Infertility turns your world upside down. Besides your own personal reaction and ability to cope, relationships are the first thing to change and be tested.
For about the first two years we were going through IF we had very little social pressure or stress. As a couple we were dealing with many losses and hard times, but our social circle was not at the stage of trying to conceive. While we had many heartbreaking moments in private they were not exacerbated by friends and family inundating us with pregnancy announcements. In fact, sometimes when I would get a negative pregnancy test, I was a little relieved because of a social event coming up. I was TTC while two friends were planning their weddings. I could have been a very pregnant bridesmaid, but it never happened.
After friends were married things changed. The pregnancy proclamations were made and that's when our sadness reached a different level. We were now experiencing firsthand the disappointment of wanting something that other people had, a pregnancy. They had the exciting news to share with family and friends, and they reached this milestone with little effort. That hurt a lot. Sometimes it took all of my energy to act normal and smile along with my congratulatory exclamations.
As time went on without a pregnancy social situations became harder. In the meantime I had an ectopic pregnancy and went through a very lonely time full of loss. Baby showers were nearly impossible for me to sit through. I felt like people were always looking at me to see my reaction. I felt like the pink elephant in the room. When one of my good friends had her baby, I was pretty much absent from the event and the first year of her daughter's life. I did not see the nursery until she turned one. The pain was too much. I felt guilty, but I knew it was self preservation.
When other friends became pregnant, the news was always the hardest. For me it always felt like a punch to the gut. Finding out another person was pregnant really hurt, but after a little while of getting used to the idea, I was able to feel joy for; however, it was coupled with a disturbing sense of loss for myself. It really sucked being the person no one wanted to tell their joyous news of pregnancy. However, I was very lucky to have sensitive friends and family members.
Family events with babies were especially hard for me because I wanted so badly to be the beautiful pregnant mommy-to-be. I envied the attention, the questions people had, and all their excitement. I wanted so badly to give our parents a grand child because they were hurting too. My heart wasn't completely in tact when babies were born. I felt like a fraud. I smiled on the outside and cried as soon as I was safely by myself. I couldn't hold the babies. And, even though I have Luv Bug and fall in love with him more everyday, holding a small baby is still difficult for me. I may never know what it feels like to hold my baby the moment they enter the world.
I am grateful that news of pregnancies does not alter my life like it once did. Sometimes I would cry for days upon hearing of another pregnancy. It depended on what stage of TTC I was in. There were times when I was better able to cope. I will admit that I still get a twinge of sadness when I hear of a pending birth. I am at that stage in life where people are building their families, and there are pregnancies popping up everywhere. The second and third babies are a reminder of how difficult it will be for us to have a second child.
The collateral damage of infertility is that relationships are affected. The pain we felt isolated us and made us different. Friends and family wanted so badly to help, but there was nothing to be done. We avoided certain events or cut them short. We offered our congratulations on a pregnancy but would go home and talk about how much it sucked that we couldn't get pregnant. When my niece was born I know that my SIL felt bad for me! She was a new mommy and she had to worry about how I was feeling. People had to worry about how to tell us they were expecting. We appreciated their sensitivity but it sucked that they had to inform us of their news knowing that it would hurt us and almost downplay their excitement.
Those days are gone. We have our family now. But, it was a long four years. I am thankful that I can be completely there for new babies and their parents. I may not have become a parent the same way, but I am relieved to be able to relate to the excitement and joy they have of being a mommy and a daddy.