Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lemon Dates

Oh yes, I am bitter. I know it's not healthy, but when you've gone through multiple pregnancy losses these calendar dates that I call "Lemon Dates" still creep up. By definition, these are the dates that "could have been." Everyone has these markers and once there is any chance of being pregnant the dates all pop up. When is my first ultrasound? When will first trimester be over? And of course, the most significant, when will this baby be due? So today is a lemon date. If my first IVF had not been ectopic, I would be due to give birth around now. You might say, "Why think of such pointless 'what ifs' when all it does is torture you?" So why does this phantom due date irk me more than the one coming in July for IVF#2 miscarriage? The explanation requires a back story.

How many of us have had the unfortunate experience of a friend getting pregnant so effortlessly while you wait at your fertility clinic for your next god damn blood test? I bet many of you out there, if not all of you, have a story to tell about this most unfortunate thorn in a friendship.

My story begins with IVF#1. There is a very distinctive kind of hope during your first time because it's all unknown territory. You have no IVF failures yet to jade you. There is the freedom to believe this will finally be the answer. So nothing can explain the joy and utter relief I felt when my first IVF resulted in a BFP. Nothing. However, it didn't last long. If you can imagine how high I got, you know how far I had to fall. The rest of the story unfolds in a disastrous mess of betas not rising, taking a chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate to basically kill off the growing embryo, and living like I was a time bomb, fearing my fallopian tube would rupture at any moment and I would bleed to death. It took 15 gut-wrenching, devil-spawning weeks to get to zero. Needless to say, I felt seriously fucked over. 

During those 15 weeks, a very close friend who lives far away, but knew of my loss, called to check up on me. After spewing out my agony to her, she proceeded to say back to me, "Well, I have good news." My stomach turned and all the muscles in my body tensed as I said, "You're pregnant." So yes, my friend got pregnant with her THIRD child exactly when I had my ectopic pregnancy. However, she chose not to preface her news with a "I know this is a crazy time for you, but I have to tell you..." Nada. It was as if I had not even mentioned to her anything about an IVF and a now obliterated embryo once lodged in my fallopian tube. She went on to talk about how "stressed" she was about the nanny situation...blah blah blah. What could I do? I was shocked and played along. She didn't want to look at the 500 pound gorilla in the room so I let her believe I didn't see it either. 

Maybe you are thinking to yourself, "Your friend is an asshole." Yes, in the heat of that moment, I thought that too, and for several weeks following. I went into the deepest depression and internal anger I've had during this infertility experience. When I managed to climb my way out of it, I emailed her to explain how pissed I was about how she handle it. As much as I would like to portray her as the villain, I knew she simply didn't know how to deal with this ugly situation. She's never experience any major death or loss or tragedy to know what's it's like. She might have wanted to spare my feelings by not saying anything but whose feelings are really being spared? If you can pretend you aren't hurting someone you can almost get away with believing it. I wasn't about to let her get away with it. So it was good to let her express how horrible she felt about the situation and for me to hear that. In the end, I had no choice but to lay out my conditions to her - I can't hear about her pregnancy. 

Now, 9 months later, in the back of my mind I've been preparing for the email. The one I know is coming like all the other announcements of the newest additions with various photos attached, sometimes even a link to a whole fucking website. So an email arrived today. My strongest desire was to just hit delete and I could vaporize the whole situation. I didn't want to remember my ectopic. I didn't want to think about the baby she is having at exactly the same time I would have had my baby. I didn't want to remember how easily she gets pregnant. I didn't want to have to fake happiness. I finally decided to get it over with. "Just read it like you are ripping off a band aid - quick and painless," I thought. Within all her small talk, she basically was informing me of her induction date next week. Is it a preemptive strike email to warn me that the bigger email announcement is coming? I'm not sure. I am hoping this is her way of letting me know the birth date and I will be spared the mass email announcement. But most likely these things don't cross fertile people's minds. 

The hard part is that my bitterness is always mixed with guilt. It's not her fault that she's a constant reminder of my loss. She mentioned in the email feeling stressed about whether the baby will be healthy or not and I just don't know how to sympathize. I know anything can happen, but I place all my bets that her delivery will be just fine. Am I a bad friend for not writing back a nice email reassuring her that it's all so exciting that your baby is coming? Am I a bad friend to not want to hear about this kind of stress that I can't relate to? Am I a bad friend for not putting aside my own pain. Yes I already know I am, but I am also human. I'll come around I am sure, but bear with me today, I'm angry that she gets sweet fruit and I get a lemon. 


JellyBelly said...

i feel your pain in every ounce of my being.

my best friend and i planned to have babies together - she now has two and i'm sure is planning the third (although she hasn't mentioned it). she's always saying, "oh you're so lucky that you have a nice tidy house!" or "my kids are so evil! you're so lucky to go home to peace and quiet!" i know that she's not meaning any ill will, but it just kills me.

it also kills me that two more of my friends just started trying and are pregnant. and that my hubby's bf just had a baby and they have a horrible marriage.

and to top it off i went to ikea tonight and EVERYONE was pregnant.


Rita said...

I am nodding in agreement. Just because I'm no longer trying doesn't mean that I'm immune to the fertile mertles. Did I mention my bff is Unhappily pregnant? sigh

Ahuva Batya said...

You are not a bad friend; as you say, you are human, and to expect yourself to be able to set aside your own pain just isn't realistic. If your friend is truly a friend, she will understand. But her phone call to you still leaves me angry and I do have to say, "yes, uh huh, she was an asshole."

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

Lemon Dates ... I'll have to remember that term. Mine started in Nov 2006, less than 4 months after my SIL (and best friend) got remarried. She told us on our answering machine during one of the most "sacred" days of college football (yes, big fan). By the time I got the nerve to tell her how much that hurt me, a week later she found out her son was going to be born with defects (talk about guilt). Her son was born prematurely and lived for about 4 months (total heartbreak for us all).

And now ... well, she just broke the news to us (mind you, in a much better way - she learned this time) that she is expecting in August. Ugh. After only trying for two months.

luna said...

oh this one hits close to home. thanks for this. I hate to sound like a politician here, but I feel your pain. seriously, these dates hit so hard. I'm so tired of the constant reminders of my own loss and pain. and I'm tired of how easy things come for others while the rest of us struggle so.

I'm so sorry you are feeling this way now, with the painful reminder of that awful time. I wish you some peace.

you are NOT a bad friend, don't even think that for a second. I give you a lot of credit for telling her how you felt at the time. and yes, she's in her own little world now, but if she can't think for a second how her news might make you feel, then I don't need to tell you who's the bad friend. in this situation, you just need to do what's right for you. that's a lesson I'm learning all the time.

when I lost my baby boy, part of my ritual was to plant a lemon tree. I chose lemons for a few reasons: when I was pregnant, I drank a ton of lemon water, I wanted lemon in everything; I wanted something that would flower and fruit as a sweet reminder of my boy who should have been growing instead; and I thought it a little poetic that when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. isn't it telling that although my tree has flowered, it has never fruited once in 2 years...

btw, I love the graphic you created. thinking of you. ~luna

Mrs.X said...

Oh my, I could have written this post. It's bad enough that your EDD is looming and you have nothing to show for it (been there, done that), but to have it constantly thrown back at you - unintentionally - by your friend is so, so hard.

You are not being a bad friend. My therapist once said when I was angsting about not being able to really celebrate my best friend's pregnancy, "you've probably built up enough support that you can afford to take some for yourself right now." You know what? She was right. I was honest with my friend - she knew what we had been through and she's ok with not telling me the details. I'm grateful.

At the same time, I forgave myself for feeling anger and bitterness towards her. I knew I was going to have those feelings and I got through them. Don't beat yourself up. It happens to all of us.

As always, take care of yourself first. End of story. I hope you find peace.

Pamela Jeanne said...

Whoa. This post just grabbed me by the heart and spun me around. It is something I could have written many times over. The most recent sucker punch landed for me in snail mail. A friend I had discussed my IF problems with at length (she was not unfamiliar with IF and got pregnant via IUI) sent two birth announcements! I had already seen the email version -- which I had prepared myself for -- and thought I was in the clear. The snail mail version caught me unawares and included a mini photo of new mom, dad and baby as the return address. I still haven't opened it. It sits upside down in a stack of 3rd class mail waiting to be sorted. That's kind of where I think it belongs.

shinejil said...

I agree with the ladies: You are not being a bad friend. You need to protect yourself right now, and will be a much better friend for it, in the long run.

TABI said...

Thank you all for the support! I know you all know exactly how I feel! I ended up writing a very short and blunt note saying good luck and that I am sure it will all be fine. That's the most I can do and I'm not going to worry about what kind of friend I am being to her. I am the one in pain and so I don't have to feel bad that I need to distance myself from her. Thanks for reassuring me about that.

Ms Heathen said...

I really related to your post - both about the hopes associated with that first cycle of IVF (I crashed pretty hard after mine was cancelled last month), but also about your friend's insensitivity.

It would take a saint not to feel bitter, and I can only echo what others have already written - YOU are not the bad friend here.

tobacco brunette said...

"Lemon dates."

I like it. I have my own ectopic-related lemon dates and completely understand the pain associated with the upcoming birth of your friend's baby. How can you not help but think about what could have been?

I do that, too. During my first IVF cycle, I had cycle buddies on an IF message board and only two of us ended up getting BFPs. Mine ended in an ectopic rupture, but hers was viable. The other day I checked the boards to see how she was and she mentioned she was 32 weeks. I was SO upset. I couldn't believe that if mine hadn't been ectopic, I'd be 8 weeks from delivering.

It's not a helpful line of thinking, but I can't seem to avoid it.

And you're not a bad friend. Even for a fertile that was a pretty thoughtless thing for you friend to do. I think it's completely acceptable for you to do what you need to protect yourself and if she's a good friend, she'll be able to understand that.

Duck said...

We all feel your pain, we all want to reach out and virtually strangle your friend. Your right, she just doesn't know any better.

But you're not a bad friend, you're a good friend for telling her. You could have just froze her out, you could of sat and stewed and hated her.
You didn't. You told her. You're better person than I.