A letter to my friends having IVF
I don’t know what was worse: your nonchalant shrug when you were first trying for a baby and joked about “just adopting” if you couldn’t get pregnant. Or the heartbroken grimace your face contorted into when you admitted things hadn’t worked and you may have to “consider other options”.
I wish I had the strength to say, kindly, that I am not an appropriate audience for your anguish. I feel for you, I truly do. But I cannot be there for you as you lament that you may never conceive naturally. I have heard that couples who are trying to conceive (TTC) tend to avoid friends with babies and young children. In a similar vein, I find myself avoiding friends who are TTC because I cannot arrange my face into a suitable expression for the conversation. I find it incredibly difficult to convey the right combination of sympathy and optimism as you tell me you may throw yourself in front of a bus if you don’t get pregnant soon.
As months turn into years I want you to know my heart is heavy for you and the physical and mental strain you are under. But with the passing of time I can only imagine that strain amplified five-fold for my parents, living in in a time before IVF availability or even tests to explain why their young bodies were not able to do what was ‘natural’ and expected. Friend after friend disappearing as she reached the finish line first, pregnant colleagues leaving work in a flurry of excitement never to return as was the norm then. My mum, whether by luck or premonition, asking for her job to be kept open when she married, and it becoming her only solace. The feelings of resignation as adoption became the only realistic option. Hope yes, but just a pocket nestled there among the sorrow, heartbreak and shame.
My friends, I know that was a long time ago and you probably don’t see how the two narratives are connected. I wish I could separate the two, but I find it really difficult sometimes. I am aware it makes me seem unsupportive as a friend.
Your lengthy, expensive and brutal IVF journey is a blunt reminder that I was very much my parents’ Plan B. Yes, they love and cherish me but no, they didn’t really choose me.
I want things to work out for you, I really do. But please, please forgive me if I cheer you on from a distance.
Your friend x