so what would you do?

I don’t know how to deal with this person anymore.

So much has been written about dealing with friends and family who don’t understand or support us, about the need to protect ourselves from ignorance and hurtful situations, and about the resulting isolation we experience on our journeys. I’ve written a lot about avoiding certain people and 
events out of self-preservation. Over time this has become easier. I’ve accepted that I don’t always need to celebrate everyone else all the time. That I need to honor and respect my own emotions, to go with my gut and protect my heart. Life has gone on without me in this regard — why shouldn’t it continue without constantly rubbing my face in it?

Infertility has come to serve as a wedge between me and the rest of the world. It gets in the way of my life, but overcoming it IS my life. You dedicate your waking (and probably dream) life towards trying to build your family — it consumes your thoughts, time, energy, attention, emotions, and of course, your body and your money. It surrounds and permeates everything we do. It defines you. It’s only natural that the effort required to battle this demon on every front necessarily means I have less energy for other things. Or maybe that’s just my excuse.

There are things we don’t do anymore because I’m always thinking about cycling. (Though those days may soon be over.) Of course there are the things we don’t do that would only magnify the void in our lives. There are people who were once good friends that I just don’t care to see anymore, friends we have kept at a distance. Some of them I thought it might be easier to be around if/when we have our own children. While others I’ve been thinking it’s time to let go…

We’ve tried to let go of one such 
friend before, actually a couple. These are people who have never known how to support us. They’ve never really tried. While they’ve built their family effortlessly, we’ve suffered one disappointment after another. It’s been almost four years since we told them we were trying to have a baby. Aside from an occasional post-surgery “so how are you?,” they pretty much stopped asking after six months. This was also right before they conceived their first on the first “try.” Partly they just didn’t know what to say, they didn’t want to prod or pressure. But I think they just didn’t know how to really hear the answer, to listen and support. At that point, they were already planning their second. Maybe they felt awkward, maybe not. Regardless, most of the time, it seemed they generally lacked sincerity. Needless to say, they were never people I felt comfortable sharing with. And so despite how close we once were, we grew apart.

Yet every time we’ve pulled away, something brings us together again. (Unfortunately they are family friends and difficult to avoid permanently). We’d see them every few months and have a decent time, sometimes even fun. But inevitably there was some awkward moment that overshadowed the experience and left a bad taste. Ultimately the Amazing M and I agreed that too much had changed, we had grown too far apart. When we thought about it, there was little real friendship left to salvage. It was time to break away for good. So it’s been a few months. Aside from a brief call or email (including one in which I explained we’d been having a hard time and being anti-social), nothing. And we realize we don’t even miss them. 

Then yesterday I got an email from her, forwarding a notice for a local “holistic approach to fertility” workshop. As I clicked to open it, I started getting angry. Thinking who is this fucking fertile beotch sending me some stupid assvice that I already fucking know that hasn’t fucking worked. (I curse when I’m mad, or drunk.) But inside was a message, surprisingly as sincere as could be, asking how we are, was everything OK with us, OK between us and them, saying they haven’t seen us in so long, they miss us and hope we’re well and that everything is great and hope to see you soon…
Ah, nope, we are not OK… I felt like Marcellus Wallace in “Pulp Fiction” when I said to myself, “I’m pretty fucking far from OK.”

And yet, this is perhaps the most sincere gesture from these people we’ve seen in years. So genuine that I’m wondering if or how we should actually respond. It’s not that I really want to see them. I don’t. But we will continue to cross paths, perhaps awkwardly, and I don’t need any more of that in my life. Maybe I can find some brilliant tactful way to say something just right. But what? How should I reply, if at all?   

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~ by luna on February 1, 2008.

13 Responses to “so what would you do?”

  1. I found out tonight that a friend gave birth to a girl this morning, and my response was to get angry. I’ve shouted a lot at this friend in my head, not because she deserves it, but her mere presence causes me pain. My husband who is a bit wise said (when I was trying to avoid her) “I think she still has things to offer you as a friend, and you need friends.”

    I know most of us feel angry at our friends because they just “don’t get it” but I think that it is mostly the panic of being unbelievably weighed down by pain and feeling so terribly alone. And our friends can’t fix it.

  2. “Infertility has come to serve as a wedge between me and the rest of the world. It gets in the way of my life, but overcoming it IS my life. You dedicate your waking (and probably dream) life towards trying to build your family — it consumes your thoughts, time, energy, attention, emotions, and of course, your body and your money. It surrounds and permeates everything we do. It defines you. It’s only natural that the effort required to battle this demon on every front necessarily means I have less energy for other things.”

    Wow. This part of your post sums up perfectly what we go through, the isolation, anger, everything. I could not have written it any better. Thank you.

    As to this friend who sent you the note, it seems that you and your Amazing M have already made the decision that you do not want to start up a friendship with them again. I think the note was nice, and I’m so happy it was genuine, but it takes a lot more than that to make up for so many years of feeling neglected and hurt and out of touch. And maybe right now is not the time to start up a friendship again – maybe when the fertility roller-coaster is over for you, you will be able to do that. Or not. I think you should do what feels right, but if it were me, I’d just send a reply saying “Thank you so much for thinking of us. Hope all is well with you.” And leave it at that. But just do whatever feels right to you.

    – Angela

  3. You describe a really tricky situation – one I think that anyone struggling with infertility can relate to.

    We have some friends who appear very curious about what is entailed in IVF. They ask a hell of a lot of questions – perhaps they’re genuinely trying to understand what we’re going through, but I feel increasingly worn down by the attempt to explain various medical procedures to them (‘why don’t you just look up on Google,’ I feel like yelling.)

    Over the past couple of months, I’ve shut myself off from these and a lot of other people. I’ve found that undergoing treatment, as well as dealing with my own feelings around infertility, is exhausting enough, without trying to second guess how others feel.

    It sounds like this woman has realised that you have withdrawn from her. She may be genuinely reaching out to you, and trying to find a way of rekindling your friendship, or she may just be looking for reassurance that your withdrawal doesn’t have anything to do with anything she may or may not have said or done.

    I’m sorry that you’re in this situation, and wish I had some more helpful advice – I think that I’d maybe send a quick email thanking her for her kind thoughts(!), and explaining that you just needed a little time by yourselves.

  4. I agree with Ms. Heathen about sending a quick email thanking her for her suggestions but that you do need time to sort out through the many emotions you and hubby are dealing with right now. And when or if the time is ever right (because maybe you may never want to in touch with them), you can contact them on your own terms.

    It is hard and I can certainly empathize. Big HUGS to you!!

  5. This “friend” seems to get more out the relationship than she gives. When friendships get out of balance like that, I let them go. If someone doesn’t know me well enough to know how to support me, I frankly don’t have the interest or energy in explaining how to them. Then there’s the wife my dh’s best friend. I had hoped we could be as close as our husbands are, but that’s not ever going to happen since she’s now a stay at home mother with three kids. No matter how she tries to say or do (or not say or do) the right thing we just don’t click. So, I only see her as a foursome. We usually find some neutral ground in that setting. After some contemplation, I’m with Ms. Heathen here — extend the time off period as long as you can. It takes to much energy to be on guard for the next awkward moment.

  6. That’s a tough situation. I do believe that people who have had no fertility issues have no idea the emotions, stress, pain that go into infertility. My very best friend made the suggestion the other day that I should switch clinics because a friends of hers who had IVF 7 years ago liked another clinic. I was blown away that she would say that to me. And I was pissed. And this was my best friend, not someone I just see occasionally. I think you’re smart to protect yourself and surround yourself with those who help you feel peace. But I also think there’s grace in someone who makes the effort, even if imperfect. Does that mean you have to hold hands and skip off to lunch? No. But a simple acknowlegment might be the trick.

  7. I never know how to deal with friends who don’t get it, whether they try or not. It is a hard call. Maybe tell them how rough your life has been and how much you need at least some support from them to maintain contact. I wish I had better advice.

  8. I’m here to Here!Here the quick note of thanks option. But I wouldn’t let it go much beyond that.

    If your paths are bound to cross, there’s no point in trying to get them to understand things that they can’t possibly. There is nothing to be gained from trying to educate them, nothing good that can come from frank and honest conversation in this case. Keeping things smooth and even is your best option.

    From her perspective, she saw this and thought of you, so she passed it on. I doubt that she was really thinking of you in more than a “Hey, Luna could use this” way. But it’s more about her trying to fix your problem so that things can get back to her version of normal. She’ll never understand that even if you get pregnant, you’ll never be “fixed” in the way she wants you to be.

    At the same time, this relationship will bring you nothing but pain in the long run if you allow them to be any closer than the occasional chit chat at the grocery store.

    It sucks, but you’ve got to protect yourself.

    Of course, the bitter infertile in me wants you to tell her where to stick her holistic fertility class. 🙂

  9. My life is also taken over by infertility. I dream about it too, I don’t know how to make space for anything else right now either.

    I think with the friend I’d keep it really general. A sort of explanation that life isn’t too straightforward and you need to have time to yourself. I couldn’t find the energy to try to explain to people who have been unable to understand previously.

    Perhaps I’ve become too selfish but I figure no one else is looking out for me. Not really.

    One way or another I’m certain you’ll manage. You have a beautiful way with words.

  10. Infertility-isolation makes me act like a yo-yo. I tend to draw back into a protective cocoon, avoiding people who will hurt me. But then I end up all lonely, and I randomly reach out to people I haven’t spoken to in ages, trying to reconnect. Like I suddenly get desperate and have to go out to re-gather friends. It’s a bit scitzo, when I think about it. I recently looked up someone I knew in college and started e-mailing him, only to discover that after the preliminary catch-up I had nothing to say.

    I do agree with the general consensus here. You owe this chickie nothing more than a quick “thanks, it’s nice to know you’re thinking of me” and let it go at that. I find that the older I get (and sheesh, is it seeming old these days), the less patience I have for friends that don’t give as much as they get. You deserve more than a nice note. If this couple really has nothing to offer, just try to maintain a distant-but-friendly relationship with them, just enough to keep it from being awkward when you’re thrown together.

    My best maintain-at-a-distance tip? (This is what I do with my mom.) Send the occasional e-mail of an interesting article or funny comic or something. That way you can pretend you’re keeping in touch without actually exposing any raw spots. (Hmmm… Maybe this only works with my mom–never tried it with anyone else.)

    Keep on writing Luna, you have a beautiful voice.

  11. […] here’s what I did Thanks for your comments on my earlier post about problem friend. You are all right. Her gesture was kind, but probably too little too late. […]

  12. […] Life goes on, with or without me and my infertile self. While there is some distance between us and certain friends, and some family members have grown somewhat out of favor due to the stupid things they have said […]

  13. […] tough day for me. We would be surrounded by family and friends and their many children, including people we really don’t care to see right […]

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