To heal, first and foremost, you have to want to heal. It sounds trite, and more than a little dismissive, as if everyone hurting is doing it on purpose for the attention, or perhaps to annoy. The thing is, some of the time we are doing it on purpose, but usually for a different reason. We carry our grief, our anger, and our resentment for further than is necessary when we haven't yet decided what to do with it. We have, after all, paid dearly for our pain. It's not reasonable to expect us to part with it easily, even though it is ugly and burdensome. Tossing it aside - "letting go" or "moving on" - is not our goal. Instead, we seek a transformation; a suitably valuable exchange.

A friend asked me this week to talk with her about IVF, as it has just been recommended to her as a course of treatment. How does she feel? I haven't met up with her yet, but from initial accounts, not great. She tells me I don't have to agree to the discussion - perhaps I'd rather not go over that period of my life again. Perhaps I am trying to put it behind me, to forget. I tell her that is not the case. I want her to understand that if I can transform any part of my sorrows into something that helps her along her path, we can both end up closer to healed.

And the truth is, I am ready to be healed. It took a long time after the birth of The Prata Baby for the process to start - I had to consciously set the task aside for a while in order to focus on caring for a newborn, and I think I underestimated the amount of damage I'd sustained. I was going well, you see, I was coping ok with our infertility in the leadup to his conception. I mistook that for being able to, afterwards, listen to conversations on gender disappointment or ideal age gaps without wanting to snap people's heads off, either figuratively or literally, and I was wrong. These days, however, it almost warms me to hear such naivety, as if I'm reassured by the notion that some parts of the world, at least, are running as we'd like them to run. And there is a practical sense in which infertility has lost its hold on me. Yes, we still have to go back for those frozen embryos, but since Surprise Baby's birth I have been feeling fully content with our lot and willing to surrender the rest to the will of the unknown*.

But I'm worried about this meeting, all the same. My friend already has a honeymoon baby, and is experiencing secondary infertility, which I have never really known. Second time around, I found it far, far easier to front up to the fertility specialist and set the wheels in motion, and everything fell into place a short time later. I am trying, in advance, not to shrug her off because of that. I am trying to remember that she isn't pre-adjusted to her membership in the infertility club like I was when we started trying for number two, that it's the first time around for her on this crazy, sometimes terrifying ride. And that anyway, she's not me, and can't be expected to react in exactly the same way as me at all times.

So I'm trying to figure out what I can possibly say - if, indeed, I am called upon to say anything at all other than, "Hmm... oohhh... gosh... dear me..." which, I suppose I mustn't forget, is entirely possible. Does she want practical information about medications or procedures? Does she need help deciding which path to take? Is she expecting me to give her some magic balm to make the confusion go away, because honestly, I don't have one, despite my prior experience and a great deal of wishing one into existence for the benefit of myself and others. All I have is the belief that she will, on a day too far away into the future, find herself smiling to hear fertile folk talk of trivial concerns, her heart warming with the reassurance that some part of the world, at least, is running as she'd like it to run. A belief that someday, she will find herself ready and willing to transform the pain she is now feeling into something better, to exchange it for something equally valuable, but much more gratifying.

Your input is appreciated.

*This may change. We'll see.


Serenity said...

As a IFer dealing with primary infertility with my own sister AND secondary infertility with my best friend D?

The most valuable thing I did for both of them is to ask what they needed from me during the process. Multiple times, because it changed over the months.

It took me many mistakes and yes, stupid things I said, to realize this.

Your first paragraph, Bea? Yes. Especially this sentence "We carry our grief, our anger, and our resentment for further than is neccessary when we haven't yet decided what to do with it."

So true.


Lollipop Goldstein said...

Damn, that first paragraph will have me thinking all day.

I think you don't prepare anything mentally ahead of time. You just listen and I think you will either find that you have more in common (or at least can understand) than you think OR the words will naturally fit themselves right in your mouth when you need them. I think going in as an empty bowl and letting her pour in what she needs will be the best approach for both of you.


Not on Fire said...

I think that I would go for the practical advice. Things like:

It will be stressful. Do not plan any other events during that time period.

Cook food ahead, clear your plate as much as you can.

Your spouse may react differently than you expect. Talk about who is going to do what. My first IVF my husband wanted to hide while I took care of the details. That did not work well for me.

Does that help?

Summer said...

I think you go with your gut when you talk with your friend because you know infertility and what it is like to live with that and you know your friend. Prompt her to talk, listen to what she says and I think you will know what to say.

Also, what you wrote about transforming your sorrows so that you can both end up feeling healed? I had to stop and cry a bit when I read that. After a successful IVF, we were not able to have success for a sibling. We have chosen to stop treatment and I have been giving away the baby things and maternity clothes that I had packed away hoping to use again. They went to friends and family who all had some struggle with trying to get pregnant. I thought it would be hard and although it has been sad, it was not as difficult as I imagined and it felt freeing. Reading what you wrote, I now understand why.

Jess said...

I agree....practical advise....your experiences....etc. I have been talking to a friend who's about to start IVF and I think just listening you can easily tell what to offer. Encouragement, "it'll be okay and you'll get through it" type of advice, or medical tidbits....just whatever she asks! Good luck!

(I don't fully understand this "healing" people talk about if I'm honest. I feel like it's sort of like most things in just IS. You take your experiences, you learn from them, or else you just get through them and move on, and then you go to the next thing. Sure, it sucks, but it could have been worse, and it's a small amount of time (Yes, I just called 2004-2011 a "small amount of time) in the scheme of things. People spend more time and money and effort on far less important things, and after all...I could do infertility treatments and adopt which is a lot more than most people have choice to do. I say in the end MOST OF US should be counting ourselves lucky, patting ourselves on the back, and smiling with the knowledge that even if it didn't turn out how we envisioned it, it turned out. And besides, who wants to appreciate their family less or be petty about gender, etc?)

Chickenpig said...

We do carry our grief, anger, and resentment further than necessary. Sometimes we're carrying around the baggage and don't even realize it. Last year when my cousin got pregnant I was bemused at her preparations and nest feathering, her FB postings and baby registry. Then, I began to be annoyed and irritated, and then downright bitter. This person had grown up alongside me, having every privilege in the world that I hadn't, and now even getting pregnant was a breeze. I'm just amazed at how IF, the nemesis I thought I'd throttled, can still pop up and stab me in the heart. Grrr....stupid infertility ;)

Ellen K. said...

I'm another fan of that first paragraph.

I think the empty bowl approach is the ideal way to go, but I've found it to be difficult to be completely available for whatever a "newbie" needs. I have been approached a lot because we had a very desirable outcome with healthy twins on the first IVF cycle. Despite earlier grief and disappointments, you also have a very desirable outcome with a healthy baby and later a surprise pregnancy. People like such stories. And when I was thinking about trying IVF, I focused on others' positive outcomes, of course. I wanted to know what worked on that one successful cycle. So I think your friend will want sympathy but also concrete info with a positive spin as encouragement.

Lut C. said...

Hm, I do wonder if I'm hanging on to my pain more than need be, as you say because I have 'earned the right' to have it. And it's familiar.

Doing a second round of primary IF isn't the same as secondary IF in the medical sense, I would think.

I would imagine there are parallels, in particular in giving yourself permission to be upset by it. After all, with one you're so lucky already.
But perhaps I'm mistaken, someone who had it easy to have one might feel more entitled to being upset.

And of course one person is different from the next.
I've been very driven in doing ART, lots of it. My SIL just keeps postponing and postponing. Her choice, but one I can't really relate to.

md said...

i don't have any input to offer, but i wanted to say that i too am a fan of that first paragraph! it is so spot on, and could be about anything- a messed up career, failed relationship, health issues, and so on.

Jules said...

I'm BATCOAT (bitter & twisted...). I admit it. I still carry around the anger, resentment & feelings for being a LTIVFer.

Sure, I could shake it & smell the roses, but even though I have conquered the mountain, I can't seem to see the sunshine. There just seems to be so many who get things so easy...

I can't really give any advice re your SIF friend (see above). If you don't want to relive it (forget it), then just let her know that. Maybe give her a heads up on the meds, procedures, etc. It's up to you what you let out, or keep inside. If you think reliving it will help, then go for it.

I like what Mel has said about the empty bowl being the best approach. I'd probably go with that.

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