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Friendship issues over children and infertility - how can I try to keep it ok?

(104 Posts)
SallyStarbuck Fri 03-Jul-15 20:06:11

I'm just at a bit of a loss how to try and keep this friendship going, how to handle it on a day by day basis, and wondered if anyone had any good advice.

My oldest friend is sadly looking likely to not be able to have biological children. They are in the middle of several rounds of IVF. They are unsure if they want to foster or adopt.

I have one DC. We are aiming to try for another very soon, as there is already quite a large age gap and I'm in my mid-thirties.

This is already causing serious issues, which is no surprise at all. She has recently been hugely and bravely honest about how she feels, and how she feels around people with DC. I admire her immensely for sharing this with me, and I have told her that I wouldn't care if she didn't contact me for years because it was too hard - I'll still be her friend, and I'll still be here when she needs me.

It's been complicated by us both moving in recent years so we're a long way apart and can't see each other often at all. It's been six months now. Due to the my job, my DH's job and her job it's almost impossible to get everyone's diary agreeing so I have childcare and can go to hers (far enough away that one of us would need to stay overnight). She used to come and stay at mine, but that is understandably off the cards as my young DC is here and she finds the idea of that too difficult at the moment.

Our calls have dropped off, our texts and emails too. She has told me she feels too awkward - if I don't mention anything about DD she knows I am deliberately avoiding that topic, and that makes her feel terrible as if I am fudging and lying about my life, but equally she finds it too upsetting at the moment to hear about other people's children.

I want to support her, desperately, but I know simply by having a child and by fortunately not having had any fertility issues that there is little I can do. I try texting about random, normal things in life but then feel as though I am ignoring this enormous issue in her life and that must be hurtful - but then if I ask, I feel like I'm bringing it up all the time when she might want to forget it.

I know this sounds a bit "me, me, me" when this situation clearly is not, but I'm just at a loss how to carry on. Things are strained. She texted the other day with a very clear "tell me how things are with you, not with me" and so I did, and her reply was very short, so she is clearly uncomfortable.

My biggest fear is that our planned time TTC may very well coincide with her last round of IVF, and how can I tell her that I am expecting if I do fall pregnant?

I just wondered if anyone had any wise words? I want to be there for her and help her but I don't know what to do. I feel as though everything I do will be the wrong choice, as I know I can't even begin to understand how she is feeling and what she is going through.

Sorry this is rather waffly blush

Iggi999 Fri 03-Jul-15 20:13:56

Good grief you sound like a very thoughtful friend. I think you are doing all that can be done. Can you text about things you both like (books/clothes/food) that are not connected to your family situation? Remember she won't always feel exactly as she does now, and she will surely appreciate the gestures made to her by you (not all her friends will be half as sensitive to how she is feeling). Ultimately she may not be able to handle keeping in touch, at least you know that is nothing to do with you personally.

Cynara Fri 03-Jul-15 20:14:24

I'm afraid I don't have any advice, but I just wanted to to tell you that you sound like a lovely, kind friend. I know you don't want to hurt your friend but you can't take responsibility for her feelings. I think you're doing all you can, to be honest. You've kept in touch whilst telling her to give herself space if she needs it, and whatever happens it sounds like you've offered as much support as anyone can. I'm sure someone will be along in a minute with excellent advice, but I didn't want to leave you waiting.

Wisteria1979 Fri 03-Jul-15 20:16:41

I have three very close friends who for different reasons are unable to have children. Two of them have periodically needed time out from the rest of us with children as it's just been too hard. Ask her how she wants to be communicated with. One of my friends asked to have anything heads up by text. So that she could grieve for her self, then be happy for someone else. But had time to digest in private and compose herself. So that would be my tip. Don't hide anything but ask her how she wants to know should it happen. And be sensitive to her grief but sounds like you are that already, as well as a very lovely friend.

honeyroar Fri 03-Jul-15 20:20:14

You sound like a lovely friend, not a me me person.

As someone who wanted, but couldn't have, children I can see her side. I didn't go down the IVF route because I think it makes things worse in a way if it doesn't work. I can't lie, every time a friend has got pregnant a tiny bit of my heart has broken and I've had a little cry for myself, but I know it's something I've got to deal with and I'm still pleased for them.

I think your friend is (sadly) making things worse by only focusing on her IVF and 'failure' and refusing to visit you and your kids etc. much as I wanted my own kids I enjoyed my friends children and their happiness. it's one of the mIn reasons I didn't do IVF, i had a friend who was similar. Almost obsessed/depressed with it. I didn't want to become like that. I didn't want to make my friends feel bad because they had children and I couldn't. I tried to focus on what's good in my life.

Try and be upfront. Tell her quietly. Give her space but tell her you're there for her. Hopefully she will grieve and come round.

SallyStarbuck Fri 03-Jul-15 20:22:30

Thank you blush I thought I'd get flamed for being sad and worried and about this is affecting me blush

I will try to keep texting about normal things. I think she'd be more comfortable by text at the moment. I desperately want to see her and take her out and get her horrendously drunk like old times, but then I'm worried how, at the moment, that might work - can I just spend the whole night pretending that DD doesn't exist? Or what if I say the wrong thing?

Maybe if I just didn't mention it for the next month or so, texted about normal things, maybe even regardless of whether she replies or not? Would that be offensive, to send a text a week saying I'd seen a film she might like? Or do I take her silence to mean she wants me to go away? But then in a little while ask her how things are going?

Or maybe I'm just overthinking all this...

Viviennemary Fri 03-Jul-15 20:25:52

There's nothing more you can do. It must be heartbreaking for those who are desperate to have children to be around babies and pregnant women. Just keep being a friend.

SallyStarbuck Fri 03-Jul-15 20:26:37

Thank you for sharing, honey, I really appreciate it.

I do hope that if the IVF doesn't work she will gradaully come back into our life. She has nieces and nephews, she has my DD and any other DC we might have - I would love for her to be part of our family and to be the amazing cool Aunt if she wanted to be.

I don't know whether to tell her when we TTC. She will know, from conversations before this all happened, that we do ideally want more DC and were just leaving it longer for practical reasons. So realistically she already knows that it is on the cards. Wouldn't it be worse to tell her we're trying, tell her 3 months later I am pg?

honeyroar Fri 03-Jul-15 20:44:59

I wouldn't tell her until it happens.x

Edenrose206 Fri 03-Jul-15 21:26:41

Hi Sally, you sound like a lovely, caring friend!! As a woman with infertility issues (I have a rare genetic disorder) I just wanted to weigh in from "the other side," as it were... DH and I spent five years trying for a baby and went through four rounds of IVF... The last three rounds, though, we had to try with donor eggs because we'd discovered the cause of my MCs and had had genetic counselling. I'm sitting here typing in the dusk holding our gorgeous, healthy 10-month-old baby boy. smile He is a dream come true!! But I suffered for years... Be very gentle with your friend but please keep asking her how she is doing. My best friend came along on the IVF roller coaster with me (we even discussed whether she might donate eggs to us). IVF is SO tough mentally; it is incredibly wearing and it just gets harder with every round. Even though you can't know what it's like (I had to learn to give myself intramuscular shots in the bum!) your friend may need to tell you about the whopping bruises. The pain. The sheer scariness of hoping and praying so hard... Be her safety net. Ask open-ended questions. "How are you feeling today?" Know her dates: When does she start her next round of IVF? When is egg collection? Cheer her on! Every step counts. Nothing is simple in IVF. Learn some of the terminology; will she have a day-two transfer? Or go to blast? (Day five blastocysts.) I would actually risk telling her you may try for DC2 so that she can be forewarned. You are clearly an ACE friend... Hang in there! She needs you more than she may be able to admit (oh, but she can't drink right now; detoxing is really pretty important pre-IVF.) May you two become bump buddies!!! grin

IsItIorAreTheOthersCrazy Fri 03-Jul-15 22:15:10

OP I am in the midst of fertility treatment (not at IVF stage yet though) and I can't explain how heartbreakingly soul destroying it is to feel such a failure that your body can't do something as natural as make a baby. It is understandable that your friend is upset, BUT, you are a friend of hers and your feelings count too.
I personally prefer to know of other people's pregnancies by text, as pp suggested, as I get to let it sink in, feel upset then put a smile on my face.
I haven't told many people about ttc / treatment, but my best friend knows and got pregnant when I had been trying for almost a year and had just had a diagnosis of issues on my side. She was amazing, told me in person and showed that she was concerned about how it would effect me. As her pregnancy progressed, she didn't update me so I had a very honest conversation with her. I told her it was horrible knowing she was keeping in her excitement and not talking to me about this huge, life changing event that she was going through, and that even if it hurt, I still want to know. And that was it, she talked to me (by text) and it was lovely, although I was very envious. I think that's how your friend must feel, but how will you know what she needs without talking to her?

By the way, you sound like a lovely friend to me

Offred Fri 03-Jul-15 22:17:05

Why is it only you who has to try in this friendship? It doesn't seem very equal. Really sad things happen to most people at some stage in their lives, I don't think it is fair to expect everyone else to walk on eggshells and jump through hoops like this - unless it is just you overthinking things and worrying?

Hairylegs007 Fri 03-Jul-15 22:22:05

I think you could conduct the whole relationship on the phone in the evenings or meet half way for grown up women time together.

You are really being very nice. Just stay away from the awful 'just relax and it will happen' convo. Listen and keep listening.

MiddleAgedandConfused Fri 03-Jul-15 23:36:35

I have lost 2 friends due to similar problems. The first time was because I got pregnant when friend 1 was going through IVF, so I received a letter in the post saying she did not want to see me again. The second time I did everything I could to help, but the friendship became completely one sided. My MIL died after fighting cancer, but friend 2 just criticised me for not being there for her when I was actually sorting out a funeral and looking after a grieving DH and 2 DC.
So my view is that whatever you do, it probably won't be right or enough. On that basis, just make sure you do what you need to be able to look yourself in the mirror at night and know you've your best. And be ready to accept that the friendship may end anyway despite your best efforts.

AcrossthePond55 Fri 03-Jul-15 23:50:11

My dearest and best friend, who lived a distance from me, was told that she would never be able to carry a child to term the very same day I found out I was pregnant with my first. I had no idea and called her 'over the moon' and told her I was pregnant. There was dead silence. All she said was 'I can't talk to you about this right now' and she put down the phone. She called me the next day (this was before texts and emails) and told me what her doctor had told her. She said that that she just couldn't deal with my happiness right then, that she needed time. I respected her wishes, and I didn't hear from her for around three months. When she did call, she had dealt with her feelings and was ready to be happy for me. If her happiness was tinged with sadness, she never let it show.

You just have to do what you're going to do and let her feel the way she's going to feel. Be kind, and respect her feelings if she's unable to deal with you having another child.

BTW, the same friend had what five OB/Gyns called a 'miracle baby' 5 years later. She was on bedrest for 7 months, but she managed to hold on to that unborn child.

Fromparistoberlin73 Fri 03-Jul-15 23:53:09

you sound like a lovely friend, and it sounds like the issues are with her, not you.I don't think there is a huge amount you can do. It might be that her pain at being cxhildless might pass in time, she might adopt.

You sound llike a lovely friend too, but there is not much you can do

GiddyOnZackHunt Sat 04-Jul-15 00:00:56

I have/had a lovely friend who knew in her 20s that she could never have children and she had always wanted to be a mother. I went on to have dc but it wasn't an easy journey for me.
I haven't seen her in 4 years and I'm sad about that but I respect her need to drop off the radar. If she ever wants me I will be there but I can't push it. A chance has come up to pass that message on again so I will. But if it's 15 years time? I'll wait.
My advice therefore is to say you get there may be times when it's impossible for her but you love her and she can come and go without judgement.

worserevived Sat 04-Jul-15 07:37:18

There is nothing you can do, so just be a friend and if she cuts you out accept that it isn't personal.

My SIL had a very early mmc at 6 weeks when I was pregnant with dc1. That was 3 years ago and she hasn't spoken to me since. At FILs 70th birthday she sat at the same table with her head turned away from me. If the person sitting next to me spoke to her she replied with her back to them so as to avoid caching a glimpse of me. The only reason she was there in the first place was as I had originally planned not to go, but changed my mind without telling her. I'm telling this story to illustrate the point that previously rational people can become extremely strange where fertility issues are involved.

Some friendships do not last through life changes.

SallyStarbuck Sat 04-Jul-15 20:34:10

Thank you, especially those of you who have shared your story. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer.

As strange as it sounds, I feel better for people being kind and telling me that it is ok to be sad that this friendship is drifting. I felt it was awful to see sad about that, as clearly my friend is going through something unimaginable.

MiddleAged, thank you in particular for my view is that whatever you do, it probably won't be right or enough. I think I have been overthinking it and hoping that there was something I could do that was right and would make it all better. But of course there isn't, and I shouldn't be thinking like that.

Reading everyone's stories and advice, I was thinking that maybe I should write her a letter (especially as I know she likes getting post and nice cards) and both say that I will be here forever, even if she finds it too difficult to talk to me for a long time, but that it would be good to know what I can do to support her, whether she wants me to text, or to ask questions, or just to back off and not contact her until she contacts me?

Does that sound alright, or is that too much?

Congrats Eden x

Offred Sun 05-Jul-15 02:36:02

It depends what you want.

I'd be wary of becoming a doormat/martyr to her problems.

She has fertility problems and you have not I don't think she gets to treat you like crap because of those two different situations that neither of you can help. Friendship is meant to work both ways.

however Sun 05-Jul-15 03:25:51

I'm with you, Offred.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Sun 05-Jul-15 04:34:42

I also agree. Friendship works both ways. You share her loss and sadness but she should also share your happiness. How can it be possible to carry on in life if age distances herself from everyone who has children? And how can it be possible to be a 'best friend' to someone with whom you cannot talk about the important thing in your life and the most time consuming? Children become your world. You can't omit them from conversation at all times.

SallyStarbuck Sun 05-Jul-15 08:46:14

I agree its hard not to talk about DC. I understand why its hard for her, but it has been difficult trying not to mention anything for the past few months. Even and innocuous text like "what have you done this weekend?" becomes impossible to reply to because the only real answer involves doing things with the DC.

But this is surely such a terrible thing for her to be going through?

It's so hard. I just want to help but I don't want to lose my friend, which I can see happening.

Offred Sun 05-Jul-15 09:49:57

It isn't actually so bad that she has no option but to treat other people badly though is it?

I've often been targeted by people with fertility problems because I've got four children. My first two were conceived in a sexually abusive relationship. The second was from rape. My second two were twins in an emotionally abusive relationship. I don't think having fertility problems means it is ok to judge me as "lucky" just as it wouldn't be ok for me to say someone who is infertile is lucky because they will never have to deal with bringing up a baby conceived from rape. It's deplorable either way you look at it.

Yes, it's sad for her and yes things are very difficult but she is not the only person in the world and she needs to remember that IMO.

SuckMySquallop Sun 05-Jul-15 09:56:59

So you're kind/considerate to her, yet your friend treats you like dirt, doesnt want to know about your kids and you want to maintain this pseudo-friendship?

What on Earth for?

Her infertility is NOT your problem and you didnt cause it. If she cant be a friend to you without you worrying that you'll say something she finds offensive, then I'm sorry, she really isnt a friend at all.

She's a self centred wannabe martyr. Plenty of other infertile people out there, men and women, that do not behave like her. I still havent seen anything that the OP has wrote that makes good light of her friend for her - you're over invested in looking out for her feelings when she doesnt give a rats ass about yours.

Again, you are NOT the cause of her infertility - if she has a problem with your life centering around your DCs, then you'd be better off without such a self righteous bitch. Because thats exactly what she fucking is.

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