Friday, January 15, 2010

A Lost Friendship

Many of my friendships have suffered as a result of my struggles with infertility. But, the state of one of my friendships is particularly troubling to me. I will refer to her as L.

I met L about 11 years ago when I was 24. She was 32 and married. We would go out with a group of girlfriends and have a grand old time. We would talk about our careers, men, sex, fashion, food and all sorts of things. At the time, I was in relationship, but marriage and especially kids were far, far from my consciousness.

As the years went by, the kid thing started to enter my radar screen. And, by the time I was 29, it kind of donned on me that L didn't have kids yet. And, I learned that she was having trouble getting pregnant. I didn't really do anything with this knowledge. Basically, I just never brought it up. Frankly, I was kind of scared of the topic. I'm not sure why, but talking about having kids was always a very private, difficult to talk about subject for me. And, for some reason, I always thought I might have hard time getting pregnant. I now regret not supporting her more during this time.

A few years later, I got hired at L's company. And, we starting working (and still do) in very close proximity, on an open trading floor. At this point, I was engaged and had started to think about having kids. And, L was still not pregnant. I continued to be fearful of raising the topic but a few times she mentioned she had been trying for many years and all I could offer was "I'm sorry". At another point she told me that she had been able to get pregnant but had had multiple miscarriages. Again, I had few words to offer. On top of this, her marriage was falling apart (this is something we did talk about at length), partly due to the infertility struggles. And, she ended up getting divorced at age 39. I can't imagine having dealing with infertility and a strained marriage (thank you DH!). She had been through so much.

The good news is, she soon met someone else and got pregnant (naturally) a few months into her 40s. By this time, I was a year or so into the "trying" phase. Even though it stung to see another friend pregnant, I felt so happy for her given her past. I shared this with her and confided in her about my struggles. She was understanding and said she was "there if I needed her". A few times over the next year or so, I shared things such as when I started an IVF cycle and the pain I felt after my first miscarriage. She had some nice and empathetic words for me. But, there was never any follow up. It's now a year and half later and she provides almost no support for me on the IF front. She never even asks if we're doing ok. We'll be in a private place and she'll ask me about some random work thing or whatever. I didn't tell her about my last miscarriage.

This hurts beyond belief. Some days, I am simmering with anger when I see her at work, thinking that she is really not a friend. I admit that when she was going through it all, I was far, far from the friend I should have been. But, I was ignorant. I don't understand how someone that has gone through it would not help another. IF has made me more compassionate and understanding of other going through IF or really any difficult life challenge (e.g. loss of a parent, difficult marriage, etc.). I've learned to be a better listener. I've learned not to shy away from difficult topics with friends as this is what most people do and it's really easy to feel alone. I feel that anyone who goes through multiple years of infertility and multiple miscarriage should have a special bond. But, L and I have only grown apart.

Infertility is a very private matter. And, I shouldn't judge others for how they deal with it. All of us are just trying to make the most of the crappy hand that we've been dealt. But, I still fixate on reasons why L behaves like this:

1. Maybe she was really hurt that I wasn't a better friend during her struggles (again, justified but it's different)
2. Maybe she really hated sharing and talking about her own issues and figures I want to be as private as possible. However, I've opened my heart to her a few times so I feel like she should know I need her.
3. Maybe it's too painful for her to revisit the subject. She needs to move onto her "new life".

Whatever the case, I feel like L is no longer a friend. And, I want to tell her that. But, because we work in the same room everyday, I don't think I can. I've thought about having a heart to heart with her or writing her a letter, but again, I am worried about the fallout and the work situation. So, I'm writing it here, hoping this will help get it off my chest a bit.


  1. I hate that IF takes its toll on all us on so many different levels. This is definitely one of them. I've had issues with "friends" as well.

    FWIW, and from what you said, I think it could easily be a combination of 1&2. She could really just think that it's a private subject. She could also be taking for granted that you "know" that she's there for you if you need her. However you are comfortable, I think that you should talk to her about it. Maybe just approach it this something that we could talk about? I really need you. See how receptive she is. If she talks at all, you could somehow mention that you weren't sure if this was an "off limits" topic, since she never brought it up.

    I wish you the best of luck. Please let us know what you decide.

  2. That is a tough one. As someone who struggled with it herself I would think she'd know the things you need to hear, even if you didn't say them to her. Especially if you opened up to her in the past. Your situation is hard though because you work together, so if you do say something and it doesn't go well you still have to see her on a regular basis.

    You may have read in my blog that I am struggling with this very same thing with my sister. She has never even acknowledged the fact that I had a miscarriage or anything DH and I have been struggling with. It's very awkward to talk to her because a) there is an elephant in the room that she is ignoring and b) because this has so changed who I am and she hasn't seemed to notice. The situation is starting to bother me more and more each day and I'm now to the point where I don't want to talk to her at all. I know that when we do speak next I'm going to have to tell her how I feel because I can't go on with things the way they are right now. So I'm dreading it.

    I've let so many people drift away from me in the last year or so because of this. I don't know how to change that though because this really is one of those situations where unless you've walked this path you just have no idea how difficult it is. That in itself is isolating.

    Best of luck with what you decide.

  3. Oh Alice, I'm sad to say I can identify with so much of what you've said here. I know several of my friendships will never be the same after dealing with all this. And I too feel that I will be a better friend to the people I care about next time they're in a tough place.

    You make very good points about the possible reasons that L may not have responded the way you'd hoped. But before you listed those possibilities, my first reaction was the same as yours... She's been there! She should know better! And you're right that when she was going through it, you didn't know better...

    Anyway, I guess the only solution would be to confront her about it. But in a gentle way, I'd suggest giving her a note at 5pm on a friday, or sending her an email over the weekend so that she's not in the position of a forced response during work hours. Hopefully she'll see that you're hurting and miss your friend, and do her best to repair your friendship.

    P.S If you ever need to talk you can find me at

  4. I can definitely identify with this post. It seems like IF creates a wall between us and everyone else. It isn't necessarily their fault or ours, it just happens and it's hard to control it. Like Kelly, I think it could easily be a combination of points 1 & 2 why your friend is avoiding the subject. But the only way to find out is to ask her. Do it in a letter if you feel like you are going to get emotional or if you can't quite find the words to say. I hope that she responds and tells you what's going on. Most importantly, I hope she makes a better effort to reach out to you. She should know from experience that the support you get during this time is invaluable.

    (((hugs))) Let us know how everything works out. I'll be thinking about you.

  5. It's so sad that IF strains relationships with those we love. It is, however, totally understandable. Keep us posted.

  6. I am so sorry that you are going through this with your friend. I also think it is a combination of 1 and 2 but at the end of the day she should know better.

    I had a similar situation a few months ago. My friend and I worked together, she came to my destination wedding and we both were dealing with IF. We started to grow apart as we both found new jobs but when I found out she was pregnant I emailed her, said congrats and asked how she was. She emailed me back telling me that the magic bullet to infertility is to find a new job and to relax(this is after 3 years of ttc). She asked me how I was doing and when I responded about our miscarriages and failed IVF attempts I never heard back from her. I guess people just move on from infertility in different ways.

  7. Infertility is indeed a very private thing and sadly, I have lost a good deal of friends because of it, mostly because after a miscarriage I didn't want to sit down and have lengthy conversations about it and they felt that I was not "trusting" them.

    I would suggest you pull her aside and ask her what is going on. You could be right that she feels you don't want to talk about it, but that wouldn't explain why she isn't talking to you in general. Either way, asking her will only give you clear answer (hopefully) and allow for you to either renew your friendship or know its officially over and move on.

    Happy ICLW.

  8. Infertility is very difficult and it has strained some of my relationships as well, especially my friendship with J, which I refer to in my blog. It sounds like it might be a combination of 1&2 with your friend. I would just talk to her about how you are feeling, she may not even be aware that you are feeling this way.

    Happy ICLW

  9. I don't have any advice except to urge you to ask yourself the following questions:

    What do I need from this friend?
    What do I hope to accomplish from this conversation?
    What's the best outcome?
    How can I say what I want to say in "I" statements?

    Accusing her of being a bad friend and telling her you don't want to be friends anymore will only make her defensive. Take a deep breath, remember all the hormones you are on, and trust in the love you have for this woman.

    Good luck!

  10. Its funny, I have heard a lot about the strain IF can put on your marriage but not so much with friends. I guess it needs to be said that IF can strain friendships, I never thought that to be the case but it is true.
    I am sorry you are experiencing strife with your friend. Unfortunately things to do not always unfold as we envision (is that the understatement of the year or what)?
    Keep your head up and seek comfort in the friends that can handle it & your DH. I have had to let go of a very close friendship because I feel totally unsupported by my friend. Its very sad but its ok.
    Life will go on.
    Best of luck.

  11. We can relate to this post somewhat. Friendships come in go through our lives, but add IF to the mix and people start dropping like flies for some reason. Maybe it is us becoming estranged from our family and friends because of the emotional processes OR maybe some people just don't know how to act or what to ask.

    We have written a few articles on this topic if you'd like to come read...we'd love to have you over on our blog. Happy, ICLW!

    With love, Infertility is the New Black