Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Reorienting Friends July 16, 2012

Image courtesy: Microsoft Office

If you’re dealing with the loss of the dream of motherhood, there’s a good chance you’re going through it more or less alone.

Let’s face it, it’s often easier to turn in on ourselves and shut the rest of the world out than to try to express what we’re going through with someone who might not understand. There’s less chance of getting hurt this way and less opportunity for someone to try to say something helpful, but only makes matter worse.

While doing some research on grief and loss for a project, I came across an article that turned that idea on its head. (Of course I now can’t find the article, but when I do, I’ll add it to the post.) The article was about the importance of involving those close to us in our grief. The author writes:

“The process can also assist those close to us to re-orient their relationships to us. For example, without appropriate acknowledgement of a major change, former good friends don’t know how to relate anymore, what is appropriate for discussion or activities and so avoid the issue altogether by dropping the friendships.”

Our culture has accepted norms and customs for handling grieving friends and relatives. Most of us know what to do and what not to say to someone who’s suffered a loss. But the loss of motherhood may not be apparent or understood by those who care about us. We have to point it out.

By telling people what we’re going through, acknowledging our loss to ourselves and to them, we can create expectations for our relationships to function by, rather than allowing those connections to fizzle out because nobody knows how to behave around us.

Sounds easy on paper, I know, but wouldn’t it be worth the short-term pain of having an uncomfortable conversation with a friend versus the long-term pain of watching that friend drift away because she didn’t understand what was going on? What do you think about this idea?

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6 Responses to “Reorienting Friends”

  1. Amel Says:

    I’ve been very open with my closest friends about my IF journey (I have 6 closest friends) and one of the things that REALLY helped me was when one of them asked me directly, “How do you want to be supported?” —> because she’s seen how defensive and hurt I’ve been towards all the “wrong comments/words”, so I tell them what kind of support I need. Even though they can’t understand my IF journey fully, but they have seen how far the impact is and they’re there for me even though I don’t talk to them about IF topics too often (but I do let them know any major steps in my IF journey – such as now that we’ve surrendered to life without kids). And that’s why it’s also easier for them to support me – not by giving us “false hope”, but by embracing my journey each step of the way.

    However, I also don’t barrage them with emails about IF topics ‘coz that’d be too much. For that reason I created my IF blog, so that I can channel that part of my life there without bombarding my closest friends too much. It’s enough that they know where I stand and what important events/experiences in my IF journey.

  2. The only way to educate those who don’t understand is for those who have walked the walk to write or speak about their experiences. Some will understand; some won’t. some will have the willingness to listen and learn; some would rather avoid such uncomfortable subjects by not stepping out of their comfort zones. I’m so glad more and more people are writing and speaking about the difficult topics of grief and loss instead of sweeping them under the carpet as if they were feelings of which to be ashamed. Bravo! (I’d be interested in reading the article you mentioned, by the way, when you find it.)

  3. Jenny Says:

    I don’t know. I was somewhat open about our infertility, attempts to adopt and our IVF. I felt a lot of support, so much so that when we decided *not* to schedule a second cycle after the first one was cancelled, I felt embarrassed about “quitting” and didn’t say anything. I almost felt like I was letting my “GO JENNY” team down. I’ve often wondered if my friends were/are too tired of supporting me through what has been a seven year ordeal, I’m afraid of being criticized for not trying harder, not being persistent enough, I wonder if I would be perceived as weak because I gave in when the going got tough, and I wonder if most would feel I’m not entitled to my grief because I made the decision to quit.

    To try and talk to them about how I’m feeling now, and try to enlist their support, almost feels to me like it is too much to ask. I do wish that they thought of me though. I’ve often told my husband that if we had a child and then lost it, people would be coming in droves to support us. There would be visits, phone calls, casseroles brought in, etc. People might stick around to see of we were ok. The night we decided not to go any further with treatment, I felt we lost our child the same as if he had died but no one knew, and no one seems to understand the impact of that decision or the anguish that brought us to the place where we had to make it. It is very lonely.

    • Wendy Wallace Says:

      Jenny, I do understand this to some extent. I wound up having an emergency hysterectomy. In less than 24 hours with no time to prepare, I went from the hope of being able to have children to there being no way it would happen. And to me, it was comparable to the loss of any actual child. I had hoped to have a little girl one day. My husband is awesome with our friends’ kids. You are right, there are no rituals to mark this and there is this horrible anguish and loneliness. I discovered pretty fast that many people don’t really know how to deal with crisis situations of any kind. Yes this is a crisis for you and your husband. I found the people who had been through the really tough things in life were the best at understanding or at least allowing me to vent without feeling like they needed to have answers to my questions or needed to troubleshoot my grief.

  4. Quasi-Momma Says:

    This is a delicate task, because not everyone “gets it.” I had a discussion with a family who is expecting his first child at one point after they announced the pregnancy. I explained to him that I was happy for him, but may not react how he would expect me to because of my situation, which inlcudes pregnancy losses. And while he knew of them, he told me that he really didn’t quite understand the magnitude of that kind of loss until his wife’s pregnancy. So I think we, as the bereved, need to understand that no everyone we’d like might be in the right space to understand. I do think Amel has a wonderful point in that we need to at least be able to specify our needs for others and express them. Knowing what we need and determining how our loved ones can help is half the battle.

  5. Mali Says:

    I was open to some and not to others, open at some times, and not at others. I made a judgement on what was right for me, not for our friendships long term. I think there’s a fine line between telling our friends so that they can reorient the friendship, understand us better, and provide better support to us, and requiring us to educate our friends and change their attitudes, when we’re already under huge stress. Now I find it much easier to talk about, or to equate situations now to how I felt back then, so that they could understand what impact it had on me. A friend who has recently been through a marriage break-up was talking about the loss of the future life she’d planned. When I said that I could understand (having lost the future I thought I’d have with my children), that it was a real loss and that she was right to grieve it, she was I think surprised. But then I could see she thought about it, and understood my point. She wouldn’t have understood though if I’d said that when I was going through this stuff. And I didn’t have it in me, when I was going through losses and IVF, to try to explain all this to her then.


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