Few experiences in life are more excruciating than when your best friend gets pregnant. That’s what happened to me. She wasn’t just my best friend, she was my Infertility Sister. We bonded over our mutual infertility several years ago.

Suddenly, with her unexpected, ecstatic squeal of “I’m pregnant!” everything changed.

This is the story of what happened so you can learn from my mistakes. Obviously, names have been changed.

Seven years ago, Rhys and I met a lovely couple, Terrwyn and Maeve. We instantly hit it off. Like us, they’d been trying to conceive since their wedding.

While our men were off doing whatever-it-is-men-do, Maeve and I talked about infertility over steaming cups of tea, her I-can-feel-my-pancreas-crying-already caramel rolls, or my to-die-for chocolate cake. Time and again we puzzled over our mutual inexplicable infertility. We compared notes on our cycles so often they actually synced. We vented. We griped. We bitched about God’s unfairness. But we also shared tips, ideas, supplements, research…and way too many details about our respective sex lives! (Every night!?! Holy crap! Terrwyn was a bunny rabbit, but then again, he was also much younger than my Rhys!)

Maeve and I were Infertility Sisters! It was our “thing.” Our original bond. Our commonality. And in my nightly prayers, I asked God to send Maeve a baby before blessing Rhys and me with a child. I didn’t want to see the pain in her eyes if God filled my empty arms first. Call me codependent, but I couldn’t bear it!

Suddenly, with no warning, our bond, our sisterhood was over!¬† Maeve was pregnant! Her exuberant squeal shattered that special bond. Suddenly, we weren’t Infertility Sisters anymore. She was pregnant and I was still…what!?! Unworthy? Too old? Too fat? I know none of that is actually true…but that’s sure how it felt!

Thereupon began the most atrociously painful nine months of my life.

Now, don’t get me wrong! I was thrilled and ecstatic for Maeve and Terrwyn. On that memorable day when she shared her news, I was so shocked I couldn’t stop saying, “Really? What? Are you sure? Two lines? Really!? Oh, my goodness! Really!?!” I tried to stop…but I may have had sudden onset Tourettes. I just couldn’t stop! Through it all, Maeve sat smiling to herself, lost in a golden haze of private happiness.

But I was worried. Would she feel badly about “leaving me in the fertility dust?” Perhaps I’m more sensitive than Maeve or perhaps I’m merely codependent. If the shoe had been on the other foot, I would’ve been very gentle, very sensitive, very slow in sharing my happy news. In any case, I did the wrong thing. Just in case Maeve was feeling empathic for me, I lied. I babbled something about, “If it was me, I’d be like uh-oh.”

HINT #1: Don’t lie to your pregnant friend. It will come back to bite you in the butt

As it was, I needn’t have bothered to lie. Maeve had zero, zip, zilch, nada empathy for my feelings. Apparently, it never even occurred to her that I was experiencing the pain and jealousy she herself had experienced every time her (many!) sisters, sister-in-laws, cousins, friends, and neighbors had another baby. To this day, I cannot fathom her insensitivity.

Yet, despite Rhys’ insistence that, “If she’s a good friend, she’ll understand. Just be honest with Maeve,” I resisted. I’d be damned if I rained on her happy parade. Also, I felt very inferior for admitting to not being tickety-boo. Was my upset a sign of my weakness? My inferiority complex showing? My family always blamed me for my emotions, implying I just couldn’t handle life because I had emotions. (They had emotions too. Just one, actually: anger. But they didn’t seem to consider anger to be an emotion.)

HINT #2: Listen to your husband. Rhys was right. A good friend will be empathic

Despite my pain and jealousy, I was determined to do anything and everything to help Maeve through her pregnancy. Her sisters tended to miscarry their first baby, so it was essential that Maeve take it easy, especially during the first trimester.

But Maeve had other plans. She was determined to continue her housecleaning job…and none of her many family members were willing to help her. Now, there’s nothing that Ivy Blonwyn hates more than cleaning houses, especially other people’s houses. So I found myself on the horns of a moral dilemma.

Do I set a boundary, refuse to help with the housecleaning, and allow Maeve to potentially risk a miscarriage by “overdoing it.” Do I follow her mother’s and sister’s examples of boundary setting and refuse to help? Or do I do everything in my power to “save Maeve from herself.”

I chose the latter option. For the first six months of her pregnancy, I cleaned, scrubbed, mopped, fetched and carried, hiding my own infertility pain under a huge smile. But at least, my conscience was (and is) clear. Maeve sailed through the first trimester with just a few cramps.

Through it all, Rhys was the unhappy, uncomprehending audience to a lot of my crying, yelling, damning and blasting. My always-in-tatters self-esteem simply couldn’t understand why my closest friend had been so blessed, while I was still waiting, my self-esteem illogically and incorrectly entertwined with my infertility. When Maeve’s infertile sister-in-law conceived, her secondary infertility sister conceived and two of my cousins conceived, almost simultaneously, I was in torment. Surrounded by Fertility, I felt like the only “loser.” (I know that’s not true, but that’s sure how it feels!)

Worse still, as much as I longed for a baby, I was also terrified of bringing a child into the world, terrified¬†that the abuse I’d suffered would cause me to inadvertently mess up my child’s head in the same way my head was / is messed up. Abuse, I mourned, had stolen my maternal instinct.

When Maeve had her first ultrasound, it was I who held her hand as we wept tears of joy together. But as Maeve’s belly grew rounder, it brought more memories. Bad memories. Being forbidden from holding babies by my Mam (mother). Or the day Mam made it clear that my single solitude didn’t bother her a bit because, in her paranoia, she’d decided pregnancy was too dangerous for me to attempt. A yawning cavern of long-suppressed pain that needed healing opened before me.

Unfortunately, while Rhys is sweet, kind and loving, the world of emotional intelligence is closed to him. He simply does not identify emotional words like “angry, jealous, inferior” with a particular feeling. Oh, he has the emotions, but the terms convey nothing. He could not understand my emotions. Validation was not forthcoming. He even became rather frustrated and exasperated with me.

Finally after seven months of this, the pain became so acute I couldn’t bear to be around glowing Maeve any more. I was sick of putting on my RADA trained, Oscar-worthy act of happiness when I was actually in agony. On Rhys’ encouragement, I finally told her the truth. It was, he said, a litmus test to determine if Maeve was a good friend or not.

It did not go well.

“Don’t you want us to have this baby!?!” she snapped when I told her how much I was hurting.

Wow.

After her years of infertility and everything I had done for her, that was the thanks I got.

But hey! I try to be a good person. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt and I explained everything to her. She seemed to understand. After seven years of infertility, she damn well should! From then on, I still fetched and carried, but Rhys interfaced with Maeve. He delivered her special supplements and the baby presents I ordered online. It was easier on my heart to not see her until after childbirth.

Of course, it was all worth it when little Eurolwyn was born healthy and blessed all of us with her sunny toothless smile. After nine months of all-of-the-above, I was emotionally exhausted! I’d worried, prayed and worked so hard, it took me a month to recover…and I didn’t even give birth!

In retrospect, I wish I’d handled things differently. Given a second chance, I wouldn’t lie. I would’ve been honest with Maeve earlier, gently but honestly. I would’ve said something like, “You of all people should understand my feelings!” And when she said that vile thing about “not wanting us to have Eurolwyn,” I would’ve called her out.

But I didn’t. I was too “nice.” As a result of my prevaricating and Maeve’s insensitivity, our friendship limps along, but my heart isn’t really in it anymore.

Photo by PrincessAshley