In my online infertility network (Twitter), the topic of pregnant or parenting infertiles “forgetting” their infertility roots has cropped up several times in the last few months. A recent comment made me stop and really think about this idea. Do they really forget their roots? What is it about their words and/or actions that make those still in the trenches believe that?
The truth is that infertility is traumatic. No one likes to think about a traumatic experience, and most people try to move on from trauma, don’t they?
The same goes for infertility. Part of moving on may be distancing oneself from those who are still going through it. I know it sounds awful and cruel. You supported your friend through her roughest time, and as soon as she has a baby, she disappears. When you try to talk to her about your recent failed cycle, she ignores you or responds with a classic line from what not to say to an infertile. You find yourself stunned and angry. How could she? Has she forgotten what it’s like to be in my place?
No, she hasn’t. I can’t speak for everyone, but speaking from personal experience: There is an element of PTSD at work. Quite the opposite of forgetting, I vividly remember everything from the day we found out our first baby was gone, through all the infertility tests, surgery, pills, injections, and procedures… month after month of heartbreak with each negative pregnancy test… coming to terms with the fact that I can’t get pregnant without IVF… worry and resentment over the high price tag that comes with IVF. Reliving all of that through another person – even a friend – is sometimes too much. Obviously, my residual pain is nothing compared to the pain of someone actually living through it. But it’s enough to make me step back at times and let others provide the support. From time to time, I know I’ve said the wrong thing. Or worse – nothing at all.
I’m not saying that I or anyone else should be excused from supporting friends who are currently facing infertility head on. What I’m trying to say (not very eloquently or efficiently) is that we are all human with limitations and a tendency to avoid pain. So, when it seems a previously supportive friend has abandoned you and your infertility journey, it may be her way of coping. It’s not fair to you, and you have every right to feel angry and let down, but I hope looking at things from another perspective will help you understand what might be going on within her. Perhaps acknowledgement and validation of her feelings can lead to a better mutually supportive relationship.
Just food for thought.