Infertility taught me that I already had many of the best friends on the planet. They were supportive as we pursued IUI, still supportive when we changed course and pursued NaProTechnology. Then came pregnancy! They could not have been any happier for us! There were the usual conversations about how I was feeling.
When would we announce to the general public?
What would we want to name the baby?
When would we have the ultrasound to hear the heartbeat?
Then; came miscarriage.
Most of our friends were stunned. Those who had experienced similar situations were supportive and shared their stories. I never knew that I was surrounded by women who had experienced such losses. They became a supportive sisterhood who gave me their strength when I had none of my own left. Whether we were best friends, or acquaintances before; they treated me as their sister in loss and gave their support without question.
Other friends who had not experienced a loss like this didn’t know what to say. Some were courageous and even said things like, “I wish I knew what to say to make this better, but I just don’t know.” I truly appreciated their honesty and my response was always, “I don’t need you to do the right thing, or say the right thing. I don’t even know what the right thing is. I just need you to be my friend.” They patiently listened, gave shoulders to cry on, and made every effort to keep things as normal as possible. They didn’t treat me any differently. Most did their best to let me cry when I needed to and take my mind off of it when I could.
The distractions and support of friendship were truly a Godsend during the first few weeks after our loss. When I was by myself, I bled and cried, cried and bled, and prayed that it would end as quickly as possible. I was thankful for every single phone call and visit that came my way. I would not have made it through our loss without the support of so many.
I was walking around as close to a zombie as a person can get. The support of true friends and family members made me feel human for a few brief moments here and there. Then, there were those statements that just hit me like a knife to the heart. Although they were only words, the unkindness of some people scarred me as though they were a fiery iron rod pressed into flesh.
I remember being on the phone with someone whom I once considered a friend. After I told her our baby had passed away, her response left me speechless. “I’m sorry I had to hear that,” she said. “You just have to stay positive.” I could not respond to her. How could she ask me to stay positive? Did she not understand that my child, the very same child whom my husband and I had tried to conceive for almost three years, had died?
Of all the people to respond this way, I never would have guessed she’d be the one. She had experienced infertility herself and after rounds of IUI had conceived her children. Although she had never experienced a loss like ours, she had experienced loss, grief, and she understood what it was to mourn.
And yet, she dismissed my loss casually. It hurt me so much to hear her say those words. It was as though I had told her I had lost something trivial like an e-bay auction item, and she was assuring me that another one would emerge soon. There is nothing positive which a grieving mother can find in her child’s death.
I didn’t know what to say, and got off the phone with her as quickly as possible. In the months that followed, there were other insensitive moments; too many to count in fact. I found it beyond hurtful that friends who always counted on me to be their cheerleader during difficult times and witness to their successes, could not hold my hand, send a card, or allow me to cry on their shoulder.
For whatever reason, they couldn’t handle the situation I was in. You know what they say, if someone can’t handle sharing in your sorrows, they don’t deserve to share in your joy. And so, I have fewer friends now.
Some left of their own accord, others tried to connect months later only to wonder why I was not as eager to spend time with them as I once was. They didn’t seem to understand what was wrong. I didn’t want to be confrontational, but I did want to give them a chance to apologize if they truly valued our friendship.
I drove to visit one of these friends the same week that I was bleeding like crazy. It was April, and my body had gone from what looked like end of menstrual brown bleeding to gushes of blood every 6-12 hours for days. Still I drove to visit one of these former friends, desperately hoping that there would be an apology or some reconciliation.
During the course of our conversation, I told her that I had not attended her recent gathering because I did not feel comfortable attending. She had shared the news of our pregnancy and loss with her family without my permission; so I was not up for a parade of sympathies from her family when I did not want them to know in the first place. There was no apology, there was no acknowledgement of what I had said at all. Instead she offered me a glass of water. We finished our conversation; I left, went home and bled some more.
A month later she contacted me. I should not have replied at all, but I did. I told her I had been busy bleeding and recovering from surgery. She reacted as though I had not told her about all the bleeding the day we got together. It was so hurtful to think that she wouldn’t even remember that.
I’ve never had to end a friendship before, I don’t know if there’s a right way to do it. Maybe there is a more courageous way to do it than I did. I just know that it hurt so much to have people whom I had helped so much, and shared so much with decide that our friendship’s only function was to serve their needs. And so I have not responded to any other contacts from that person. My trust has been damaged in such a way that I have no interest in ever repairing these friendships because I don’t believe they were true friendships in the first place.