LEARNING TO BE OKAY WITH MY FERTILITY TIMELINE
I was standing at a warehouse sale browsing through vintage jeans when I got a call from my best friend. She was in Toronto having just seen her favorite rapper with a mutual friend. The next day, while hungover, she took a pregnancy test. She called me immediately.
“Dude, I’m pregnant,” she said, shocked.
We spent the next ten minutes talking, taking breaks for joyful bursts, discussing about how much her our lives would change. We were both over the moon, but stunned.
“I didn’t think I’d get pregnant on the first try,” she admitted, mildly confused.
After we hung up, as I walked back home, the weight of her words set in.
My best friend is pregnant.
I felt numb.
The world came crashing in.
And I’m not.
As I walked into my apartment, I was greeted by my husband standing in the hallway, waiting to embrace me.
“Are you okay?” he asked, concerned.
I had texted him the news while I was walking home, and immediately collapsed in his arms. He carried me over to the couch and I cried for hours.
Every time I stopped to explain my feelings, I couldn’t. My best friend’s exciting news had opened a vault that I had kept very tightly closed.
Nine months prior, hungover after my best friend’s wedding, my husband looked over at me, his face looking tired but his eyes happy, in love.
“Yes?” I asked, looking at him skeptically.
“I think we’re ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“To start trying.”
I immediately started to cry. I had been patiently waiting for his green light. We’d been together for five years, married for four, and I had been wanting a baby for over a year. I was thrilled.
When I told my best friend, she was elated.
“Oh my god, I am so happy you will be pregnant before me. Just like we always planned. I need you to teach me how to be a mom,” she said giddily.
When we were 22, my best friend and I moved into together. I’d often find myself falling asleep in her bedroom. We’d listen to sad songs and talk endlessly about what kind of lives we would live, what kind of careers we’d have, who we would marry, and what type of mothers we’d be.
“Don’t worry; you’re going to the best mom. You were born to be a mother,” she would reassure me when we’d talk about our complicated relationships with our own mothers.
Though we were best friends, there were times in our friendship when we took on a motherly role towards each other. I’d hold her hair when she was throwing up after a night of drinking and rubbed her back when she cried. I’d listen to Bon Iver with her when she was sad, and I’d feed her cat when she forgot. She, in turn, would always let me know if she didn’t approve of a guy I was dating and always encouraged me to reach for the stars. “You can do anything, Dutchie” she’d tell me, calling me by a nickname she gave me when we were 13. Her words always reassuring during the times I felt the most lost and unworthy. She was the sister I never had, and at times, the mother I wish I did.
When my husband and I first tried, and didn’t get pregnant, I was extremely upset but optimistic for our second try. But after the third, fourth, fifth, the weight of trying to conceive started to take its toll.
I could never have imagined it would take us this long. When our friends started having kids, they succeeded on the first or second try. I thought we’d be the same.
I had always imagined the process of trying to be an incredibly magical time, but instead, I was met with countless anxiety attacks and deep shame every time I saw red stains in my underwear.
Every time someone asked me when my husband and I were planning on having kids, the question felt like little safety pins poking through my heart. We were trying. I felt deeply embarrassed that we didn’t have any exciting news to announce every time we got together with friends. I wonder if they talk about it when we aren’t around. Every pregnancy announcement (and there were plenty) made me incredibly angry and upset. What are they doing differently than us?
I started to deeply regret telling my close group of friends that we were trying. Failing alone somehow felt less shameful than failing in front of the people I loved the most.
Not being able to conceive in the timeline I had originally envisioned made me feel like my body had failed me, like I had failed my body, and like I had failed my husband. All of his friend’s wives were able to house their children, but my body couldn’t. I had always imagined the process of trying to be an incredibly magical time, but instead, I was met with countless anxiety attacks and deep shame every time I saw red stains in my underwear.
For nine months, creating life is all I thought about. From the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep, my mind could only embody the anguish of my childless womb. In the shower, at friends’ birthday parties, at my dad’s funeral. There was no second heart beating next to mine, and I was heartbroken over it.
A few days after my best friend’s pregnancy announcement, she texted me.
“Is everything okay?”
We had barely texted since she broke the news, something very unusual for us. I didn’t know whether to tell her or not. While processing my own feelings of grief, I also felt incredibly guilty and confused about her pregnancy announcement. It was okay to be angry about other people’s, but feeling angry over hers, someone who was a sister to me, made me feel like the world’s worst friend. I hated myself for it.
After a few texts back and forth, she called, and just like with my husband, I cried and cried. I told her what happened the day she told me, and how hard this journey has been for me. I told her about my guilt and anger and how much I hated myself for it. If there was one person on the planet I couldn’t hide from, it was her.
It’s now six months later, and my best friend’s belly has gotten bigger. And luckily, I am feeling a lot lighter. I’m still not pregnant, but the shame has lifted. In a weird way, her pregnancy announcement was my breaking point. It was the day I started to let go: of the shame, of the grief, of the guilt, of the stories I had told myself about my worth, my body, and my timeline.
Her growing baby has brought us closer together. She calls me every morning, and we text more than a couple who just fell in love. I’ve helped her pick out wallpaper for her baby’s nursery and am planning her baby shower.
Like everything in life before baby, it feels like we’re doing this together. Though it didn’t make sense to me initially, but it makes sense to me now: She is having a baby before me.
A few weeks ago, she asked me to be in the delivery room when she gives birth.
“I can’t do this without you dude,” she pleaded, “I need you there.”
If I had a newborn, I wouldn’t be able to be there for her while she transitions into this new phase of her life. I wouldn’t be able to ensure she has great tunes playing while she’s in labor, and ensured she and her husband felt safe and supported while she brings her baby earthside. I wouldn’t be able to give her the tickles and rubs that only I know how to give her.
Much like in our early 20s, we have taken another motherly role with each other. I’ve been supporting her while she transitions into motherhood, and she’s supporting me as my husband and I are seeking out fertility options. I remind her to drink water, and she asks about the details of every doctor, acupuncture, and fertility appointment.
There has never been a time in our friendship where I felt more grateful to have her as my best friend. While life is beating inside of her, she has provided me with the space to express my grief and sorrow every single time I text her that I got my period. Our roads to motherhood have looked very different, but it hasn’t changed who we have been at our core for the last 17 years: supportive, vulnerable, and honest.
Trying to conceive has come with many challenges, and though it’s been a lot easier for me lately, it still comes with many doubts, fears, and resentments. While I process my way through an unknown future, I know this for sure: I have the world’s best friend, and there is no one I’d rather share her with than her daughter. She couldn’t have picked a better mom. We’re both lucky girls.
photo by onourmoon
LET'S TALK: how have pregnancy announcements impacted your fertility journey?
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
After 10+ years of infertility the news of friends + family being pregnant only becomes more and more bitter and less and less sweet. The worse part is if you let on that you are anything other then thrilled, you are the monster, but yet they are never sad for you or mourn with you or do anything real to acknowledge your pain and years of suffering.
I felt every single word of your writing, you are truly an amazing person. I too struggled with the obstacles of fertility. Don’t ever give up hope- someday you’ll become a mom, no matter what. I promise you, your time will come. Your vulnerability and honesty will set you free and comfort you on the most difficult days. I’m praying for you and your husband that your journey to parenthood reveals itself when it is meant to. Thank you so much for sharing your heart with this piece and it is something I will be sharing with my friends who are currently trying.
This is a deeply moving piece that I can definitely relate to. Of my friends, I got married first and took several life steps first. So I was able to guide and support them through when their turn came. It hasn’t worked out that way with having a baby. 6 years into TTC, they all have kids and I don’t. I’ve had my difficult moments, but it’s been easy to be happy for and supportive of my closest friends. I’m always grateful to be included in their lives and journey with them through their transition to motherhood.
Beautifully written, Alex. It sounds like you have a wonderful best friend.
I recently went through the opposite situation; my best friend is pregnant and I’m not – and I’m not trying. Its a difficult transition, especially towards the tail end of a pregnancy, and more so once that baby is born. You feel alone, and shoved aside, while trying to show support to your friend for something you can’t relate to. While she was pregnant, my husband and had the thoughts ‘well, maybe we should try too?” when in reality, we weren’t ready, and it took us some time to really realize what we were feeling – life’s new chapter of friends having babies.
Sending love & support from the Mission District 🙂
Wow I’m going through the same exact thing.
I wish my best friend was this honest and supportive. Im having baby for first time at 37 and she is extremely jealous to the point she just broke, called me in a drunken rage. Very disappointing. 14 years down the drain.
Have patience. You can afford to be the bigger person, you have what she longs for and can’t achieve. Go to others for support, give her space, love and understanding. She can’t support you, she can barely support herself. She needs YOUR support.
Thank you so much for writing about this experience; it was comforting to know that it’s natural to feel sadness, anger, sometimes jealousy. I’ve been trying to conceive for a year and a half, which included extensive counseling and having to go off long-term medicines, traveling for treatment, a lot of expenses, etc. A friend recently announced she had become pregnant on accident, and it triggered an intense feeling of anger within me, which completely surprised me. I had been doing fine around other pregnant people, no issues seeing pregnant bellies (even after I had experienced a miscarriage), but this just felt different. Hearing that you were able to turn this into a positive experience with your friend gives me hope that these feelings will subside. But reading this post helped me understand what I’m feeling isn’t unnatural. <3