend. i had that survivor guilt. And it creeps up here and there b/c the struggles of IF don't leave me. I stopped blogging as much, even coming here to be part of the community and didn't know how to approach it w/ my boardgroup online. I told them and they were supportive and understood and it helped me understand I can still be a support to the ones still waiting and enjoy my pg.

Talk to her, as Mel said, friendships can endure anything and when they aren't strong enough at the moment they find a way of coming back together.

mrsmyrtle said...

Mel, I am so glad to have found your site. The services you provide to the infertile community are truly astounding. Keep it up!

niobe said...

I read this and, ignoring the question and the various perceptive responses, think about myself. Because, as we know, I'm all about me, me, me.

And here's the thing: I guess I don't really believe in friendship. In my cynical, twisted little mind, I'm convinced that a friend is someone who hasn't had sufficient opportunity or incentive to betray you. Yet.

And, yeah, it kinda sucks to be me. But at least my expectations are low enough that I'm seldom disappointed.

Soralis said...

I am thinking that she should reach out to her friend. I am with Lori... communication!

Good Luck either way!

Mel I love your blog, I wish you would have been around when I started my journey!

Jen said...

I did a version of Door #1 when I got pregnant. I still emailed and talked to my friend, but I never mentioned anything baby or pregnancy related unless she asked about it specifically.

kate said...

I think there might be another door (another sucky door) but I noticed that my two childhood best friends became even closer when they both became parents. Suddenly, there was less time for me, not just because of the time spent raising children, but because the limited free time available was spent talking about topics I just couldn't relate to, and thus, they'd rather talk to each other. To them, I didn't understand, I didn't get it- I couldn't talk about the pains of pregnancy, or the horrors of childbirth, or whether it's better to wear your baby or to "cry it out".

That sounds petty and stupid of me (wah! there's no time for me!), but I think it falls in line with the idea that if one is going through some massive life event, they like to talk to others who can help them understand this event, that can relate to it. And, while I have had pregnant friends who went on just being themselves, I have also had pregnant friends who disappeared into a world of constant chatter about their pregnancies and their impending babies, and well, I just can't relate to any of that, and I become less valuable as a friend. I can't console her, or commiserate with her in any way. And frankly, if it's all-baby-all-the-time, *I* don't really want to hear it anyway!

So I guess what I mean, is that she could be pulling away from you because she's waited a long time to be a part of that club, and now she's in it and she wants to roll around in the fluffy warmth of that club, and thus she has less time for you. Or it could be that she is in the "I-can't-talk-about-anything-besides-pregnancy" phase, and she's trying to save your feelings by not making you subject to her constant baby talk (and thus shares it with someone else who can hear it while being excited rather than hurt).

Above all, I think the advice still stands. It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I would even try to follow this bit of advice, but: Talk to her. Tell her how you are feeling, and try to get to the root of what is going on.

I don't mean to hurt your feelings by saying so, but is it possible that you weren't as close to begin with? Is it possible that she doesn't want to be your friend generally and has used the pregnancy as an excuse to pull back? I just mean that you should prepare yourself for any number of situations, and to try to armor yourself a bit so that you aren't hurt by her responses, in the event that her actions have been intentional.

~Jess said...

I would definitely say it could be a mix of 1 and 2... I know my SIL is pregnant and knows of our struggle and she just doesn't talk to me, at all. I hope things work out for you and your friend.

Mrs. Olson said...

It's funny that this was the barren advice because I just went through this with my husband's cousin.

She and I have everything in common. I guess in my mind I thought we were close because we not only shared our occupation, but we were both infertiles. In my mind this should make us best friends. I automatically assumed that she would be understanding.

She and her husband decided to adopt three years ago and then again just this month. They brought home a newborn beautiful baby girl, a baby girl that would be the same age as the baby I miscarried late last March. It still stings and looking at their baby makes me long for that bond with the baby I lost.

Even though it was hard, I was still very happy for them. I knew the struggles they had gone through to get here, and with several failed adoption, they deserved to be happy. I tried to be there as much as I could for them, buying them a big baby gift, intentionally asking questions about the baby and looking at pictures of the new baby room. But once the new baby came, the emails, pictures, and comments stopped.

When I questioned her about it, she told me that her baby was a blessing and that she didn't want to feel any guilt about having her, so she took me off emails, and it was best I stop reading her blog until I can handle it. I was very hurt, especially since I never said I couldn't handle it, or expressed my feelings to her.

My advice would be to communicate, but as someone else commented, be prepared for her response to not be as gentle as you would expect. Sometimes it is hard for people to realize how their words affect others. Good luck and I hope everything works out!

Sarah said...

i think mel's advice is perfect, and would just add that she's probably getting mixed signals from across her community of bloggy friends. different bloggers had very different reactions to my pregnancy, so it may have taken some extra cajoling from the ones who really were happy for me before i shared too much, because i wasn't sure how many people wanted to be nice but secretly harbored the same feelings as some of the more outwardly not-so-happy for me types.

Deathstar said...

You know, I'm seriously thinking about having you run my life. I think you'd do a much better job. You have such terrific advice.

Anonymous said...

Wow... that's such an interesting theory

Anonymous said...

I must say that God is good! My husband and I have Unexplained Infertility. Before I go on about how much I hate it and the jealousy and awful feelings involved I want to say thank you. Thank you for this blog. I thought I was the only one. I lost a friend a year ago. When I say that it sounds like they died. It surely felt like someone died. She will not speak to me, looks the other way if she sees me, her friend high tails it out if I am around, etc. Just plain awful. Again, thank you for this blog. And thank you God for infertility. I have learned more compassion in the last two and a half years than I could in a lifetime. I am so happy to know I am not the only one losing friends.

1tsp-grace said...

Like Anonymous before me, I'm very grateful to hear that I'm not the only one who has lost friends.

I was very recently dumped by a good friend. My theory is that she couldn't handle being friends with me while she is pregnant. Unfortunately, I can't try the communication advice because she cut that off too.

It stings.