What My Infertility and Her Pregnancy Did to Our Friendship
Managing infertility and the pregnancy of a friend can be tricky, but friendship is possible with mutual boundaries and a whole lot of compassion.
My husband and I have been trying to conceive for five long years with a diagnosis of male factor infertility in the form of mild Cystic Fibrosis (Further reading: Our Experience with Cystic Fibrosis & Male Infertility.) We had been through two cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF), both of which failed, and were waiting to start our third when my best friend told me she was pregnant. I didn't expect it. We knew immediately that my infertility and her pregnancy were not going to be compatible. Because of this, we haven’t seen each other in a while and I am awaiting news of the birth. This has been something that I have been dreading and looking forward to in equal measures. Dreading because I’m worried about how it will make me feel and looking forward to it so that I can see my best friend again. We didn't want to damage our friendship and so made some decisions to help make this possible. This is how we prioritized my feelings to protect our friendship.
My Fertility Counselor's Concerns
Months ago when I told my fertility counselor that my best friend was pregnant she was immediately sad for me. She told me that most friendships do not survive this scenario and it’s just too hard for someone going through fertility treatment to cope with a pregnant best friend.
I came out of that session hoping she was wrong – I didn’t want to lose my best friend, not now, not after everything.
But She’s Been my Best Friend for More Than 35 Years
I have known Sally since I was 3 and we have pretty much been best friends ever since. I don’t think there’s a human emotion we haven’t been through together. We are incredibly close and we talk every day; she’s like the sister I never had.
When my brother was killed she came to see me every day for two months solid. It didn’t matter where I was, she would find me. She could have worked all day long and would still find me at 9:30 at night, just to see me for five minutes. We walked and talked about life and death, or we sat in silence while she held my hand.
When everyone else had stopped visiting and assumed we were ‘getting over it’ she knew better and still came. I knew she was there for me, no matter what and I can never repay her that kindness. I know how lucky I am to have a friendship like this in my life and there was no way I was going to let such a thing come between us.
How we Managed Infertility and Pregnancy Together
The first thing I did was tell Sally what my counselor had said. We agreed that no matter what we would make this work. No matter how hard it got we would keep talking and keep being mindful of each other’s feelings. And that is exactly what we’ve done. We talk about everything, including the hard stuff and we don’t get cross or annoyed if one says something that the other one found upsetting. We let it go and recognize the tricky path we are trying to walk together. There are obviously huge emotions involved because she has something that I have been fighting for five years. But for her, she is also going through a huge life-changing event that is both amazing and also painful knowing that her best friend is struggling with it and hurting.
Not Seeing the Bump
It was actually Sally who first suggested that once she started showing we would not physically see each other anymore. This was a tough decision. It has been six months since I laid eyes on her and while we still text every day, this has been the hardest part.
We still believe it was the right thing to do; seeing women with baby bumps is just so difficult when you’re on your own infertility journey and can create envy. Neither of us wanted that and so we stuck to this decision, no matter how challenging.
What I Missed out on (For All the Right Reasons)
It has been hard missing out on the pregnancy-side of her life. If I wasn’t dealing with infertility, we would have shopped for clothes and toys and things together, we would have laughed about baby names over decaffeinated coffees.
But this is not something I could do; it was just too hard. It caused me too much pain and she refused to be the source of that pain for me. We have managed to stay close, circumnavigating the pregnancy as much as we could.
Of course, if there was something she felt I needed to know, she would tell me gently and sensitively. I am sad that there are things I have missed out on over the past nine months, but this has been the right decision and was essential to the survival of our friendship.
How I Plan to Meet the Baby
I’m hoping to see her and the baby sometime soon and while I absolutely can’t wait – I already know it will be very emotional. It will be hard seeing such a tiny little baby while being desperate for one of my own, but I read articles and blogs about this that all suggest seeing the baby as soon as possible.
This way the baby becomes a person with its own identity and character rather than ‘the thing’ you want most. I’m really proud of how we have handled this situation and of how aware we both are of each other’s feelings, but it has not been easy.
We are a testament to the fact that despite what most people say, you can maintain a friendship through pregnancy and infertility if you are prepared to work at it and be mindful. This situation could have easily destroyed our friendship. We could have let each other drift away and in some ways that might have been easier in the short-term. But that would have meant I would have lost my best friend and that was not an option for me. So we fought for each other. We worked hard to keep each other close and to be sensitive - and we’ll keep doing all we can to stay best friends.