Being Odd Woman Out: The Curse of Infertility
Most of us hang out with people of similar age, education level, interests, and life stage. Think back– almost as if by osmosis, people in your group of friends stopped serial dating and began to get in serious relationships? Then the wave of marriages hit, followed by the buying of houses. Heck, I’ve even seen that friend groups start acquiring pets around the same general time. I don’t mean that we are all in lock step, but we tend to progress through our life stages with our peer group…until something sets us apart. For some that “something” is infertility.
One of the hardest things is when your friends start having kids, and although you are trying, it simply isn’t happening. At first it isn’t a big deal. The friend that has the first child often reports feeling like odd woman out—she can’t go out on Saturday night because she can’t find a sitter, or the baby has a cold, or she’s too tired from lack of sleep.
Then the tide begins to turn: pretty soon two, then three of the group have babies. Rather than going to the newest hot restaurant, they suggest an early evening at someone’s home so the babies can be included and no sitter required. The moms schedule a Saturday morning at the park with the kids. A Mom and Toddler playgroup is formed where all the best conversations are had and gossip is shared. And where does this leave you—the sole unintended outlier? On the outside looking in.
Often, especially at first, you’ll be invited to the early evening family gatherings and park outings. But slowly, even with the best of intentions, you will be left behind. Your world is focused on ovulation predictor kits, infertility clinics, and your next IVF treatment. Their world is focused on breastfeeding and getting their kid to sleep through the night.
Sometimes it’s not your friends who are doing the excluding. Sometimes it is you.
In order to maintain your sanity, the longer you try unsuccessfully to get pregnant, you sometimes have to step away from your fertile friends. You have to avoid the baby showers, family gatherings, and talk of all things babies. Infertility causes an open wound that needs protection.
Finding the Balance
We all need a peer group. Even the best of marriages need outside stimulation to avoid social stagnation. The key is finding a new group, while at the same time not permanently alienating your fertile friends. Not always an easy balance to strike.
Are you excluding yourself or being excluded from your peer group because of your infertility? Have you been able to maintain friendships with the blessedly fertile?Image credit: Sheila Sund
Originally published in 2013. Updated in 2015.