When you’re in your 30’s, it’s a baby-filled world. My newsfeed is chock full of toothy grins and growing families. I am no exception—I gladly share photos of my devilishly handsome boys (biased much?) as I scroll through sonograms, birthday pictures, and family photoshoots. I survey my chaos, safe in the knowledge that I’m comparing my reality to their highlight reel. I’m sure there are half-eaten animal crackers under their feet right now. That’s the magic of kids, right? Tiny, amazing, messy, crazy, cute, best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me-but-please-stop-screaming little loves. And everyone is living it, right?
I might be no exception in the Facebook world, but I AM an exception in the pregnancy and fertility world. Let me explain. Through some miracle, I have had zero issues (thus far) in conception, carrying a pregnancy, birthing a baby, or breastfeeding either of my sons. I got pregnant right away, carried both boys to term, had uncomplicated c-sections (huge babies), after which I recovered very quickly and produced enough milk to be a 17th-century wet nurse. I have never had a miscarriage. It never hurt to breastfeed my kids. I had no complications after delivery. I am an oddity. I am not sharing this to brag—I’m sharing it because it’s NOT the norm, and I’m fully aware of that.
The luck, blessing, and injustice of my experience is not lost on me.
Briefly recounting the last ten years, I’ve known eight friends who’ve had miscarriages (that they told me about.) I’ve had at least ten friends take longer than six months to conceive—many going to the process of fertility treatments and sometimes IVF. I’ve watched friends struggle to breastfeed—enduring issues with pain, latch, or reduced milk production. I’ve watched friends endure postnatal complications from bleeding to tears to repeated D&Cs. And not once has it been me. We all have our challenges, and this hasn’t been one of mine. At least not yet.
I want to support my friends, make them feel my love and complete support. But I can’t help this feeling that they know that I don’t REALLY get it. I’m a sensitive and comforting person—someone I’d hope any one of my friends could come to—but I can’t say “I understand” when they confide in me.
Because I DON’T. I don’t know that pain. I imagine it’s searing, anxiety-provoking, stressful, demoralizing, scary, and sad. When I say, “I don’t understand what this is like, but I’d imagine it must be really hard. I’m sorry you’re going through this—I’m here for you,” it doesn’t feel like enough.
I’ve spoken to some friends, asking them to be honest about whether talking to me about it makes it worse—I want to help however I can, even if that means giving someone space. Most friends I’ve approached have shared that they didn’t want people to “walk on eggshells” around them, or to keep good news secret just because of their struggles. I still want to be considerate and thoughtful and would hate it if my presence was painful or upsetting to them. I don’t feel like I have to apologize for my fertility, for being a fertile myrtle—but I feel so badly when something that has come so easily to me is SO difficult and consuming and heartbreaking for others — particularly people I love.
Tomorrow, it could be me. And I can’t truly “get” it unless I live it. Still, I’m committed to being an ally and a friend to the women in my life who are experiencing pregnancy and postnatal difficulties, difficulties conceiving, or loss of a child. I know how lucky I am.
Mamas who have lived either side of this coin—what are things that have or haven’t been helpful when talking openly with people in your life?
All of our fertility journeys are different—I want to hear about yours.