One of the last social gatherings I attended before COVID-19 disrupted our lives was a baby shower for one of my dear friends who was pregnant with her first child.
Baby showers are always a fun celebration, especially for new moms, glowing among the oohs and ahhs as they unwrap monogrammed onesies, diapers and burp cloths.
I soon found myself guzzling down mimosas while sitting on the spacious “Not a Mom Yet” couch (also known as the “Dog Mom” couch) with the only other childless thirtysomething woman in the room.
Over on the Mommy Couch, squished shoulder-to-shoulder, were at least five women, picking at their tiny sandwiches and fruit kabobs while discussing their experiences with labor, day care waiting lists and the messes their toddlers make.
As the woman who threw the shower walked in the room, after running around for the last hour fussing over an obnoxiously large balloon arch and food trays, I asked her to come sit down and told her I admired her ability to stay on “go” mode.
Her response, as she passed us by for the Mommy Couch, was, “Wait until you become a mom. It’s second nature.”
An innocent comment that immediately felt like a punch in the gut.
Of course, the comment was harmless, and she certainly didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. But it did.
You see, there was no way this woman, whom I barely knew, could possibly know my struggles with trying to conceive.
I’m not going to detail my personal fertility journey. That’s not what this article is about. This article is about why it can be so hard to maintain certain friendships when you’re struggling with infertility.
It’s not that we aren’t happy for our pregnant friends. It’s not that we don’t love hearing about your children and all the incredible joys of being a mom. It’s not that we don’t want to know about how hard being a mom is. We don’t mean to roll our eyes over the oft-repeated phrase, “You’ll see when you become a mom.”
It’s that we desperately want to be moms... and it’s just not happening as easily as it seems to for everyone else.
We want to be the first person to write “Congrats!” under your pregnancy announcement and mean it. We want to be included when you and all our other mommy friends get together with the kids for playdates. We want to do all those things ― just without the feeling of being stabbed in the gut that usually comes along with it for those of us who are struggling.
In fact, sometimes these instances become our worst nightmare. Suddenly your BFF is pregnant and everything becomes about their checkups and maternity clothes. With each and every post on their pregnancy journey, their changing shape and their ultrasound photos comes a new reminder of the pain you want to forget.
When people you know “accidentally” get pregnant or conceive very quickly, it’s very easy to wonder what in the world is wrong with you when month after month you get a big, fat “negative” or “not pregnant” staring you in the face.
The truth is, it’s a heartbreaking journey for anyone who has been through it. It’s a journey that, frankly, a lot of people can’t relate to. It can damage friendships and cause distance with people you once felt close with.
Like when one of my pregnant friends asked me if I was jealous she was pregnant and I wasn’t. Don’t do that. Another time, several of my friends made plans, and I found out I wasn’t invited because they had their kids and they didn’t think I would want to come. Don’t do that, either.
There’s a fine line between not wanting to be bombarded by your friends’ good fortune and also not wanting to be left out of their life. We still want to be included.
We want to hear about your kids. We think your journey is wonderful. Just be mindful of our pain. If you are pregnant or have kids, and you have a friend struggling to conceive, be gentle with them.
Despite the fact that it seems like everyone else can sneeze and get pregnant, it’s actually a fairly common struggle many couples face. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 8 couples in the United States struggles with infertility. That’s about 6.7 million couples each year.
Back at the baby shower, my friend was opening her gifts for her soon-to-be new baby girl. I could see the happiness imploding from her. I thought about how I couldn’t wait for that feeling.
And that’s when I started to reflect on myself. I realized I had become super distant from someone I had once been extremely close to, and it wasn’t because I hadn’t been invited. She had been making efforts to include me when others hadn’t, and yet I wasn’t showing up for her. Her pregnancy was far along now, and I’d basically been M.I.A. through it all so far because of what I was going through emotionally. After some thought, I realized I was thankful to still be included in this major life event.
Maybe these women weren’t actually obnoxious. Maybe I was just being bitter.
I’ve done a lot of self-reflection since that day. I realized that when it’s finally my turn to be sitting in that chair, I want to make sure I’ve given my friends a reason to want to be there for me.
Those of us struggling to conceive should also make adjustments. It’s not reasonable to be bitter at our friends for sharing their joy. Pregnancy is an amazing life moment. They should be screaming from the rooftops, as we would be, too.
Don’t lose your friends because your chapters aren’t the same. Don’t let bitterness and pain destroy your closest relationships. If your friendships matter to you, the two of you will figure out how to maintain and strengthen them through your journeys.