Let me share an hard-earned lesson I had learned.
I noticed that some people cut back on talking with me, or worse, stopped talking since I became open about my infertility, childlessness, your pick. You know, last time I checked, infertility ain't contagious.
"Why would they stop talking to you?" To be honest, there could be good reasons, silly or even bad reasons. I noticed from certain infertility blogs, authors observe that many of their friends who have either children and/or babies, or are going through pregnancy are just not there anymore- or the author herself had started walking away from those friends for her own sake, to reduce the hurt in her heart, the bleeding pain as she looks upon the faces of her friends' babies. It also depends on how severe the infertility is, as well. I had noticed with women struggling with infertility while having medical interventions are responding differently, compared to women who have become infertile completely without choice, , and it also depends on timing (either as a sudden emergency surgery while bleeding after childbirth, uterus removal after finding out two months before, or of starting to accept childlessness after years of trying to get pregnancy.) So basically, we all respond differently, and that also influences how people responds to us.
With the uterus removed two months ago, after finding out I can't have children only a month before that, I personally have found that out the hard way of how I respond to triggers of babies and pregnancy. I collapsed in tears seeing a newborn for the first time since the surgery. I found out how heartbreaking it is, with tears running down my cheeks as I pushed a cart at Target, going by the baby department. I found out how tempting it was to hiss at a new mother with her baby, in which I responded in guilt at my own reaction. Even now, I find that even after two months, my heart pounds so hard as if I just finished a marathon, seeing a cute baby quilt, that a friend shared on her Facebook page.
There are friends who are pregnant. There are relative who are pregnant. There is no way to avoid them.
You smile and go "ahh" "and "ohh" over the friend's sonogram, while your heart is breaking into pieces. A woman going through infertility struggles recently said, "A dear friend is pregnant now; I could confide in her but now, not anymore. Our talks are almost 100% centered on her pregnancy. I don't have her support anymore." Another commented, "I actually do love my best friend very much and have gone through so much with her, it's just that I'm mad with jealousy. I felt like we could share EVERYTHING but this we cannot. It's killing me." You try to stay strong and positive for your sister who just got pregnant with her third child, wondering "Why me, God?" Sounds familiar? You're not alone.
Through the struggle, I realized I could not be available for certain people who are pregnant. I struggled through the process. I tried to explain my emotional responses, and the reason why I need boundaries now, to protect myself while going through this grief brought on by the uterus removal. Fortunately, many people accepted the point, I need time to grieve, to re-discover myself and adjust to the new reality, even if they did not understand why. Unfortunately, other people did not. Even when I wrote a heartfelt letter, pouring myself out in words, I get the message back, even when it's not straightforward, "But I need you to be there during my pregnancy! You should be there for me."
Perhaps, I should be. But I can't.
I was ridden with guilt. I developed an ulcer from the anxiety, "I don't want to cause her stress- what if she loses the baby just because she is mad at me?" In bed, I curled in the feral position, thinking, "I'm selfish. I should forget about this. Even when I know I'd cry when she'd show me anything about the baby." I was very much distracted from my own needs, both physical and emotional, beating myself up. I sent a package, feeling bad that I couldn't finish the craft; I had doubts in myself on whether I was worthy of the friendship. I even started making a baby blanket even when everything in my mind said, "Red Alert, Red Alert! BAD IDEA!!!"
I had started seeing a psychologist, then a psychotherapist. That was the best decision I had ever made in starting taking care of myself in relation to infertility and grief/loss. She said, "This is the worst simultaneity one could ever think of, of your loss and her pregnancy at the same time. Keep in mind, this couldn't be predicted. How can it be your fault, then?" With that statement, I realized "How can I be there for anyone else if I couldn't be there for myself?" Reluctantly, I started to accept that this happened, like it or not. That I needed to give up on trying making amends, when I'm not capable of making amends for something out of my control. I forgot Jules and that's someone I can't neglect, so I got to take care of Jules, me, and myself, for a time. How long? To be honest, I don't know. Yes, it's stinking that there are friends and relatives who'd love to have me there with them during their pregnancies. I'd love to be there for them. However, I need to focus on myself. I did not even start grieving until last week, when I realized I was distracted by guilt for almost two months. Also, it drew up on me that I had apologized to people in my heart, "I'm sorry that my grief is in your way. I'm sorry that my childlessness is interfering in your life. I'm sorry that you are angry and I should get over all this already" for weeks. Well, I do not have to apologize for what I had lost, my ability to bear children. It is a part of me. I'm not going to say "I'm sorry" anymore.
I am sad about the infertility. And also, I am sad about the loss of that close friendship and friends I have known for months, if not years.
I’m still sad. I’m sad for what could have been but wasn’t. I’m sad for who certain friends could have been but weren’t. I’m sad for what we could have had but can’t. I’m sad for all the walking on eggshells, all the tense moments, all the pain, the guilt. I’m sad because I want to keep my friendship with her that I can’t have. I’m sad that I haven’t talked with her about anything. I’m sad that I had to view my every interaction with my friend as treading through ground littered with mines. I’m sad because I wish it wasn’t like this, but it is.
I’m sad because I love my friend and have so many happy and sad memories with her, so much history, and yet there will always be this wall between us, and things can never again be like they once were. All I can do is deal with what I have, now.
"Growth is the only evidence of life" John Henry Newman said, and I agree with him... life changes help us grow, love or pain it be.
So, stop thinking about what people think of you. Stop beating yourself. Don't think yourself selfish for needing to take care of yourself during the stressful time.
Now it is the time to focus on myself and my grief. So do you.