After four failed cycles of intrauterine insemination, my wife and I conceived a few months ago. We’re elated, but during the time leading up to our pregnancy, we faced much uncertainty and anxiety. Before beginning insemination, I was tested for every possible fertility barrier and all of the test results were negative. This was a mixed blessing, since my insurance would have covered the $1900 per cycle process fully if I’d had even the slightest issue. But of course I was grateful for my health.
That was an incredibly difficult time, when hopes rose and fell. For support, we reached out to family and friends as well as our dear rabbi, who witnessed many tears and helped comfort and encourage us.
We also reached out to a couple of friends who, like us, were experiencing difficulty conceiving. We bonded intensely during that period, because we got each other. When a very close friend of mine became pregnant immediately, we struggled as we watched her abdomen grow every month and felt envious– like that’s where we should be too. With our friends who also faced difficulties conceiving, we were able to commiserate, share stories, and vent about our hurt.
And then we did get pregnant, and suddenly we were the ones struggling to figure out how to tell our friends who hadn’t yet conceived. We felt elated and also greatly relieved that we had “stopped the bleeding” on fertility expenses and could regroup a little. But we also immediately thought of those same friends with whom we had shared our anxiety and despair, and we weren’t sure how we could sensitively share our joy with them while they continued to struggle. The only thing I knew for sure was that we had to tell them our news immediately, and not hide anything. We tried to do it with compassion and sensitivity. But it was so difficult then, and it still is now.
No one wants a loved one to share in his or her suffering. But I feel like our pregnancy has affected our closeness to our friends who haven’t yet been successful. We don’t text constantly about our frustrations and our current attempts and our pain when yet another coworker announces their pregnancy. We don’t speak about how we dread going to yet one more baby shower while we ache inside. That’s not something we have in common anymore, and now I’m on the other side. And I feel guilty about it. When I post a status update to Facebook that references my pregnancy, I have a twinge of guilt. I’m sure I will feel that anytime I post a baby picture as well. I’m afraid to sound too joyful and glowing when we speak, because I don’t want to rub salt in the wound; I try as hard as I can to sound natural and not to talk about it too much. But then that’s not so genuine either, because truthfully, my joy has me bursting at the seams.
I wonder if things would be different if we had never created such a commiserative support system for each other and had kept everything more private. I doubt it. I think anyone sensitive to the fertility struggles of others would feel some amount of guilt and awkwardness when they find themselves on the other side of it while their loved ones still suffer.
Despite the tension that still exists between our friends and us now, I am confident that we did the right thing by sharing our news with them right away. And I feel confident that at some point, we will have all built our families in one way or another and we’ll share in each other’s joys and life cycle events for many years to come.