How to help your friendships survive fertility problems
By Kate Brian, journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility
One of the most difficult moments when you’re having difficulty conceiving is a close friend announcing her pregnancy. You want to be delighted at her good news, but at the same time you may be overwhelmed with sadness, and often jealousy too, as you wonder whether it will ever be your turn. Although 15% of couples will have difficulty trying to start a family, it can be an isolating experience and people often feel as if their group of child-free friends is rapidly diminishing when one pregnancy announcement follows another.
It’s not always easy to talk about fertility problems, but if you don’t tell your friends they are likely to start asking when you are going to have a baby. On the other hand, if you do tell them you may find that they don’t really seem to understand. Perhaps it’s inevitable that your relationships with close friends can sometimes feel strained. It can seem as if they have moved into a different world where all they talk about is pregnancy or babies, and you may feel excluded.
If you’re finding friendships difficult, there are some ways to smooth the path ahead.
• You may find that some friends are able to offer constructive help and empathy, and choosing to spend more time with the friends who get it right for you will be beneficial.
• If certain friendships are causing you problems, don’t be afraid to park them for a while. You may find that a close friend you’d hoped would be understanding says things that you find hurtful, but try not to let this sour a long-lasting friendship. Seeing less of one another for a while won’t signal the end of a real friendship.
• Accept that pregnancy and babies can be hard for you, and that it is fine to avoid social situations which you think may upset you whether it’s christenings or children’s parties. If you are able to explain to close friends why it is difficult for you to attend certain events, or to be with them when they are heavily pregnant, they may be surprisingly understanding. If you don’t feel able to be open, making excuses is perfectly acceptable.
• Remember that sometimes friends who have babies find it refreshing that they don’t have talk about their families when they are with you. They may relish the opportunity to talk about something else and this can give your friendship a boost.
• Counselling can help you to sort out how you feel when friendships are becoming difficult. Talking to someone who is not involved in your life and who listens with empathy can help you to deal with tricky friendship problems.
• Remember, your friends are often finding the situation hard to deal with too. They may worry what they should say or do, so try not to be too sensitive and remember that they are not setting out to upset you even if their remarks can seem thoughtless or insensitive.
Although it may not feel that way, being stuck in the fertility maze is not a permanent state and at some point there will be a solution to your situation. Once you are no longer feeling raw about your fertility problems, you will be able to re-build your friendships if they were based on solid foundations.
Some friendships may be lost by the wayside, but this happens as we go through life anyway. You may find that infertility can leave you with stronger friendships in the long run – and perhaps some new ones too…
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.