Friends and infertility is one of those topics which is often a sore point. How do friends approach the subject? Do they avoid the subject completely, do they walk on egg shells or do they just feel uncomfortable around you?
So can your friendships survive infertility?
Well, it depends. On you, them, the communication between you, the openness between you, willingness, patience, understanding, time, timing, and probably lots of other things that can jump in the mix.
You might prefer to keep your fertility journey private for example and naturally withdraw from friendships. You may not know how to voice what you are going through, or how to ask for the kind of support you'd like. Perhaps one of your friends just got pregnant, again, and you don't feel up to seeing her and her growing tummy. Maybe you have a friend you prefer to avoid that says insensitive stuff like "It'll happen if you just relax". Perhaps one of your friends tenses up whenever she sees you or is no longer answering your texts. Maybe your friends are so busy with their growing families, they don't have time for you. Or maybe you feel like you have nothing in common anymore.
There can be many different versions of this that trigger you, annoy you, isolate you, disappoint you, hurt you and make you feel all kinds of emotions you never thought your friendship would put you through.
Infertility does that to friendships. It can really do a number on them. Friendships can become strained, can disappear for a while, can even fritter away to nothing.
Personally, I had two friends whose friendship I lost on my fertility journey.
One friend felt really uncomfortable around the subject and so would avoid talking about it entirely. Which got to the point where she would just talk about herself because I had nothing other to say, my fertility journey being so all-consuming at that point. So, even though we stayed in touch, we grew apart. I reached out to her less, she reached out to me less. And now we are barely in touch.
The other friend was supportive for a while and seemingly quite open to talking about our IVF infertility treatment. But suddenly she became more flippant about the subject and wanted to talk about holidays and cocktails instead. Which to be frank I wasn't exactly into at the time. I have a feeling she was also pregnant with her third baby and was too scared to tell me. So, well, she disappeared, abruptly.
In hindsight, I could have done things differently to salvage these friendships from our mess of a fertility journey. But when your hormones are all over the map, it's not easy to think clearly. All I can remember was the disappointment, the hurt and the isolation. Feeling left behind, left out and so so misunderstood.
So what advice can I give about friendships and infertility?
If I was to give a few pointers to help, I would encourage you to have a think about what kind of support you would like from your friends. Then find a time to share your thoughts.
Perhaps you would like a friend to not talk about her kids so much, would appreciate if a friend asked if you were okay, would like a hug, would like to vent, would like to go out and have a laugh, would like to have a good cry, would like to feel included or would like to feel listened to.
Of course, not all friends will be able to give you the kind of support you need from them. For whatever reason, some people cannot take on board other people's struggles. I learned this the hard way but sometimes we just have to respect that people have their own stuff going on.
But if there are friendships you truly value, I would encourage you to have those hard conversations. Like asking what you can do to help make the friendship less strained. Torturing yourself in the aftermath with how a friendship went down the toilet is not a great feeling, trust me. Making an effort to salvage a friendship before it's gone can at least give you the peace of mind that you did the best you could at the time.
Are friendships and infertility really compatible?
It's not all bad!
I would say yes, it can be a rough ride. Infertility can really test a friendship. But it can also show you who you can count on. Who is there for you. No matter how bad it gets.
Thankfully, I have friendships that survived our infertility. Connections that grew stronger. Connections that took on new meaning. I also made new beautiful connections throughout our journey. Probably connections I never would have made if I hadn't gone through infertility.
The thing with friendships is that you won't know what they can withstand until you get there. Accepting that some friendships may not make it seems to be part of the journey.
*Disclaimer: The support and guidance I give as a wellness coach and fertility coach is not intended to replace a medical professional's medical care and treatment. For any healthcare decisions, advice from a medical specialist should be sought out.