Crossing over: Severing the infertile bond

Before I go any further, I just want to say that in no way am I meaning to try to tell people what to do in these posts.  Everyone handles the transition to motherhood from infertility differently, and many with much more grace and simplicity than I have.  I don’t know why I’ve struggled so, but I have found a lot of help in writing it out recently, so I really do only mean to express my take on the matter. I’m sharing it because, well its on my mind.  And this is my blog.  Please don’t think I’m saying that you are insensitive for posting pictures or writing about motherhood, I’m just trying to explore why it is that I’ve had a hard time doing so.  Thank you all for being so kind as I share this…for some reason I feel more vulnerable now than I ever have before.

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One thing that I’ve struggled to articulate since conceiving was what the heck was happening to the relationships I had with the women I’d befriended since trying to conceive. I had seen and felt it happen when friend conceived before me.  There was suddenly a divide that felt massive.  As if suddenly they didn’t understand anything I was going through.  Other bloggers have likened it to leaving an island, or drawing a dividing line, and I even wrote about this mysterious Planet Pregnant.

Back when I started writing on here, it was actually my intention to have a place to try my hand at writing my own apologetics.  I’d spent most of my life trying not to get in the way and offend people with my beliefs, “I wouldn’t do that but whatever works for you.”  I’d finally gotten to the place after my conversion that I realized there is value in standing by your beliefs and being able to articulate them well.  I needed practice and started writing after my friend from school started her own (we were both new Catholics), and I was basically owning her blog with my comments.  (Check out the first posts, it was really me and another one of her friends, destroying Elizabeth’s combox.  Whoops!).

But as the months went by and our sub-fertility was realized, it became the topic of the blog. And that’s when the relationships started forming, which was an unknown by product of blogging about such an intimate part of your life, the longing for a baby. And I realize that these relationships were mostly limited to online because I wasn’t talking about it much in person.

What I’ve been struggling with for the last two years now, is what happens to those relationships when you have a baby.  Its one thing for your friends to leave you, but its another thing to be the one leaving. These is a bond that you can form with other women  who know the deep longing for a child, who sharing this intimate longing that I dare say even your husband may not fully understand in the same way.  What happens when that bond is severed?  When you go from knowing what someone is feeling because you are feeling that same intense longing, to you merely just remember what that feeling is? There is suddenly a line, a division with someone with whom you used to say “I’m so glad you understand!” because no one else did.

When my friends would leave me behind, I felt like they didn’t understand anymore.  Now that I’m on this side, I see that that couldn’t be further from the truth. The knowledge of the pain is still there, there is just more to the story now.

This Cross I Embrace once wrote (can’t find the link right now…) about how it almost hurt more when other infertile women “crossed over”.  It felt wrong to say it, because these are the women we’ve been praying for to conceive, and why would I be sad to see them get what we’re all yearning for?  But I understood that ache from that side, because I felt it.  Happy for the pregnancy and new life, but devastated once again at the reminder of the absence of your own.  But there was more to it than that (I guess I’ll come back it this in the next post). I remember a line in that post that struck me to this day.  It was that the only difference between us now was that the infertile friend would gladly trade places to experience the trials of motherhood but there is no way the infertile/now mother would go back to the “other side”.

Of course none of us would trade our child for a life of  infertility.  To say that would be ludicrous and a mockery of how seriously we claim want and appreciate this gift.  We wanted all of it, not because motherhood looked like an easy walk in the park where you just get to cuddle a baby all day, but because we wanted to be given the challenge to fulfill our vocations to motherhood that we thought God was calling us to. Things that are worthwhile aren’t easy!  Even in the darkest trials of motherhood, there is no way we’d really want to permanently trade back in our child.

But the pain of loosing the intimate bond with other women who are in this same trial?  Other women who know what its like to have the deepest desires of your heart denied, and yet still remain faithful?  Women with who you share your deepest values for life and yet have them denied repeatedly while the world doesn’t quite understand?

I wasn’t prepared for how much that would hurt, even on this “side” of the journey. 

You go from sharing those intimate thoughts and moments to suddenly, being cut off from that connection.  Sure, you make other friends, solely by the chance that you happened to parent a child around the same time.  “Mom friends”. Who are great, and yes, serve a very important purpose.  It turns out that we women need to find community in whatever stage we are at during our lives.  At least I do.  And motherhood is a very physical stage filled with lots of flakiness and naps changes and just generally requiring flexibility 24-7, so its nice to have people who understand.

But then the conversation dips beyond sleep patterns and development into values and…you know, the inevitable “We’re just going to try for one more.”, “I am so done”, “What type of birth control are you using?”.  The questions that reveal that, oh wait, we don’t actually share any of these values that mean so much to me.

And I think one important thing to take away, maybe for any relationship, is that one relationship doesn’t have to fulfill you in every way possible.  There’s nothing wrong with having friends that you have this interest in common with and then other friends you do something else with, blah blah blah.  But I know there is something incredible about the bond that I had with other woman who know that longing for children.  Even if that’s the only thing we had in common.  There is something special about sharing such a vulnerable time with others who supported each other in times of grief and pain, praying for the cross to be lifted. A giant bright light in a very painful time.

And the absence that exists when that bond is broken when you “cross over” is upsetting, even amidst the joy of having a child.

I plan to next write about if and why this bond is actually “severed”. This is probably what I’ve been struggling most to understand and articulate in the past year. 

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8 thoughts on “Crossing over: Severing the infertile bond

  1. “But then the conversation dips beyond sleep patterns and development into values and…you know, the inevitable ‘We’re just going to try for one more.’, ‘I am so done’, ‘What type of birth control are you using?’. The questions that reveal that, oh wait, we don’t actually share any of these values that mean so much to me.”

    THIS is where I find myself struggling the MOST with my relationships with other moms. I don’t fully know why it gets me so upset (especially since folks may have very legit reasons to stop TTC), but I think I am just so over hearing these conversations time and again. It seems like moms are either “super fertile” and totally open and having tons of kids and perhaps even very proud of that or just nodding their heads at me, saying things like, “Oh pregnancy is AWFUL right? Can’t wait to get the tubes tied!!” Blah.

    Regarding “severing”… I am really curious to read your follow-up posts. One thing I wish was more common, especially among Catholic circles, was the ability for people to “cross over” different life circumstances and really help each other carry our burdens. Even though yes, sometimes we just need to talk to friends who are in exactly the same place.

  2. Well I was sure happy to have you there in my comboxes :)

    And like Sarah above, I have also really struggled with making friends that share my values. I try to take things for what they are, but there is something so disappointing about going to a parish group and finding that you really don’t have those important things in common.

    I always hesitate to comment on anything infertility related, because I know there is just so much there I can’t understand. But I’m glad you are willing to share about it.

  3. I’ve obviously been having trouble making friends with similar values as well. Around here, pretty much everyone “crunchy” is uber-liberal and unless you’re a member of the local Unitarian church, people look at you like you’re nuts if you bring up faith. Sigh.

  4. Here’s the link:
    http://thiscrossiembrace.blogspot.com/2011/02/great-schism.html

    And you had a great and thoughtful comment :)

    I really like this post, and your willingness to “go there,” which I can understand must be difficult (it was for me to write that post). But as you said – your blog, your thoughts. I’m not sure the bond is severed, I think we can still reach across the divide to support and pray for and experience friendship together. It is just certainly different, now. Through no fault of anyone’s, which is the weirdest part. When other friends move on and/or the relationship changes it’s usually because one party did change their behaviors, their goals, their values, etc. No the case for us (not specifically you and me) – because we still share the strongest bond of all in our faith. Which is why I think we CAN still reap the benefits of these friendships across the divide.

  5. As usual, your post totally speaks to my heart. I started following your blog a couple of years ago because of the camaraderie I sensed, and needed, as I was dealing with infertility like you. Now I am 36 weeks pregnant with my first baby and I am definitely trying to figure this out and navigate friendships formed in the bond of infertility when I’m obviously not infertile anymore. Looking forward to the next post. :)

  6. Pingback: The infertile Catch-22 | Matching Moonheads

  7. Pingback: An important addendum: To all the moms out there! | Matching Moonheads

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