My best friend is coming over this afternoon. We’re going to make some cookies. It should be nice. The kitchen all cozy and warm from the oven. But…
We have never had the easiest friendship. When we first met towards the end of college, we were interested in pretty different things, career-wise. Over time, though, she’s moved further and further into my area of research. This is good, as it means we go to many of the same conferences and have lots of fun traveling together. But it’s also bad, as it means we are in a good position to evaluate each other professionally. Two years ago she started teaching in my department. Now we have offices down the hall from each other. We share students. We see each other all the time. This is not ideal for our friendship. I’m sure plenty of people would do fine in this situation, but we both happen to be sensitive, judgmental, and insecure. Because of this excessive overlap in our lives, I didn’t tell her I was trying to get pregnant. This might seem bizarre–what kind of a best friendship doesn’t involve sharing such details? But I wanted to have the experience to myself. And I knew if I told her I was trying, she’d start trying too.
I got caught. We went out to dinner on an evening when I wasn’t drinking (just in case). She noticed. Sure enough, a few weeks later she told me they were going to start trying in a couple of months. My husband and I had just started our infertility workup. I came clean. I told her how long I’d been trying, and that I hoped she’d get pregnant immediately, that she wouldn’t have to go through what I’d been going through. Two months later, I was waiting to learn the outcome of my first IUI, and she was pregnant.
At first I could be happy for her…at least during the luteal phase of my cycle, when there was a chance I might be happy for myself soon. It was exciting hearing about the details of a pregnancy–none of my other friends have kids. We just didn’t hang out during the other weeks of my cycle. But once she started showing, I couldn’t bear it. It became so much more real. She’s going to be a mother. There’s a baby in her oven. My oven is cold and dark. Or maybe on perpetual pre-heat.
When I think about the experiences she’s having–feeling her baby kick, preparing a nursery, birthing classes, delivery, motherhood–I feel overwhelming sorrow. When I see her belly, tears come to my eyes. I have to walk past the Land of Pregnancy every day on the way to my office, but those anonymous pregnant ladies only arouse a petty kind of envy in me. But when it’s someone so close to you, it’s different. Because our lives are so similar, it’s so easy to visualize. It could so easily be me. So I can’t see my best friend, and I can’t share her experience.
And that’s a whole other source of sorrow. I miss her. I want to know what she’s going through. I want to be a good friend, and I don’t want to lose her in the process. What if she makes all new friends with babies, and I never see her again? And I’m trying. I’m organizing a baby shower. I’m making cookies with her. I’m doing my best, and that’s all I can do. She’s being very kind, too. She understands that I can’t do more, and I’m grateful for that compassion. But I’d love to know if anyone has ever figured this out. How do you preserve your friendships with fertile women? How do you minimize the damage infertility does to your relationships with the women you love?