5/21/2008

In need of enlightening

A friend of mine needs some helpful advice. I, on my trusty white blogging steed, have come to the rescue because as I told Friend, "The women who read my blog are full of good answers". You are. You're brilliant, and full of wisdom that I am far too drunk, high or stupid to come up with myself.

Friend has a friend who is one of (some) of us - a big old infertile. Unfortunately, this woman is becoming a complete barren nightmare. You know the type - bitter to the point of unsociability, melodramatic, hypersensitive. We've seen it all before, we've maybe even been there ourselves. When I was going through all the IF shit, I tried not to be the stereotypical infertile woman. I have my share of lesser moments in which I glared at pregnant women, climbed atop my large soapbox with polycystic ovaries painted on the sides, but I convinced myself that that anger was fleeting. Though I wanted to vent about the latest drive-by and fume about women for whom pregnancy didn't involve shots, catheters or miscarriages, I didn't want that jealousy and rage to consume me.

I'm not trying to be sanctimonious, because of course I understand how easily one can drown in anger and bitterness. I think I only managed to avoid the bulk of it myself because I wasn't a woman with an overwhelming maternal instinct. I wanted a child, but I think it eventually became more about wanting what I might not be able to have rather than specifically wanting to be a mother, fucked up as that may be for an alleged (ex)infertile blogger to say.

Putting aside one's own thoughts and feelings for a moment, what does this attitude do to our family and friends who are trying to help, like Friend? I'm excluding the dumbasses here, so forget about the people who tell you to "just adopt". Friend has a background in medicine and also knows a lot of women who have had trouble conceiving, so she has been particularly sympathetic to this woman's needs. However, this woman has ended up pushing Friend away because she's so high maintenance. Friend has asked me, Patron Saint of Fucked Up Parts, to advise her as to how she should deal with her friend. I suggested the usual - let the friend know you are there for her whenever she needs to talk, refrain from asshattery, don't regale her with endless tales of your children's brilliance, and so on. Friend does all these things, but to no avail. The negativity and melodrama have become too much for her, and Friend just finds herself wanting space, a very big space, between herself and her friend.

Friend tells me that this woman's infertility has been recently diagnosed via that exercise in fallopian torture, the HSG. She and her husband have been trying for a year or so, but have not yet begun treatment. I think this is part of the problem, as getting used to the idea of what all of this means is quite an adjustment. When my doctor first told me that I would probably not have children naturally, I took to my bed for a day and failed to submit a term paper. I think the initial diagnosis yields the highest period of drama because you only see the process in negatives. You may have gone through life up to this point assuming you would have children naturally with no complications along the way. To be told that you have been deluding yourself all this time and that in fact you are facing a very long journey is sometimes too much to face up to rationally. Obviously one's first instinct is to be angry, and sometimes that anger takes years to ebb.

What would you tell Friend to do? Stick it out and just suffer through? Is there any advice or support she should be giving her friend which she may not be doing already? Should Friend practice tough love and tell her friend that in fact, the world does not revolve around her and her uterus? I believe that Friend has pointed the woman to IF blogs and suggested she started her own, which I think is invaluable advice. Can you imagine where we would be today without each other, lovely, lovely ladies? I would no doubt have given up on treatment all together, left The Dude, and lived in a pink house with the ex-boyfriend who had a threesome with some skanks behind my back. You saved me from this path!

In the very clearly enunciated words of P, "Pwees hep".

12 comments:

Bittermama said...

Um... well... I think I was that high maintenance friend at one point. I had just had a miscarriage and then my friend got pregnant and then I went nuts and couldn't handle being around her all the time.

Anyway... long story short, my advice would be to give the friend some space. Please do not confront her with the "the world doesn't revolve around you" bit. That's what my friend did and although we reconciled shortly before I started IVF, I've still never quite forgiven her for it.

It's not like that's actually going to snap her out of it or anything. So really it would just make her feel worse and probably ruin the friendship.

Tash said...

There's a really fine line here that one has to follow. I have a friend who had 5 mc's before her daughter (conceived on Lupron awaiting her IVF), who has a relative who had IF but never did much about it, adopted, and is all shades of bitter toward my friend and her child IN FRONT OF HER OWN CHILD. Seriously, wah? Like you said, difference between "baby" and "mother." Not met here. My friend obviously has to put on a different face in respect to the child who is right there. Makes me awkward thinking about it.

Doesn't sound like this is there yet, but could be approaching. I'm with above: perhaps if your friend is in the medical, she could pass along the name of an RE? Tell friend "if you have any questions about what to ask, what to expect, please let me know" and then start backing up and giving room. I remember a point where I just hit bottom. Maybe this person is there now, and just needs a month or two before resurfacing and moving to the next step.

That probably didn't help remotely.

wheelsonthebus said...

I would reach out in a different way. Instead of calling or pushing to get together, I would send emails saying "thinking of you" and perhaps drop by some treat of some sort around when the hardest time is (for me, it was always my luteal phase) but then say, "just dropping this by -- don't want to intrude."

That way, she is lending support without being a punching bag.

Meg said...

I think "Wheels on the bus" is right here. The early part is so bad - I was that friend just after we got our (sudden) diagnosis. I still haven't fully reconciled with the friend I pushed away in insanity.

Friend can help from a distance - withdraw, but let her friend know she is in her thoughts.

nutsinmay said...

What they said.

I knew I would have trouble conceiving from the age of 19 or so, so I never got the bitch-slap/ bucket-of-iced-water diagnosis moment. I should imagine it would make a person freak the hell out. I'd back off, kindly, in a 'thinking of you' sort of way. When the infertile lady has got over the shock, she will be glad to still have a friend who didn't tell her not to be such a drama queen (in the nicest possible way).

Of course, I am assuming that Infertile Lady is basically a nice woman and has just been shocked and horrified into behaving like this, and therefore will be a nice lady still when she manages to process it. Friend was a friend before all the drama started, it implies Infertile Lady is worth persisting with. Gently, and from out of spitting range.

The truth is, often the advice and support of a Fertile Person (not so much an Infertile with kids) is not actually helpful or wanted. I have found myself thinking 'really, you're saying all the right things, but WHAT THE HELL DO YOU KNOW.' I did not say this, because I brought up to dissemble and smile hard. Even worse when a Fertile Person tries to blow rainbows up your arse - all the 'it'll work out, they can treat that nowadays, I knew one lady who etc. etc. and now has twins' stuff. I always felt they were trying to make themselves feel better, not me. I assume your Friend is not so daft as to do that, but very many of my friends and family did it, and meant well, and made me feel like absolute shit in the process. I don't think people even realise they ARE doing it. Hell, I've done it myself once or twice, to people in other hard situations (for which I am duly ashamed).

calliope said...

oooooh. This is a tough one.
I have TOTALLY lost friends b/c they said the wrong thing at the wrong time to me.
Cards in the mail are nice. E-mails too, but with a close friend an actual card is tactile and real.
One of my closest friends who had an OOOPS! pregnancy sent me beautiful handmade cards after my unpregnancy. She always ended the cards saying something like, "I'm here if you need me." It wasn't all in my face and it let me take the initiative to reach out when I was ready.

I have another really close friend that I basically had to take a break from. We started trying the same month and she has a 2 year old and I don't. She is an idiot with comments like, "Are you sure you want this?!" or "I am so jealous that you don't have to budget diapers!" I actually forwarded her a couple of those "things not to say to an infertile" posts and that helped TONS.

I think with old friends there is this natural want to sort of smack your friend out of their funk. Lord knows I have been the slapper to many a friend who was wavering on the fence about things like quitting a job or breaking up with an asshole.

But infertility is neither of those things. It is so internal and shocking.

So I guess what I am saying is that your friend should try sending a card. And nothing overly mushy, but certainly nothing funny.

Keep us posted on this. I'm nosy that way.

Aurelia said...

I hope that once she starts treatment she will feel a bit less bitter---but she may not and your friend needs to know that this may just be what happens.

I tried to avoid the bitter, or at least avoid showing the bitter, because I knew it was not a good emotion for me to indulge in. Some, like me, can really really get lost in it. And then we are bitchy.

Tell your friend to just relax and wait and see, and let her friend take initiative.

electriclady said...

Everyone else said all the good stuff already--back off, don't confront, let her know you're there but don't condescend or try to reassure with urban legends, etc.

I think the advice to seek out others online is also excellent. Really, the only people who can truly understand and make you feel better about this shit is someone who is going through it at the same time. Even a former infertile can't fully relate to the depths of bitterness sometimes.

statia said...

I agree with everyone else, it's a fine line here. I had the same issue as bittermama back in 05, when the day I found out I was miscarrying, I was reading my best friend's pregnancy test and telling her that while still really light, there was indeed a line there. I can't tell you how much that punch in the gut hurt. I don't think I even acknowledged her son until he was about 4 months old. Not that I was totally wallowing in my own self pity, but I have before. I cut off a lot of people from my life, which really sucks. It's very isolating, but at the time, they were all getting pregnant, and I was just self preserving.

On the other hand, even though it took some heavy duty drugs to snap my ass out of it, I learned that even though I was just trying to cope, I was kind of acting like a douche bag in the process. I saw my SIL recently. I haven't talked to her in about 6 years. She and my brother tried to have kids, but several miscarriages later, they just stopped trying. No treatments. They hit their emotional limit, I guess. It's none of my business. She's 52 now, and when she saw the Mini, she scowled at him, and it twigged me the fuck off in a big way. I'm sorry, but at some point, if you've made your decision, you need to learn to get the fuck over it. I get that it's hard. The Mini was our last ditch effort and I was already preparing myself for a child free life. It's not any child's fault that you couldn't have kids.

So I guess my take on it is, I'm overly sympathetic to my IF bitches. I cry with them. I listen to them. I try to offer any words of advice or just words to help them out, but if you're going to shut someone out who genuinely cares because you feel the need to wallow in your own self pity for an extended period of time, then don't expect them to stick around. That's not fair to anyone. I'm sure it makes me sound like a bigger asshole than I am. And we all know I'm an asshole.

The Town Criers said...

I think some friendships are like trying to tame a wild horse. You can try to control it or you can stand back and catch your breath. It sounds like your friend needs to take a step back and breathe while still remaining accessible to her friend.

She doesn't have to stand to be treated like shit but sometimes we treat the ones we love most like shit because we know they'll stick around and deal with us.

But I'd definitely point the woman towards the blogs. There is always someone out there who is a good match for another person. I don't expect one friend to fulfill all of my needs. Maybe this woman could benefit from keeping your friend for certain aspects of life but get her venting out via the blogs.

Kristi said...

I was that bitter and angry friend. I didn't so much push my fertile friends away, but I did avoid them whenever I could. Only a handful were compassionate enough to refrain from regaling me with tales of their kids every time we got together. You've receive a lot of good tips here already, but I would just tell your friend to tell her friend that once the unknown becomes a known, once she actually starts getting answers and help through treatment, she will feel more in control of her life and what's happening to her. I would encourage her to obviously be supportive in whatever way she thinks her friend will tolerate, but also to back off if she thinks that's what her friend needs.

Isabel said...

Can't the friend just ask? She could say, "I want to be a good friend to you, but I don't know what to do right now. Please tell me what you need from a friend because I want to be there for you."