Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Other Side of the Fence

I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about friendship. The friends I lost while going through infertility, the friends I gained, and the friendships I already had that grew stronger through shared heartache all occupy a significant portion of my thoughts these days.

Friendship is something I've always struggled with (I spent most of my childhood agonizing over why I didn't have friends and now that I'm an adult I've had to move away from the wonderful friends I made in Salt Lake and DC) so thinking about lost friends always saddens me. The combination of infertility and distance cost me one of the closest friendships I've ever had, and I know that's something I'll always be angry about. It also helped me grow closer to two friends I'd had for years, and if nothing else I'm grateful I had the chance to support them and get their support while we were still trying to conceive.

Now that I'm on the other side of the infertility "fence" though, I'm struggling with completely different issues. Namely, how do I stay a good friend to those who are still going through infertility hell? How do I know when to back off and give my friends space if that's what they need? How do I make sure not to say or do something that hurts them? You would think (hell, I would think) that it would be easy to know what to do since I've been there myself, but what's right for one person isn't necessarily right for another.

I've been very open about my infertility from day one. My parents and sister know about it--they even read this blog daily. All of my friends know what we went through; my in-laws know; and because I was a patient at J's hospital while we were searching for a diagnosis, many of his coworkers are aware of our problems as well. In spite of the intensely private nature of infertility, I had no problem with "going public". Talking about what was going on, sharing our story, and trying my best to de-stigmatize it helped me cope. I know that's not the case with everyone, though, which is one of the reasons why I think I'm having such a hard time knowing how to "be there" for my infertile friends now. Most of them aren't as open about their struggles as I was (and am) so the things I wanted people to do when I was in their shoes such as e-mails asking how I was doing, phone calls to check up on me after another failed cycle, etc... likely aren't what they want from me now. There's also the issue of Luke--I know that seeing or hearing about a new baby while you're infertile can be incredibly difficult. I never want to cause my friends the pain I felt when someone insensitively sent me unsolicited baby photos or wouldn't stop talking about their children while we spent time together.

I want to be a good friend. I know those I care about who are still battling infertility need good friends. I just need to know how to be what they need me to be.


Bea said...

In my opinion, the biggest mistake people make when dealing with someone struggling with infertility when they've managed to make it or avoid that bullet entirely, is to make it all about *them*. All about *their* guilt at being able to achieve a pregnancy, or *their* guilt at having somehow arrived into parenthood. I think if you keep the focus on your infertile friends, you'll be fine.


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