When Life Gives You Lemons

Trying to make the most out of infertility, and life in general. This is my journey to conceive, after a miscarriage and D&C that left me with Asherman's Syndrome.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

“What have you been up to”

Sorry I’ve been out of touch lately. It’s been a busy week between work and family commitments. This past weekend was B’s birthday. We went out for a really nice dinner to celebrate, but before dinner on Friday, we met up with an old friend of B’s who was in town from Denver. Actually he had just gotten back from Sarajevo, where he spent the summer working with victims of trauma from the Bosnian War. This is actually the friend that is responsible for introducing B and I so we always feel a special bond with this guy. He’s a crazy world traveler, so it had been a while since either B or I had seen him or caught up with him.

What I hate about get to-gethers to “catch up” with old friends who I haven’t seen in a while is that inevitably certain questions come up about the status of our lives. Of course these questions are said with the best intentions, out of a general need to know what we have been up to. With this type of conversation it’s always only a short matter of time before the friend says “So, what’s been up with you guys this past year/Are you thinking about a family yet?” This is exactly what happened on Friday night and I immediately burst into tears. I said the easy answer is yes, of course we are thinking about kids, but life sometimes has other plans for you. I told him the whole story – the miscarriage, the subsequent problems, the questionable state of my fertility for all those months, and finally ended with the fact that I refuse to allow myself to believe – that things are slowly starting to look up. It’s hard to share all of this with a good friend. Especially a male friend, but surprisingly he was very sympathetic. He said he was sorry for everything we’ve been through and wanted us to know that although we might not speak often or be close in distance or even in thought, he wanted to be there for us and expressed his sadness for what we’ve been through.

Contrary to this heartwarming reaction from a male friend, I spoke to a female friend of mine who showed complete apathy for my situation. This is a college friend who is organizing a baby shower for a mutual friend. I called to decline the baby shower invite ( I have a wedding that date, so didn’t even need to make up a lame excuse for why I couldn’t go – score!!). She then asked the dreaded….so, what’s going on with you guys. I also gave her the Cliff Note version of the story and she didn’t say one word to me. She just gave me a couple of “ums” and never once expressed any sympathy. Never did the sentiment “I’m sorry for what you’ve been through “ come from her. This really appalls me. This is someone who has a 2+ yr old and is pregnant with her second. I can’t believe that someone who is female, and a mother, and a friend could be so heartless to not utter a single expression of condolence. I would never wish my pain upon anyone, but I can’t imagine how another woman could be so unsympathetic, and on top of that make me feel guilty for missing a baby shower. How could she intrinsically not understand?

A few months ago a similar situation happened to me. I got invited to another college friend’s baby shower. The person throwing the shower was the sister-in-law of the expectant mother. When I called to decline the invitation, I was met with hostility from the sister-in-law. She literally said, “J’s going to be so disappointed you can’t come. Are you sure you can’t change your plans.” I had lied and told her we had plans to go away for the weekend. I said “Yes, I’m sure”, but what I really wanted to say was “How dare you expect me to celebrate a baby shower for someone I’m barely even friends with on the anniversary of what would’ve been my due date”.

Can’t we come up with some written and verbalized code of sisterhood that is inherent among all women, that makes us understand other people’s infertility issues and be respective of our need to avoid baby showers and the like? Can it also be part of our female genetic make-up to know that it’s appropriate to say “I’m sorry” when someone shared with you their pregnancy loss? I am just baffled by the fact that a male friend of B’s was able to say the right thing, yet female friends of mine say nothing and by doing so end up saying the wrong thing with their actions.

I dread getting together with friends who I haven’t seen who don’t know the whole situation we’ve been dealt. I don’t’ know what to say. I’ve avoided so many people for this exact reason. I just don’t know what to tell them. I can no longer lie, and yet I’m finding myself to be unable to avoid the topic entirely. It’s only natural that after 3 years of marriage and at this age, people would ask what our thoughts are on kids. Part of me wants to be snarky and just say “We had a miscarriage and now we might never be able to have our own children, thanks for asking” and hope that this will teach them a lesson about asking this of someone in the future. But I can’t do that or think that way. Most people ask because they are just curious and they don’t mean to stir up any ill feelings. They just want to make conversation and I know that. I just have a hard time coming up with the right answer.

I try to focus the conversation on other things – to talk about work, travel, other things going on in our lives. But as anyone who has been down the dark road of infertility knows, your entire life becomes about this one thing. I can’t talk about my job, because when I talk about my job I automatically link the conversation to the fact that I’m stuck in this job that I don’t love anymore and am sick of doing but yet I can’t imagine starting a new job and having to go on job interviews and deal with Dr’s appointments at the same time. And what happens if I actually get a new job – how do I start a new job and give it my all when my all can only focus on our struggles with infertility. And travel, something B and I love to do…how do I explain that as much as we love to travel and have made that a priority in our lives in the past, IF makes it impossible to go away for more than a long weekend, when you are scheduling all of your free time around your cycle monitoring days at the fertility clinic. And when you don’t know the exact day your cycle is going to start, it makes it impossible to plan a vacation. I’m so sick of the advice from people to enjoy my time without kids, to make the most of our time together, to travel to all these exciting places. Really I wish for nothing more. But all of our resources, both financial, emotional and in terms of planning out our vacation time are tied up in infertility. I just wish everyone would stop asking me this questions and stop inquiring about my life. But really more than that, I wish I had a different life to talk about. I wish I could share news of my pregnancy, our joys in finally starting our most cherished family. I wish that could be my answer to the “What have you been up to” question.


  • At 5:16 PM, Blogger Kris said…

    I'm so sorry. And I hear you. I'd also love to be snarky, but I can't bring myself to do it. I am sorry about what you've been through. It is difficult and so unfair.

    I hope you get that different life soon... that soon you'll be looking forward to hearing the question "What have you been up to?"

  • At 12:17 AM, Blogger Thalia said…

    I think people don't know what to say, and are afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they don't say anything at all, which is, of course, worse, but they don't know that. I'm sorry your friends and acquaintances are being so crap.

  • At 3:13 PM, Blogger soralis said…

    I am so sorry that you are going through such a difficult time and that your female friend isn't more compasionate.

    Take care

  • At 7:24 PM, Anonymous annmarie said…

    Hi Ella, I'm sorry you're having such a hard time with everyone. I understand where you're coming from and I found that telling people the truth has worked out for me. Sometimes they didn't care, sometimes they did. the important thing was that I didn't have to hide or make up some elaborate story. We're dealing with infertility at the moment. Amd that is that.

  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger serenity said…

    Oh Ella. I just found your blog through the Town Criers... and your last paragraph made me cry because I FEEL THE SAME WAY.

    I am so very sorry for your loss.

    And I am sorry that your female friends have been such crap - even if they don't know the right thing to say, they should say SOMETHING.

    The one thing I have learned, though, is that the people I think would understand the most are the ones who empathize the least.

    It's the ones I'd least expect who are the ones with the best support.


  • At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Ella, I wanted to stop by and say hello. This post hit really close to home. Your last paragraph sums up all of my feelings. I wish you much luck with this cycle so that you will soon have a new life to look forward to.

  • At 6:36 PM, Blogger Jennifer said…

    DON'T LIE anymore...tell the truth of your story and pain despite others reactions (some may not know how to react and so numb themselves)
    Have the courage to say 'I will not go to a baby shower period'
    Say what's on your mind....else how will they know what you think.
    I pray for you....enjoy your new begingings.

  • At 2:27 PM, Anonymous amy said…

    I'm so glad you talked about the inability to plan in your last paragraph. That is the hardest thing for me (after 14 months TTC), and I haven't really heard many people talk about it.

    No one else really understands the lack of control we begin to feel during all of this, not just concering repro, but everything. EVERYTHING.


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