Dale Carnegie should have warned us!

One of the biggest side-effects of going through fertility related challenges is the drastic shrinkage of your social life. While K and I never had a massive social circle to begin with, we were happy with the few friends we had and hung out with in LA. Moving cities last year, we reasoned, would help us expand our social circle even more because we were moving to a place that was exceedingly family friendly (which was important to us) and had a ton of people whom K knew from various academic and corporate institutions as well as from his last 3 year stint here. He warned me laughingly that I’d have a tough time over weekends trying to manage my social calendar.

Quite the opposite has happened. Slowly but surely, our social circle has dwindled to an extent that we now actively seek out meetup groups in the hope of meeting some like-minded people to hang out with. It’s not that we are desperate for company; it’s just that at this very stressful time of our lives I feel it becomes all the more important for us to have some people as friends who may not necessarily be close but would at least provide for some respite from the pressure cooker situation we find ourselves in. Especially for me, working from home has been an immensely alienating experience, one that I have tried hard to overcome by studying at the public library about 4 days a week. It does make me feel less isolated but it does not take care of my need to socialize.

K got in touch with several of his friends, all of whom are now married and have kids, and we met up with many of them. Initially, it all seemed to go well. We got invited for their kids’ birthday parties and though it was sheer torture for me to watch all the mommy-kiddy interaction, I swallowed it and even managed to have the occasional fun! And then suddenly, just like that, one by the one the invitations dried up. Yes, we made the mistake of letting at least two of these couples know the barest details of our baby-making struggles. Both seemed extremely sensitive and genuinely concerned. But we never heard from them again. One particular lady empathized with my situation (she’d had a miscarriage after her first child but conceived her second child three months later) even though I wasn’t exactly convinced she knew even half of what I was going through. For some time she peppered me with advice on fasting, worship etc. and then, poof, she just disappeared! Another new mom was so moved hearing about my situation (again the briefest of mentions, that too because she had received a similar diagnosis from the same doctor) that for months she would call and text every other day and insist I tell her in excruciating detail what was happening with me. Yet, oddly enough, any time I suggested meeting up she would somehow manage to avoid responding altogether (even though she and her husband live less than a mile away from us!).

There are many more such stories which do not make sense. I have reconciled myself to the conclusion that people are uncomfortable with the sorrow of others and hence they choose to move away. Or perhaps they are superstitious that hanging out with us fertility challenged sorts will somehow cast long shadows of doom over their happy family life. I don’t know what it is. All I know is that initially it hurt like a @$%#@! –I would rage against the unfairness of it all and keep asking K how they could all be so callous; they were actually rejecting us because we are having trouble conceiving! After all, we were the one who should potentially feel bad about them having kids and us still with empty arms! But we were fine with all that, we love kids in general and thankfully our struggles have still not affected us to a point where we shun the company of those who have kids.

Yet now the bitterness has given way to a silent acceptance. I no longer hold any expectations of whosoever we choose to meet. And we follow a tacit rule–no baby-making talk whatsoever. I do remain curious though –will all those who flaked on us come running back once we have a baby? Are we only as desirable as our ability to procreate??!!

Dale Carnegie’s winning book How to Win Friends and Influence People should have  a sequel–‘How to lose friends and alienate people’.

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46 thoughts on “Dale Carnegie should have warned us!

  1. wow. I suffered with infertility for 7 years. Went to an infertility specialist..had several surgeries and medication to help. Had one child and was unable to have any more. I definitely remember the pain of watching particularly young teens with their kids in tow knowing that they had children they neither wanted or enjoyed. How I envied their fertility.

    Are there any online infertility support groups? Our church has an infertility support group..
    There are others who are working through this, too.

    I pray that you are successful in conceiving your own child as I can tell that is what you really want.

  2. People are insensitive On your face they will show concern & sympathy and at the back they mock your misery . They alienate you if you fail in anything be it academics , profession or personal front . It cruel & inhuman . I have some friends who have gone through the same phase . I have seen them suffering . I hate to admit but initially I couldn’t do anything . But later I shook them up & told them to ignore all those who induce negativity in your life . What’s going on in Someone’s life was none of anybody’s business . They made new friends who were concerned but not nagging. They are in lot better space now .
    I wish you all the best & all the happiness in this world 🙂

  3. They probably sense that they are making you unhappy if they know you are trying to conceive. Otherwise, if they don’t know, you are the “other” (ie. not like them). I know exactly what you are going through… it happened to me 30 years ago! I never did have children, but luckily, I don’t regret it. You CAN have a fulfilling life without children. Find another passion in your life. Do not dwell on what you don’t have…

    • Indeed, one can have a fulfilling life without children and many people do. However, that’s not what I want. Being a mother is a personal choice that I have aspired towards for the longest time which is why I’d like to do whatever it is I can to get there!

      • I hear and understand your pain, but sometimes we don’t always get what we want. I don’t say that to be harsh, but while it’s good to do what you can to remedy a negative situation at the same time being stressed out because you aren’t conceiving isn’t helpful to you, and it probably isn’t helping the finding of friends either. If you bring the baggage of trying to conceive to a new friendship you bring a huge burden you are asking strangers to take on their shoulders. Not many people realize how strong are the vibes that they send out over their own issues; it might be time to rethink your approach to friend-finding. ????

  4. I am glad I read this one. You hit the nail on the head. My best friend is my wife. And the friends have dwindled as the new circle of our people has been our children, grandchildren and new families as our kids married. Believe me the future holds new people as your extended word press family has grown with people who now know you and hopefully want the best for you.

  5. I think I understand both sides, but
    yours mostly. I think most people just have a hard time dealing and knowing how to act around people who suffered or went through something like you did.. But I am very connected to you, I still didn’t try to have babies but there is a big chance that due to the medical treatment I have been for more than a year it will keep me from having babies in the future.

    • Thank you for understanding and I truly hope that things work out for you. I get what you’re saying about people not understanding how to be around those suffering but at the same time I think friendship is about being there for your friends in joy and in sorrow. When we never isolated them at times when things weren’t the best for them, we don’t get why they would do so.

      • Yea, you are right! It hurts the most when they do stuff like that and you know that you would never do the same to them if things were the other way around. If I was there, as difficult as it was for me to know what to say to you I would still hang out with you even if we didn’t talk 🙂 sometimes people don’t get that words aren’t necessary and all we need is the company of those we love!

  6. People with young children tend to have very little time to socialize. For example, it’s difficult for them to go to a household that doesn’t have youngsters because that house is not childproofed and they have to be constantly on guard against junior breaking somebody’s heirlooms. Meanwhile, their house is probably a mess most of the time and not fit for entertaining. And if there’s something they forgot to put in the diaper bag when they go out, you probably won’t have a spare they can borrow. So they cocoon with others at a similar stage of life. You’re probably taking the situation much too personally. Chalk it up to what a huge effort it is to both parent young children and also have any kind of social life. And good luck on your pursuit of motherhood.

    • Thank you for your wishes!
      Trust me, I am well aware of that. I have been around my nephew when he was growing up so I understand the lack of time or the need to socialize with people with kids. However, most of our friends have children who have outgrown the diaper stage and they entertain frequently. I did consider whether I’m being too sensitive but after this happened about 5 times with good friends, we decided we did not appreciate a friendship that could not endure a difficult phase of life.

  7. Wow, you are so astute!! Sad to say. I have found people to be very much avoidant of the sorrow of others. They will put in their time, like an inoculation , but they cannot absorb the consciousness of someone who has gone through something bad If they too haven’t gone through it. This honestly has been the experience of my entire lived life, only it took me getting old to really believe this was truly happening. I had other losses, but the concept works the same. I no longer expect I will ever be close friends with those who haven’t in some way taken some kind of hit in life. You can’t blame people for holding fast to the charm of their life for as long as humanly possible.

    About a half an hour ago I was reading an editorial in yesterday’s nytimes about the fertility industry written by two women who had used these services. So seeing your blog post now feels a little serendipitous.

    Best to you. It is sad to corroborate your impressions about the limitations of others , but to me it’s better just to see this as a part of human nature. It’s easier to forgive that way, and to not take it personally.

    • You’re right; seeing it as a human behavior rather than something specifically targeted at us does ease the hurt somewhat. I am learning to look beyond my individual situation and accept this.
      Thank you for your wishes!

  8. Comment from the OTHER side:
    I honestly can’t imagine how you feel. I’ve never wanted children and have also had a very hard time living with that, until about 7 years ago. I’ve even lost job promotions because the boss thought “she’ll just get preggers and leave the company, why should I promote her?” Even though I had an open ‘NO KIDS” policy.
    At 21, I asked my doctor to have my tubes tied. My FEMALE doctor told me no doctor in their right mind would DAMAGE a perfectly good producing female. Later, at 30 when my iron count was 4… 4! I asked the doctor if I could have a hysterectomy because of the cramps and constant blood loss. I was asked if I had consulted my husband, I said, what husband? I was told again, that no doctor would take on such an operation on a single woman with no other children or husband. SERIOUSLY! I suffered until 7 years ago when during a colposcopy my doctor asked me if I ever considered a hysterectomy. That was music to my ears and I was cured. It’s been 7 years of bliss. My iron is 178 now, I don’t get sick and feel awesome.
    I don’t understand the fascination with having children, is it just something everyone does ‘cuz everyone else does it? Is it a biological drive? Why not adopt? Everyone wants what they can’t have, I wish I had curly hair, but I just accept that I don’t. Maybe acceptance is your answer. Accept & move on. Life is too short to dwell on things you want but can’t have.
    I have no social issues, except for the friends that decided to procreate, they have no life now as it’s spent raising children & I’ll miss them. I enjoy living my own life with my husband & not living my life through children.
    Congrats on getting pressed.

    • Thank you for writing! I am actually glad to have a comment from the ‘other’ side as you call it. I have, of recent, connected with a few couples who are child-free by choice and, quite like you, they have fulfilling lives. I don’t judge them or question their choice, or anyone else’s for that matter. Whether you choose to have no kids or ten, that’s your call. Hence, I do not see a need to defend my choices either!
      Adoption, unfortunately, is not as simple or convenient a solution as everyone makes it out to be. As for the comparison with your desire for curly hair… honestly I value my desire to be a mother ever so slightly more than altering my aesthetic appearance 🙂

  9. I am sorry to hear this. I think the first thing you should take out of your life is stress. I had a dear friend of mine who was trying for a baby and the more she fed into the sadness the more shed get stressed and the more she’d get disappointed. One day her husband brought home two puppies for herto give her ccompany and she started doting on the dogs and forgot her worries. Soon enough she heard some very good news! So never lose hope. In times of sadness no one is there for you apart from  your loved ones and animals that don’t think like humans. Never give up hope!

    • Thanks for the encouraging words!
      You’re right. Stress is never helpful when trying to conceive. I’ve made efforts to get involved with different things that interest me–joined a meetup group & a book club, been meeting new people, regular yoga etc. And I would be lying if I said it hasn’t helped me. I feel a lot more grounded, less anxious and overall more positive about life. It’s not always easy to avoid stress though, esp when facing a setback.

  10. Hi muddy:

    I think that Karl said it well ” People with young children tend to have very little time to socialize. For example, it’s difficult for them to go to a household that doesn’t have youngsters because that house is not childproofed and they have to be constantly on guard against junior breaking somebody’s heirlooms. Meanwhile, their house is probably a mess most of the time and not fit for entertaining. And if there’s something they forgot to put in the diaper bag when they go out, you probably won’t have a spare they can borrow. So they cocoon with others at a similar stage of life. You’re probably taking the situation much too personally. Chalk it up to what a huge effort it is to both parent young children and also have any kind of social life.”

    I am the eldest of 6 and youngest sibling is 10 yrs. younger. I remember helping mother look after her….fun easy stuff for a teen..walking with baby in stroller and looking after other siblings. ‘Playing outdoors’ was actually me often looking out for siblings not to run out into the road, etc.

    I chose (gladly) not to have children and have not regretted. You have to remember those who actively choose to be child-free are questioned by others, advised over and over to have kids or something was wrong with the woman’s maternal instinct.

    But, no point talking about baby-making: this is between you and hubby. It may also lessen the pressure on you/him so that things can more easily “happen”. Enjoy your time with hubby. Focus on him….when you are with him and may he be like that with you in return. The rest will follow and you both have only 1 life and each day goes by..faster as the years go by.

    • I hear you. My friends who have chosen not to have kids have felt immensely frustrated by the intrusive questions directed at their choice and I absolutely understand how irritating that can get.
      You’re right though; my husband is my world and we have become closer than ever through this journey. I cherish his companionship and he makes my life beautiful!

  11. ‘I have reconciled myself to the conclusion that people are uncomfortable with the sorrow of others and hence they choose to move away.’ Thought this is an uncomfortable truth it sorts real friends from fair weather friends. Best of luck to you and your husband, there are many ways to have families and children in your life and you deserve all happiness.

  12. I just happened to stumble upon your blog, stopped to read when I saw that it was about your struggles with infertility and screamed to my husband when I saw the name Dr. Surrey! Dr. Surrey was our doctor when we were on a 3 year quest to conceive our oldest daughter, now 7. So, I just wanted to say hi, assure you that there WILL be a happy ending for you and tell you that you are doing the very most important thing to get through this process…talking about it! My husband and I were very open with our journey through infertility and, in the process, ran across people going through the same process everywhere we turned. It was such a comfort to us to know that we were not alone. I will be following your journey and cheering you on from the sidelines. I’m also more than happy to be a sounding board or a support if you want to chat with someone who has ridden that rollercoaster and survived to tell the tale! My email is jaclyn@mommyennui.com and I just started my own blog at mommyennui.com. Fingers crossed for you and your husband!

  13. I loved your blog! I especially LOVE your responses to some of the comments – so patient and understanding! The infertility journey is fairly new for my husband and I… we’ve been trying for 2 years now. It’s like when you want a new kind of car, you start seeing it everywhere… when you embark on the IF journey, you start hearing of all kinds of other women that are on it! And it’s amazing what a bond it creates!! I wish you the best of luck and baby dust on your journey!!

  14. This is quite an interesting read. I don’t think people are uncomfortable with sorrow. Maybe some people just don’t know how to handle other people’s sorrow. Or maybe this is just a big maybe, that those people are not really good friends of yours.

  15. It’s not quite the same but I can sympathize as being single and childless tends to have the same result. The moment I open up about how much I want to meet someone most of my married friends just pretend they don’t hear; it’s a big fat silence.

  16. Hey, I really liked your post! I love Dale Carnegie. I’m new to blogging and I just set up one called politicalnoob.com and I don’t know if it is good or not. It’s directed towards people who want to know about politics but can’t understand what the news is trying to say. I tried to simplify some of the issues so that people can start to understand what is going on! I only have like two posts though and if you want to read them and give me some feedback with a comment, that would be really cool! It’s politicalnoob.com if anyone is interested. Again, really great post and I really like your writing!

  17. By age am not eligible to comment…but i have seen so many couples try to get preggers and trust me u will get there soon too 🙂 dont let it stress u..
    My sincere wishes

  18. People with kids tend not to have many friends I wouldn’t take it too personally. If your looking for friends try to make some with common interests and remember in a conversation there are 3 topics there is your life, there is my life and then there is the breeze (subjects you both have interests in). Learn to shoot the breeze and not talk about the mes and yous.

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