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  • Writer's pictureRachel Chan

Friendship never ends....

Growing up as an avid fan of the Spice Girls, I bought into the message that friendship never ends. My experience in life though, is that sometimes, it does end, and for all sorts of reasons. For me, navigating friendships during the fertility years has so far been fraught with difficulty. I never thought it would happen, but as the years have gone by, the challenges of life seem to have taken their toll on even the closest of friendships.

If you’re having trouble conceiving, chances are you’re at a stage in your life when it seems like everyone else around you is getting pregnant, often at the drop of a hat. One by one my friends have moved into what feels like a secret club, and I’ve found I’ve seen less and less of those I was once close to, our paths rarely crossing. I’ve certainly found that I’ve been dropped like a hot cake by some friends in favour of those with children, particularly in the first few years of a child’s life. I must take some responsibility for it though, as it’s a time when I feel most at a loss as to how to relate and in effect, make things worse for myself. For most things people go through in their life, I’m pretty confident that I can offer some sort of support which may be helpful, as I’ve likely had a similar experience. As an only child, I’ve never seen at close quarters what it’s like to have a new baby around. So, when a new baby is born, I feel I have no idea what people need, and so tend to get stuck on the outside, trying to find a way in.

To a certain extent, I can understand it. It makes sense. I don’t know, because I’ve never been through it, but as an outsider looking in, parenting looks difficult, and at times, terrifying. Like anyone going through a particular situation in life, I imagine new mums no doubt want people around them who understand what they’re going through and to whom they can relate. It’s human nature and healthy. Once you find your tribe, whoever that might be, you stick with them. Surprisingly to me, I have occasionally heard reports of in-fighting even within these particular tribes. It seems ‘mum shaming’ doesn’t just originate from strangers online. A friend of mine relayed to me a time when she was berated by another mum at a mum and baby group for bottle feeding her child instead of breast-feeding. Needless to say, she didn’t return to that group. How sad for both of them.

Once you get to a particular age without children, and once people know that you’re having fertility problems, it creates a natural barrier to the usual social interactions you would expect to be included in. I’ve found I’m rarely invited to baby showers, presumably because people feel it may be too difficult for me, but also maybe because I’m regarded as a bad omen, or a dampener on things? In addition to those natural barriers, I’m not at the school gates with the other parents, or at children’s parties or mums and tots groups. If it wasn’t for my hobbies, I’d spend very little time with people my own age. Honestly, it’s been isolating and lonely. This even extends to some of those friends I have who once had fertility problems of their own but are now parents. Again, I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to be reminded of that time in my life either.

Happily for me, I still have some friends that have been with me throughout, and they’ve been incredibly supportive. I hope I’ve been able to offer them some support throughout their journey too. For those that have come to the end of their fertility journey, there are communities such as the Dovecote Community and the World Childlessness Week event, which bring together those who are living childless not by choice. It can often feel that there’s no one else out there going through the same situation, but whatever you’re going through, it is possible to find your tribe, you just have to look a bit harder sometimes.

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