Friday, September 15, 2017

Making friends with fertiles

One of the best perks Grey and I lucked into with our new home is the mini-community of families that exist across the street. Dubbed "Backyard United Nations," this group is made up of a handful of families from all over the world that have unfenced backyards that connect to one another. Within days of moving in, the Beats grabbed Grey's hand and insisted on going over to this community in order to check out all their toys introduce themselves and make new friends. And this group welcomed all of us immediately, adding me to an ongoing text chain so we be included in gatherings, impromptu play dates and to offer support.

Yesterday, despite a desperate need to get dinner prepared (and despite protesting howls from Jaxson and Daisy about needing dinner 30 mins ago), the Beats and I went over to the Backyard to check in with this group. As they raced off to play on the trampoline, I wandered up to one of the dads who has a confused/resigned look on his face while looking at his phone.

"How are you?" I asked.
"I don't know." He responded.

Looking up, he proceeded to tell me and two other women who joined us that his daughter was married today. Immediately we all turned to look at his 4 year old daughter who was happily climbing a tree.

"Really?" said one of the mothers.
"Were you invited?" I asked
"No," he responded. "In fact, I just found out about the wedding due to a video one of the teachers sent me."

Cue snickers from the group.

"Course, I should have known this was coming," he said. "I mean, she's had 2 separate boyfriends since the time she was 3 months old. And you know they're firmly committed to one another if they insist on using the bathroom together." 

Snickers turn to laughter.

"Wait?" I ask, "you said there were 2 boyfriends? Who did she marry?"
"That's the thing," he says while scratching his head. "She married the one that she didn't seem as interested in." 

Cue confused looks from the adults

"What was the deciding factor?" one of the other women asks.
"Apparently she married who could got to the church first."

One of the biggest downsides to being an introvert is establishing social connections. I flat out suck at making small talk and introducing myself in new situations. Infertility added a new level of social isolation given the pain that would come from questions like "do you have any kids?" to overhearing discussions about pregnancy and parenting.

But one of the things that comes with resolving is finding a way to integrate yourself back into society. It literally feels like coming out of a coma and all the sudden dealing with a world that has changed while you've been absent from it. Hence the coming up to speed with all things that I couldn't begin to focus on while in the trenches, but also integrating myself back into social settings that I actively avoided.

Initially in this process, I avoided anyone who was fertile. During my pregnancy this was extremely easy to do as it didn't take much for me to scare the crap out of most anyone around me simply by sharing my history. But then the Beats arrived and started daycare. And suddenly the friends they were making and the families we were bonding with came from all walks of life, including people who became easily pregnant (one family accidentally conceived their son the night before my transfer).

I'll be honest, it's been a weird struggle. On the one hand, there's this ginormous, life-altering trauma that Grey and I lived through that so many cannot begin to fully grasp (and my story had what is considered a happy-ending). I find myself editing how much a share at a time as there's been so many failed connections due to them being scared off. 

But on the other hand, there's a lot I do share with these families. From cultural interests to political views to values to insights about family. The friendships have formed and expanded due to elements of the core that are there. And often that can be enough to begin opening the door to those less than pleasant discussions and shared stories. 

About 3 weeks ago, my parents came to visit. My mom has really been trying, respecting boundaries and space better than Grey and I expected and we've been trying to reward that interaction. Still there are moments that are hard (I've come to expect that), usually leaving me in a reflective space that Grey and I have to talk through.

There were a couple of moments during this visit. The first was my mom sharing that my sister had suffered a miscarriage at 12 weeks during her third pregnancy. My mom has never experienced miscarriage and found my sister in a state as my sister had already been happily sharing the news she was pregnant and assumed everything would go well. Facing the reality of loss had hit both of them hard. It was during that story she asked me about my losses. When had they happened? How had I been effected? As I answered her questions, she was quick to remind me that because my losses were so early, they couldn't possibly have impacted me to the same level as my sister (um, no), but then also confessed that she had never experienced miscarriage so her only perspective was as an outsider (bingo).

The other moment was when she told me she had been sharing my infertility journey with others. That with infertility becoming more of an acceptable topic, she was finding so many of her friends had gone through similar experiences and pain and it shocked her how common infertility was. What got me was both this knowledge I was now one of those stories people used to cheer people on when they were in the trenches (I literally felt sick from that one) but also how flippantly my story was being shared. 

Explaining this to another mother who is also an infertility survivor lead to an interesting discussion. The shared knowledge of how difficult it is to share this part of our lives that had altered the way we both view the world with those that struggle to even begin to relate. But then she pointed out something I hadn't really considered.

"It sucks, because there's this comfort that comes with finding people who truly know this aspect and can easily relate to all that's happened. But the thing is, if we limit ourselves only to those people, aren't we doing everyone a disservice as we're not growing beyond? We're not given ourselves a chance to grow, our families a chance to move beyond, but also not giving others permission to fuck it up so that they can learn and grow too. If nothing else, I think it's worth putting myself out there and to have those discussions where we all come away feeling less than comfortable because learning happens in that discomfort. My scars have made me tough enough to do that."

So that's where I'm at. Reaching back as I promised long ago to everyone in the trenches as well as everyone who's on their path of resolution. But also finding I'm starting to reach forward. Allowed myself to be hurt a little bit as I form connections with those I use to shun in order to protect myself. Because even though it's scary, there's a lot of potential good that is there.


  1. Your friend is wise. There is such power in stories, especially in stories of lives and situations we are unfamiliar with.

    I'm so glad you and the Beats live in such a warm and welcoming neighborhood.

  2. Agreed....the friend is wise in so many ways. I have always shared. I have always been open. Partly because it's healing for me to talk about it. Making infertility and IVF in particular part of every day conversation helps those who don't get it, learn. And accepting my challenges and others whoops pregnancies has helped both sides. I wish I could find group like sounds like my brother's neighborhood. Hugs's scary out there.

  3. I'm glad to hear you have been reconnecting with your family, and connecting with your new neighbours. It's not always easy, but there's good to be had there too. :)

  4. Your neighbors sound wonderful. And this is inspiring me to put myself out there more. I feel most comfortable talking to others who've experienced infertility. It's hard to put myself out there with other fertiles and try to relate to them.

  5. Damn, Cristy, this is such a good post! There's a lot to think about. You might have inspired me to write ...


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