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’.