Your friendships are important to you. Maybe you have been friends since birth. Or perhaps you met in college and have been inseparable ever since. Whatever the history of your friendship, you have always been there for one another. You have navigated the ups and downs of young adulthood, college, careers, break-ups, engagements, and marriages. There hasn’t been anything you couldn’t figure out together.
You have been struggling with infertility and as much as you know your friends love and support you, you can’t help but notice that something just feels “off” in your friendships. Maybe you are surrounded by friends who got pregnant quicker than a member of the Duggar family. Or perhaps some of your friends have gone a little overboard with well meaning advice about your fertility (“Did you try doing it with your legs up in the air?”). You may even have a friend who avoids talking to you about anything baby or pregnancy related and now your time together just feels so awkward. However infertility is impacting your friendships, you can survive it.
Here are some steps you can take that will help you navigate your friendships and survive infertility together:
Decide what you need.
When you are going through the struggle of infertility, it is vital to give yourself whatever you need to get through it. Take some time to think about what you need right now. Make yourself a list. Do you need some time alone to deal with your feelings or are you craving the company and distractions of others? Perhaps you want your friend to check in with you on a regular basis and ask you anything and everything about your baby making journey. Or maybe you don’t want her bringing up the subject of infertility at all. This is also an excellent time to decide who it is that you want to be supporting you right now. Who are the people that make friendship easy? Who are the people that make friendship more stressful than it is helpful? It is okay to decide to take a break from those higher maintenance friends… just for now. Allow yourself to understand and prioritize your needs. Know that these needs may changes by the day (or even by the hour). Be gentle with yourself, everything you need is important and valid.
Communicate your needs.
Okay, so you have figured out that what you really need and who you need (and don’t need) it from. Now it is time to tell them. Let your friends know what you need from them. Be specific. If you would rather be waterboarded than go to a baby shower right now that is okay. Invite the mama -to-be out for a nice one on one lunch instead. Do you need a weekly phone check in from your bestie where she allows you to be in an IVF induced hormonal rage without judgement? Tell her. Be clear with your friends about what you need from them. Chances are, your friends are trying desperately to know how best to support you and will be grateful if you let them know exactly what they can do.
You love your best friend and love that she is a mom. But her incessant chatter about breast feeding and sleep deprivation is too much for you right now. And your work wife, she is completely obsessed with talking about where you are in your IVF cycle. It is okay to set some boundaries around these conversations. Setting boundaries with those we love is hard, but when it is done with love and respect it helps us take care of ourselves, which is your number one priority right now. Be honest with your friends about what your boundaries are and explain to them how having them are helping you stay sane through the insanity that is infertility.
Let go of the worry.
Infertility has brought enough worry into your daily living. Therefore, you have complete permission to release the burden of worrying about everyone else. You were a good friend before infertility and you will be a good friend after infertility. Right now you have permission to be focused on you, without apology. So if you need to pass on that baby shower or that dinner out with friends, do it. Your friends will miss you being there, but they will survive and so will your friendships, I promise.