Today I depart from the usual and bring you a guest blog entry by S, my best friend and "gold star" fertile. I wanted to let her speak to the other side if this difficult equation: what it's like to support your very own infertile. What makes this all the more interesting is that S is pregnant with her second kiddo. What's more, I'm thrilled about it. I certainly cannot say that for all the pregos in my life right now. I think the secret is how we went about navigating this emotional minefield. I'll let S speak to that.
The other good reason for a guest blogger is that I'm too damn nervous for my beta tomorrow to write anything coherent.
With that, please enjoy...
Sitting down to write this guest entry makes me feel a bit like I’m in Fertility Anonymous; Hello, my name is S, and I’m pregnant.
I’ve known Amy - real name, practically out of the closet - for almost our whole lives. She and I (and a couple other close girlfriends that she has mentioned previously in the blog) go on vacation every August. Except not this year. Amy will either be pregnant or not from her second round of IVF and right now I have such bad morning sickness I’m unable to shower, brush my teeth, or sneeze without throwing up (lovely right?)
When she asked me to write a post on "supporting your infertile" I wasn’t really sure what to say. I have been exceedingly fortunate in my own grand experiment with one beautiful 19 month old girl and now another on the way. I can’t imagine being helpful or comforting to Amy and her readers. I’ve been by her side during this whole adventure but I in no way know how hard it is for her (and many of you.) I’m an outsider in the infertile community, but I do consider myself a very strong supporter.
Here is one thing I know. You probably all have friends, family, people who love you who are starting or growing families themselves. I can promise you that you are a strong presence in their minds. When my first test came back with the two dark lines indicating positive one of my first thoughts was, “How am I going to tell Amy?" When I told my husband, he said, “Holy shit, how are you going to tell Amy?” If I can offer anything of value to this chronicle it’s how Amy and I together made a plan for sharing this news, and how (I hope) that plan made it just a bit easier for her to handle.
Amy and I both have siblings. Our husbands have siblings. When we were younger and daydreaming about family life, we always talked about our (multiple) children. She, Amy, expected that as Peanut got to be around 15 months old we’d be trying for another. Given her struggles we both knew this wouldn’t be easy for her. I had my own anxieties about if and how I would talk with her. I can’t compare this to the hardship she has had, but it would be silly to pretend it didn’t cause me grief. I felt guilty, of course, for being so lucky when Amy and others were so, well, not. I didn’t want to lie to my best friend but I definitely didn’t want to cause her more anguish, especially now with IVF round 2 coming up. She needed all her mental strength focused on that.
Luckily, Amy was mature enough and open enough to be honest with me about what she needed. As this spring came around she asked me to tell her when we ‘pulled the goalie.’ Some may see this as an invasion of privacy or selfish or having “chutzpah” (a little Yiddish for you). Let me assure you, IT IS NOT. By telling me exactly what she needed Amy was not only looking out for herself, but for our friendship. Selfishly, it also took a load off of me. I know how incredibly lucky I have been to be able to start my family and watch it grow with little difficulty (except for a little---okay a lot---of vomiting, things for us have been very easy). Besides watching Amy go through all this, I grew up with stories of how my parents tried to start their family for 7 years and the sadness surrounding my mom’s 4 miscarriages. Amy’s honesty has taken so much of that guilt away from me and allowed me to enjoy these past 9 weeks (as much as I can outside of the vomiting) and for that I am so grateful.
The key was (and again, this may sound weird, but trust me) making a plan. I want to encourage you, both infertiles and supporters, to be as honest as you can with each other. I promise it will help you both. Amy has been honest with me about what she wants and does not want to know including but not limited to:
1) when we started trying to get pregnant (yes)
2) when we conceived (yes, and as soon as I got the double line)
3) how she wanted to find out (via phone—although it ended up being via text)
4) when she is ready to see ultrasound photos (not yet).
No one is a mind reader and these are sensitive issues. It’s unfair to expect them to just know how to navigate this type of situation; it’s an emotional mine-field. It’s not like you get a lot of practice telling your fertility-challenged best friend that you’re having (yet) another child. It’s kind of a once or twice type of thing.
And now, a random segue. A few years ago my baby sister was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. I hate to compare a diagnosis of infertility to cancer, but in so many ways I see similarities. The diagnosis itself is devastating and for the next (weeks/months/years) you are living day to day. Even with the best distractions, it is always there in the background. I could not have survived that time without Amy helping me through. And I try my best to provide that same support to her now. After telling my girlfriends about my second pregnancy I received an outpouring of love and support. But, in the back of their minds, I know every one of them was thinking about Amy (and just as they should have they all called her to check in after hearing the news.)
3 years later my sister is in remission. She is a much stronger, more mature, more confident young woman because of her experience. You can always tell the survivors of hardship; those that have come out on the other side of some trauma. They have gotten up off the mat and it’s inspiring. I see this in Amy. She has always been strong, but the grit and resilience she’s displayed in the past 2 years is nothing short of extraordinary.