I've written this letter over the past couple of weeks, and it's essentially what I wish I could say to my friends when they ask about when we're starting a family, how things are going, etc. It's basically everything I wish I could say if I had the time and their attention, and if I felt brave enough to be truly honest with my friends about what's in my head.
I may or may not have shared this with you, but Buddy and I have a sort of secret. We are two of 7 million Americans (one in eight couples) with fertility issues. Both of us are affected – not only do we each have our own issue, but even if it was just one of us, we’d still be in the same place. One of us can’t make a baby without the other, so we’re in this together. We’ve been through testing, we have diagnoses. We have a realistic understanding of our options and our chances. What’s going on isn’t a result of not relaxing or not doing something right or not wanting or praying hard enough. It isn’t about timing, positions, or old wives’ tales. It can’t be fixed by adopting or not trying. I know it seems that everyone knows someone who got pregnant when they stopped trying or started the adoption process, but it’s not the case for everyone. Adoption is not in our cards, nor is IVF. Buddy and I have made a decision we feel is right for us - as hard as it may be - for the time being, and that’s to not move forward with any testing or treatment. Because of fear of miscarriage made more likely by my issue, we are actively avoiding pregnancy while not in the care of a specialist. We are in full agreement in this decision, and it’s a necessary break to get us to a point where we can re-evaluate if we will be trying again.
Please understand that though we made this decision together, it wasn’t easy and it’s still very raw. There is a lot of grief in our home right now. Our hearts are heavy. My emotions are intense and irrational at times. There are good days and awful days. I want you to know, friend, that despite all this, I am happy for you as you grow your family. I am excited for you as you announce your pregnancy, and I look forward to spoiling your child and seeing you as a mom. That said, it isn’t easy for me to watch you experience things I long for. I fear I won’t get to tell my husband we’re expecting, see the ultrasound, hear the heartbeat. I may never get to decorate a nursery, feel the baby move, or give birth and hear that first tiny cry. My husband may never be a father, and my parents may never have grandchildren that aren’t my sister’s kids. So while I am happy for you, dear friend, my heart aches when I see your announcements on Facebook. Baby shower invitations make tears spring to my eyes. Pictures and videos of your little one, though sweet and appreciated, often make a lump rise in my throat. Little moments and glimpses into your life as a mom-to-be can make a good day go bad in a matter of seconds through no fault of your own.
My goal through all of this has been to grieve privately, and celebrate your joy publicly. It doesn’t always work that way, though. While I may not appear sad when you show me pictures or share something cute your husband said about the baby, inside I’m just holding it together. I would never want to take away from your moment. I will not skip baby showers, and I will not dismiss you as a friend for having what I desire. But sometimes, I need time. Sometimes, I may cry – know that if I do so in front of you, it means I trust you with my feelings of grief. Please understand that if I have to walk away or take a day to myself, it isn’t because I don’t love you. It’s because I need that for me. I’m constantly torn between not wanting to be handled with kid gloves, and needing some sensitivity. I don’t want you to not feel free to express your joy and share this experience with me, but I need you to know that sometimes it’s too much and I need a minute, an hour, a day to hash it out. I’m very conscious of my fear of becoming jealous or “bitter.” I’m not asking you to change how you express your happiness and share your family experiences, just to have a little awareness and understanding of how I may react if my emotions get to me. Because it truly is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”
There may be times when I withdraw into myself. I go through periods of days or even a week or two where the safest place for my emotions is within me. I may not call to hang out, or talk or text. I may be vague on Facebook. I may just be generally distant. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to you or hang out, I just feel that I lack the energy and motivation to make the effort. I want to spend time with you, chat, and have lunch. Sometimes, though, I feel that I’m experiencing more reminders of our infertility and keeping to myself means less opportunities for that to happen. Sometimes, not talking about IF is achieved by not talking, period. So please, don’t mistake my distance for lack of care. Your friendship is still important to me. I’m just being guarded, and I’ll come around if you just give me time.
I value you, friend. I’m excited for you, and happy for your family. That happiness for you is a distinct emotion from my sadness, yet the former often reminds me of the latter. I will do my best to be a supportive and loving friend as you prepare for and experience motherhood. Just please understand that I am mourning something I never had, and even if Buddy and I are successful in having a baby one day, this will have forever changed us. We’ve already had to accept many changes since we started trying to start a family. I fear that everything will change, in fact, including my friendship with you. I worry immensely that you being a mom and raising your family will create a divide between us. I don’t want to lose my friends, too. I don’t want to be left out and left behind. Both Buddy and I want to be special people in your kids’ lives and spoil them and love them, as we know you would do for our children.
Thank you for being a supportive and wonderful part of my life.