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Dear Care and Feeding,
After over a year of trying to get pregnant, my partner and I are now pursuing IVF. We’re both incredibly grateful that this science exists, and over the moon that our insurance covers it. The trouble we’re having is that we don’t know anyone, not a soul, who has gone through this, maybe because we’re in our early 30s. It’s an incredibly isolating experience, one I never thought I’d go through, and I’m honestly struggling a lot. Complicating all this is the fact that my best friends are both pregnant. I’m so happy for them, but I’m also extremely jealous and a little hurt by what I feel is a bit of disinterest in what I’m going through. I suppose my expectation was that they’d have at least done a cursory “what to say to a friend going through infertility” Google, but they don’t seem to have done that.
There have even been a few moments where they’ve made (respectful and mostly sensitively delivered) comments that have left me with the impression that my infertility is sort of bumming them out. A mutual friend privately mentioned to me that she feels I’ve been oversharing a little and that it’s overshadowing the joy of another friend’s pregnancy. I’m sensitive to this and don’t want to diminish anyone’s joy. I also admit that I can be prone to oversharing with people I trust. After these comments, I’ve tried to limit my talk about infertility to my therapist and my partner, but it’s hard, and it’s compounding my sense of isolation. Infertility is hard enough without feeling like I’m ruining a party. Honestly, I’m a little resentful that none of my friends seem to take seriously that I’m in pain and undergoing a process that requires a lot of me physically and emotionally. It makes me feel as though they think pregnancy is more important than infertility and that my need for support is coming at a time when they can’t provide it or don’t want to. How can I balance my need for support from my friends with my desire not to bum them out? Maybe more to the point: How can I support myself if my friends can’t be here for me the way I want them to be right now?
— The Odd One Out
Dear The Odd One Out,
I’m sorry that you’re feeling isolated and unsupported during a very challenging time. Ideally, it would be nice if your friends could be both excited about their own pregnancies and encouraging about your IVF journey. It sounds like that may not be possible.
Because you don’t know anyone who’s gone through this, it may be useful to read, listen to, and watch stories about people who have. You can start with the work of Doree Shafrir, who produced an IVF podcast with her husband called Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure and has written about their journey for various publications. There’s also Mothers in Waiting: Healing and Hope for Those With Empty Arms, an anthology of essays from women writers who’ve experienced infertility.
You may also want to seek out in-person and virtual support groups for those currently going through the same challenges that you are.
What’s most important for you to remember right now is that no one should shame you for wanting to discuss your experience. If you feel silenced or reprimanded by your friends because you need to express your feelings of frustration, discouragement, and disappointment, those aren’t the friends you need to spend time with right now. Hopefully, in the future, your circumstances will resolve in a way that brings you joy. By then, I hope you will have met people who will know how to support you in times of sorrow as well as joy.
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My ex-wife married a good man immediately after our divorce. Our marriage dissolved under the stress of my career and a need for constant moves. Honestly, we get along better now than we did during most of our marriage. When I see my kids, I usually ended up staying at my ex’s. Our youngest has mobility issues, and it is easier to bring all the children together (mine and my ex’s new kids) than to parcel out separate child care.
My question is: How do I explain this situation to the women I date and make it clear I am doing it for my kids and not because I am still in love with my ex? My last three semiserious relationships dissolved over this issue.