Talking to Friends About Trouble Conceiving
Just as I sit down to write this article, the doorbell rings.
It’s a Jehovah’s Witness, calling to let me know I will always be welcome in God’s Community. She’s with her lovely daughter, who looks about ten years old. I let them know that the baby is sleeping, and so I’ll be brief and quiet at the door. They nod in understanding immediately, and I go back inside with my leaflet. We’ve all understood each other. There’s still a chance for me to join the club of God, and I need never leave the club of mothers - the universe is completely working with me on this one.
Meanwhile on my laptop, I look at the website of a private clinic in the hospital where I had three joyous experiences giving birth to my children. This website is tough going. It mentions “age” ten times, just on the home page: once in reference to the age of the father, nine times for mom’s age. I want to reach out to a friend of mine who I have drifted away from, who I know is trying very, very hard, over a very long time, to have children. She just wants to be able to have the Jehovah’s Witness conversation at the front door without giving it a second thought. Just to sweep her girl up in her arms or buy a farting cushion in the euro giant shop and bring it home to her preschool boy, having a ton of fun on a miserable, rainy afternoon. To truly, fully not give a fiddler’s about the general election or what her boss just said about timekeeping.
I don’t know how to talk to her, but I know how much she wants this. Of course the universe is working with her on this too, but there’s the problem: there’s a tsunami of opinion out there that forcefully suggests that if you’re not in the mom zone at 29, 39 or 49, you’re pretty useless to the marketing world. Large companies can’t sell you anti-ageing creams with what they call an age appropriate (and gorgeous) model on the poster until, say, the age of 41. Weight loss in an advertorial can be so lovingly framed as “getting back to your pre-baby shape”, if you would only play ball and comply.
I am more and more aware as the years go on, that relationships are all that we will be left with at the end of this life, or this stage in life. Relationships are an index to happiness. That means both family and friends, for those (like me), who need reminding. I need to treat this friendship with respect, and remember not to complain about the pregnancy discomfort I had – two of my own friends and relatives are having rotten, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancies right now, battling carpal tunnel, a bladder condition, high blood pressure and worse. They’re not uttering a word of complaint, because this is all that they ever wanted, and this job is the one they see themselves having.
On the other side of not forcing your friend to listen to pregnancy complaints, I remember Maeve Binchy, whose child-free state was analysed at will, randomly, by people who didn’t know anything. In her own words, “of course I wanted children. Bright, gorgeous, loving children. I could almost see them”. She also said “don’t be mean with your children”, and she meant that you should share the good times they have, and also the bad. Remember that your friends who don’t have children are always hearing about communions, confirmations, sports wins – they rarely hear about the failures.
It gives me pause for thought as I glance back at this very difficult fertility clinic website. Is there a way to communicate with your friend before you ask her if it’s okay to talk about it? Is it okay to ask about asking? One woman told me that she and her husband were already starting to lose friends, because their road to conceiving was taking so long, and they were becoming stressed and lonely. We would do well not to hide behind our children, and befriend our friends, I guess. For the tenth time this week, I reach for my phone to text Maria. Some time ago I asked her what her plans for the Easter holidays were. “Same as last year”, she told me. “I’ll be trying to get pregnant”.
Hopefully I won’t just spend this Easter holiday merely “trying” to phone.
Written by Emer Liston for eumom