Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Survivor's guilt

The last month or so I've heard some sad news from IRL infertile friends.  I'm not going to go into more detail because I want to protect their privacy.  Their stories are theirs to tell, not mine.  But I will just say that these are people who have already had their share of bad news and bad luck and it's just terribly unfair that they are getting more of it.

The thing is that hearing these stories is different when you are a pregnant infertile than when you are a fellow in the trenches infertile.  Basically because there's a lot of guilt.  I feel guilty.  Guilty that I am pregnant and they are not.  Especially because they've been at the infertility game a lot longer than I was at it.  As far as infertility goes, I got pretty damn lucky.  Partially because I am neurotic and I always assume that the worst thing is going to happen to me, I made an appointment to see an RE after five months of trying.  The tests took two months, and even though poor morphology isn't a great diagnosis, at least everything looked okay with me.  We wound up doing 4 IUIs and all I had to do was take some clomid.  And I got pregnant 3 out of those 4 times!  Granted, two of those times were miscarriages.  But as far as assisted reproductive technology goes, I got really lucky.  Jeeves always tells me that we were not lucky to be in the 10-15% of couples who experience infertility, and we were not lucky at all to have experienced two miscarriages.  And he's right.  But in this little subset of unlucky guys and gals, we are lucky.  And I feel shitty that we are lucky.

Don't get me wrong, I don't wish I weren't pregnant.  I'm obviously thrilled and happy about that.  And I don't wish we'd had to do IVF to get there, and I don't wish that it had taken us longer.  But I feel guilty about it.

The thing is, I've noticed that my IRL friends who are still at this don't seem to want to talk to me much.  I totally get it.  I wouldn't want to talk to me much either.  My belly is getting big, and even though I've had difficulties, my difficulties pale next to theirs.  At one point we could lament our situations together, talk about the unfairness of it all, and feel understood without judgment.  And even though I've made it clear that I'm here to talk, I know it's harder to talk about this stuff with someone who's made it out.  Which is not to say that being pregnant has suddenly and magically made me a fertile.  There's a reason that the pregnancy group I'm in is with a bunch of other infertiles - it's just a different experience.  Getting pregnant didn't make me forget what it's like.  Not by a long shot.  But at the same time, I understand why my friends would maybe rather not talk to me about their infertility travails, and I understand that maybe I make them sad.  And that's what I hate about it most - I know that even though they are happy for me and don't wish me any ill will, I make them a little sad.  Maybe more than a little.  And I hate that I make people I love sad.  

Last night when I was tearing up about this [not a big deal - I now cry ALL THE TIME, thanks to the hormones], I remembered Mother's Day.  I fucking hate Mother's Day.  It is the worst.  But I don't hate it because of my infertility, I hate it because my mom is dead.  I remember my first Mother's Day after Mom died - I walked into a Stop & Shop and they had all these balloons for Mother's Day.  I so very much wanted to pull out a sharp object and pop every single one of them.  I hate Facebook on Mother's Day.  I hate how jealous I am of everyone who has a mom.  Last year's was even worse because we were in the middle of treatment AND my mom was, of course, still dead.  Honestly, it's gotten better over the years since we now spend Mother's Day with Jeeves' mother and sister-in-law and I am responsible (with serious assistance from Jeeves) for cooking brunch for them.  It gives me something to focus on instead of wallowing at home (even though I would sometimes rather wallow).  

As I thought about Mother's Day and how I feel about not having a mom anymore, I reminded myself that even though I feel crappy about it, I've never wished for other people to lose their mom.  And although on that day I feel jealous of all the sweet posts people have on Facebook about their moms, it also makes me happy to see people appreciating their mothers, not taking them for granted.  And on most days of the year, I don't have any issue discussing my friends' relationships with their mothers [even if they are complaining about said mothers].  I know it's not precisely analogous.  But it's the best I've got.

I guess my point is that I know my friends didn't and don't wish that I weren't pregnant.  But I also know that when you're reeling from bad news or a failed cycle or a miscarriage, a pregnant friend, even an infertile pregnant friend, can make you feel really sad.  And even though it's not my fault, and I know that, I am sorry for it.  I only ever want to be a source of comfort to the people I love, I never want to be someone who makes them hurt.  And I know it's the situation that makes them hurt, really, not me.  But still.  

As for you, dear readers, I know a lot of you are still struggling.  As always, I hope we all get to our happy ending soon.


  1. It's sweet of you to think of others. The "survivors guilt" that infertiles that have achieved pregnancy feel is very real.

  2. Its funny that I wrote about the surviors guilt too and had not read this yet. I get exactly what you are saying!!

  3. This is very insightful. My sister separated with her husband the weekend of my wedding and while I knew that my happiness didn't hurt her, I felt so guilty for making her go through all the wedding stuff when she was heartbroken. It's actually almost funny because she got engaged right when the only other *serious* relationship I've had ended, and she felt guilty back then. Having been on both sides of it, I can say that it sucks every which way, and there's not much to do about it. I'm sure you're being as sensitive as possible to your friends and they appreciate it.