One of the things that I’ve been talking with people more and more about is the isolation of infertility. A woman I worked with last year told me about how she felt her world narrowed for three main reasons:
1. Her main project in life is to get pregnant, and that consumes so much of her emotional energy that she doesn’t really care about a lot of other things. However, that means that her conversation is limited to a smaller range of topics.
2. Often the people around us have limited capacity for hearing about a problem. People with a chronic illness also experience this issue. People want us to be ‘fixed’ or for the problem to go away. We’re often not very good at being with people who are ‘stuck’.
3. She can’t do as many of the things as she used to enjoy doing, as they might have an impact on her fertility. Again, this limits her contact with friends, who aren’t always up for changing what they do together (and this isn’t a criticism of her friends – sometimes friendships can’t change and so they fizzle out as a result).
This understandably caused this woman an awful lot of pain, as she hadn’t anticipated that one of the side effects of this process would be to lose friends and feel her world narrowing.
However, I thought I’d share some of her story with you, because I thought it might be useful.
Once we’d identified what was causing her so much pain (feeling rejected by good friends, feeling boring because her ‘chat was rubbish’ as she put it) she was able to then accept that some of her friends and family hadn’t signed up on this journey with her and weren’t able to support her. Rather than being floored by the disappointment that they couldn’t do that and the accompanying feelings of rejection, she was able to choose how she interacted with them in a different way, where she felt less disappointed.
Also, recognising that she needed to feel less isolated, but that she wasn’t getting enough companionship from previous relationships because of her lifestyle changes, she decided to start pursuing other interests and start to develop new relationships there. It was hard to let go of the idea that her old friends could move on with her, but when she did, it freed up something in her that was then able to make new relationships.
Our work together was a lot more complicated than this, and this is a very, very brief snapshot of some of the things that we touched on. But I thought it was worth talking about, because I think that sometimes the disappointment that some of our relationships struggle if we experience infertility can be huge, and it can be useful to take a look at this rather than keep hoping that people will ‘get it.’ If you'd like some support with that, counselling is a good way of doing this.