This morning I got an email from an old friend. It was a sweet email that began by admitting she didn't know how to begin. It was from someone I was best friends with in high school and slowly grew apart from. We went to each others weddings and kind of kept tabs on each other, I believe she knows a little about what's been going on for me, but for the most part our relationship drifted. When I read her words--sending me love and hoping I get what I've been dreaming of, I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness. It was a very nice email, but it made me realize all the relationships that I've lost or that have been strained by infertility. It made me have to acknowledge that as much as I don't want to be defined by infertility, a part of me very much is. My life is kind of divided into pre-IF and... IF. Eventually I will be able to add post-IF, perhaps, and I'll have a different perspective.
I hardly remember myself before the storm hit. Sometimes we have experiences in our lives that are so powerful, so painful, that we can't help but be changed. I can honestly say that infertility has had some pretty crappy consequences in terms of some relationships, but I have also gained a lot. I have gained a lot of friends and a new community and deeper understanding of what it means to pursue parenthood with all your heart and soul. There have been some positive unintended consequences and many ways in which my experiences on the Island have made me a better person.
But I have lost some things, some people, some ability to relate and connect. I started thinking about maybe trying to get together with this old friend of mine. Meet for tea after years of minimal contact. How do I catch someone up on the last four years of my life without having to go through a time-line of disappointment? Without having to explain what a follicle is and how IVF actually works--or doesn't work. I don't speak the same language as many people in the fertile world, and while I know there are many other things to talk about--infertility is such an integral part of my life and who I am, it doesn't feel right not to talk about it. In some ways, surviving this insanity is also something I'm proud of.
Sometimes, maybe, I feel afraid that I will be misunderstood. Sometimes I don't really want to re-live all of it. Sometimes I feel like those friends who jumped shipped don't deserve the Cliffs Notes version. I don't need people telling me how strong I am or how grateful I help them feel about their lack of fertility struggles. Sometimes I feel it's my duty to educate people on the IF struggle so they can be more sensitive to others. I guess it kind of depends on the day. I imagine this dilemma is exponentially harder for those who aren't public about their IF struggle. For people who hold this as a secret, it must be really hard to meet up with an old friend or see family you haven't seen in a while and find a reasonable answer to the question, "How have you been?" Sometimes you just want to scream, "You have NO idea!" but instead you nod and smile and say, "Good. You know, hanging in there."
How we all share our story is a very personal choice. So is who we share with. I have to constantly remind myself that people do care about me, they often just don't know how. Fertile friends might feel guilt or they might feel like this IF roller coaster is just too much for them to handle. They are celebrating their own babies birthdays and stressing about zoo themed party favors while many Islanders are trying to figure out a way to regroup. It's hard when so many friends will hit this milestone of parenthood with ease and grace while others clunk along, scrambling to find all the parts to create a family.
But that's just how it is. I know my truth. I know my strength. I know my dedication to my family-to- be and I know the level of my resilience. I know I have overcome things not everyone out there can. So is it possible to simply catch up with an old friend? Sure, why not. I can be honest and genuine and I can honor how I feel that given day. If I want to share, I will, if I don't, I'll talk about the work and reminisce about high school and discuss how funny life is.
Wishing everyone a beautiful long holiday weekend (if you're on this side of the world ;).