I am feeling very grateful right now. I heard from an old friend yesterday. We were best friends for over a decade until we started to drift apart about a decade ago. Our drifting apart hurt me so bad, and I wrote about it here: What Happened to My Friends Without Kids?
Well, last year I decided to text her on her birthday. We never had a falling out or harsh words. And I missed her. So I took a chance and sent a text. I figured I had nothing to lose but hopefully something to gain.
She immediately texted back! Turns out, she was so happy to hear from me because she didn't have my new number and she had emailed me every year on my birthday! (Where those emails went, I have no idea. I have searched and searched my accounts for them. I have yet to find those unread birthday emails.)
And so we were back in touch and texted occasionally.
Yesterday my phone rang. What?? I mean, nobody calls anymore... It was her, and she was just calling to talk. Actually, she called to lovingly chastise me for disappearing for a couple of years, and I was able to tell her that not having kids was really hard for me so I fell into a hole and didn't emerge until I had found my new spot in life.
We hadn't talked in 5.5 years and it felt like we had talked the day before. Gahhhh! Priceless.
So aside from this good news that I am back in touch with one of my closest friends, two very interesting points came up in our conversation.
One, I just so happened to learn what was going on with her while I was trying to conceive. I didn't ask directly or anything, but she just shared openly and unknowingly gave me an answer to a question I always wondered about: what happened to my friend without a kid??
Turns out, she had started dating a new guy. (That's when I knew we were drifting apart. I found out about her new boyfriend from a mutual friend, not her.) This guy had two kids, was going through a divorce, and didn't want any more kids. So, as I am completely lost and nearly despondent over not being able to get pregnant, she was struggling with knowing whether or not having kids was important to her. She told me it was a big decision and she talked to her psychiatrist about it endlessly. In the end, she decided she did not want kids and proceeded with the relationship. They have since broken up, but my friend still doesn't want kids and feels confident in her decision because she put so much thought and time into it.
Yep. As I was struggling with infertility, my friend was struggling with her decision. No wonder she couldn't be there for me how I wanted her to be there for me back then. (Side note, was it even possible for someone to be there for me in the way I wanted back then? I'm thinking no...)
Wow. When do we ever get answers? When do we ever get closure? And I got some yesterday.
The second point is sad. Maybe I should have started with it first? End on a happy note? But... As we all know, that's not how life goes. So here is the second point.
So, my friend decided not to have kids. Then her younger sister tried for years and couldn't. So you know what that means. My friend's mom is not a grandmother; my friend's mom does not have grandchildren. And, apparently, she is DEVASTATED. She has cried to my friend multiple times and she's not engaging in the healthiest of behaviors. My friend is concerned about how much her mom is drinking and how poorly her mom is recovering from a months-old surgery.
Hearing that made me sad. I understand my friend's complete annoyance and even anger, but I also completely empathize with her mom. Her mom is feeling a deep, deep pain that nobody can help her with. It got me thinking about the disenfranchised grief and the ambiguous loss involved with grandchildlessness. Yes, my friend's mom got to have kids, raise them, and be a mother. But she also thought her life would take the natural progression and she would have grandchildren. Just like all of her friends are doing. But she's not. And she's sad, left out, alone, and grieving.
Involuntary childlessness (like my friend's sister) has such a far-reaching, multifaceted impact.
It changes people's lives.
I'm happy. I'm sad. I'm grateful.
I'm happy for myself and where I am and what I'm doing. I'm sad for my friend's mom and everyone else across the world grieving the loss of their children and grandchildren. And I'm grateful to be back in touch with a friend that is so important to me.