Saturday, October 21, 2017

What Happened to My Friends Without Kids?

Okay, honestly, that is a rhetorical question, one I will answer at the end of this post. But I cannot count the number of times I asked myself this question while I was deep into the hardest years of my infertility. Sure, my friends with babies and kids had all moved on in their lives. While it hurt that they no longer made time for or seemed to remember me, it somewhat made sense.
But what happened to my friends without kids?

I am writing this post in case it helps anyone else that may be facing this issue.

In particular, I had two extremely close friends without kids: two women that I had been friends with for over ten years. One was married but didn't want kids. The other was single and not trying for kids. They both knew, from the time we had met, that having children was my lifelong dream.

During my darkest years, they were nowhere to be found.
I felt so lonely and, honestly, sorry for myself.

So, what happened? Why?

I kept asking myself these questions over and over. In retrospect, it's easy to think, well why didn't I ask THEM? But you all know, when you are deep in the throes of grief and trauma, you are not exactly in the best place to

  1.  think clearly
  2.  advocate for yourself
  3.  confront issues
  4.  have difficult conversations.
So, over time, I have become more compassionate with myself. Instead of questioning myself and thinking "I could have done this, I could have done that," I remind myself that I did the best I could at the time.

But damn it sucked to lose my closest friendships at the same time my lifelong dream of parenting was slipping away...

Now that I have a couple of years between those dark times and now, I have a better idea of what happened. I don't know if they are correct or not, but I came up with a few theories:
  1. As women who had never unsuccessfully tried to get pregnant, they could not relate to my pain at all. Maybe they thought I was whiny? Or depressed without reason? Selfish for wanting kids in the first place? Maybe they honestly could not understand why I just "couldn't get over it?"

  2. It is possible that jealousy played a factor. Maybe my single friend thought I should just appreciate what I did have- a loving marriage, and maybe my married friend thought the same- that I should just appreciate that I had a stable roof over my head.

  3. Maybe it had nothing to do with infertility at all. Maybe both friendships had run their course and our lives were moving in different directions anyway. (Still sucks though, that two of my closest, longtime friends weren't/couldn't be there for me during the worst time of my life.)
But what I really and truly think was at the root of it all was that I had changed. Dramatically. A person cannot go through that level of loss and trauma without changing. I was no longer the woman that they had known. Instead of giving all of my energy to them (which I did, which was not their fault, those were choices that I had made), I had to reserve most of it for myself. Instead of driving to where they lived (thirty minutes for one, over an hour for the other), I stopped. I hoped they would come see me, but neither one of them ever did. Overall, I had completely changed the patterns in our friendship, so of course the relationships didn't work anymore. I thought the friendships were strong enough to survive these changes, but, unfortunately, they were not. 

I wasn't the same person anymore and that, apparently, changed everything.

I have often hinted on this blog that infertility taught me the boundaries I desperately needed in my life. For that, I am grateful. But, at times, it was almost too much loss at once for me to handle.

I continue to deal with loneliness on a regular basis, but blogging and "meeting" all of you has really helped. I try to socialize once a week. That is not always possible, but going back to school has helped. (Although I enjoy my classmates in their early 20s, I also really miss my peer group.) I am eating regularly, sleeping well, and exercising several times a week.  In other words, I am doing the best I can. I have never really been good at letting old friendships go, but I am dealing with it. I miss them and I wish them well.

And that is what happened between me and my friends without kids.


  1. Dear Phoenix, I am so sorry. It is hard to lose your friends in a time when you need them most. It happened to me, too, except that it was for the reason that they became moms and I didn't. That killed many younger friendships. The older ones stayed.
    I think all three reasons may be true. I remember reading a novel in which a woman suffered from infertility and hardly got over it. I was single at the time and really didn't understand her problem, since at least she had a husband ;-). It seems that I just couldn't "think outside the box", so I guess this can happen in real life, too.
    As you know, I went back to school as well :-). I was hoping to make some new friends there, but that is something you cannot force. Most of the students are in their twenties, and life is just so very different for them than for me!
    I didn't make new friends during the years of infertility and grief - I just wasn't able to. Since we moved in the midst of TTC, this means that I don't have many local friends now. We do meet people, it's not like I was at home on my own all the time. But it takes a while for acquitances to actually become friends. Patience, sigh...
    Also, I have become more "serious" and less of a fun person through grief (I think). I have been wondering whether that could be a sort of handicap, too...
    BUT as you've said, the online community is a great help!
    I hope and wish that you may find wonderful new friends soon.
    Have a good weekend!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Elaine. I love your blog! :)

      Yes, I think I will meet new friends later on. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm in no rush. Since I know my time is limited where I am living now, I am not putting any effort into meeting anyone new. Right now I just live a simple life of eating, sleeping, and studying. Haha, I promise it's more fun than it sounds! My husband and I go out to eat on Friday nights and every couple of weeks it seems we go to a concert or a sporting event. We won't live in a big city much longer, so we are trying to take advantage of what we have while we're here.

      I think you're right. I think my friendships faded due to a combination of reasons. I thought friendship stuff got easier with age, but I guess it doesn't. We humans are still humans and humans are... Complicated.

      Yes, school friends are nice. It's nice to have some friendly faces and we love to laugh and joke around. But oh yes, the age difference is very apparent to me. One gains a lot of maturity and wisdom in the 15 years between 23 and 38! Hahaha. But I appreciate them and we are all getting through this program together.

      Thanks again for your comment! <3

    2. Hi Phoenix, I had tried to comment at the very beginning of your blog one year ago, but wasn't able to for technical reasons. I'm very happy it works now :-).

      Thank you for your kind words and reading my blog despite the language barriers! That means a lot.

      I think your attitude towards finding new friends is just perfect. If you trust that it will all work out in time, that's the best you can do :-).

    3. How funny! I tried to comment on your blog a long time ago but was unsuccessful. But I kept reading. I don't know any German, but I use an online translator. I enjoy your posts so much. I'm glad it looks like we can comment on each other's blogs now.

  2. Hi Phoenix, I really appreciate your blog! When I was going through IVF and its repercussions, blogging wasn't 'a thing' and social media didn't exist - it is amazing how quickly that has all shifted around us.

    But anyway, now that I am many years on from that, I often notice that the new friends I have made tend to be childless. Not exclusively so, and of course I don't discriminate in advance, but sitting back and looking around I see that is the landscape I am in. And I have never asked my friends why they don't have children and they have never asked me. We just talk about all the other things in our lives and that is more than enough.

    I must admit that I am fortunate in my oldest and best friend, in that she has three now-teenage sons and is still my oldest and best friend. We live at opposite ends of the country, so perhaps that helps - we haven't been part of each other's day-to-day since we were teenagers ourselves, so when we catch up once or twice a year we have to catch up on everything, and kids are just part of the big mix, along with jobs, partners, homes, parents and siblings, books we've read, etc etc.

    Apart from very old friendships which date back to schooldays, I have always tended to be around people who are older than me - just as a consequence of my working life - and I have never been much bothered about a 'peer group'. The gap narrows as I get older anyway :-)

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment! Blogging has been really helpful. I really appreciate the opportunity to connect with others like me. Of course, then again, before the days of social media, pregnancy announcements and nonstop baby pictures weren't constantly forced upon us either. But I will take the good with the annoying.

      Most of my friends are older too. And their children are already grown. It's just hard to connect with people my age who are running around doing carpool pickup and baseball practice. Our lives are structured very differently. And for some reason, a lot of them think they are the only ones with busy lives. Whatever. I appreciate my memories and I appreciate the people who are currently in my life.

      I'm glad you like my blog. I was very nervous to start one. I am a very private person, especially with all of this stuff. But it is a very much needed outlet for me. Thank you for reading! <3

  3. I've been through the same thing and, you and I generally have the same theories. Thanks for writing about this - I think it's a great subject to write about as it brings out the ways our experiences have changed us that don't necessarily have to do with motherhood/non-motherhood. I'm especially a proponent of your #1 - I've experienced that people who don't or haven't yet had children don't necessarily understand grief and trauma any better than the next person. My one friendship with someone that has o kids that has lasted is with one of my childhood friends who didn't get to have children because her husband unexpectedly and suddenly died. So while we've experienced very different losses and paths resulting, we get each other on a level and have a basis on which to share our differences.

    1. I am very sorry to hear about your friend. How heartbreaking to lose your partner.

      I have one friend who does not have any children. She never wanted any and never tried. Amazingly, she is one of the extremely few people that Gets It. She is just one of those incredible people. I asked her, "How do you understand so well when you've never experienced what I've been through?" Her response was, "Honestly, it's not that hard. I just think about what it must be like to go through what you've been through." If only everyone was as intuitive, compassionate, and thoughtful as her!!

      For the most part, only people who have been through grief can begin to understand grief. Then again, I have a friend with two kids who lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly several years ago. When I shared with her about my infertility and failed treatments, she immediately said, "Want one of mine?" I was shocked. I would never think to ask her if she wanted my husband.

      So some people get it, while others never will...

  4. I'm so sorry that you lost these friendships at a time when friendship was so necessary. Infertility costs so much, and I found it cost me friendships too (although mine were mostly through people who did get the babies becoming strangely devoid of empathy or tired of my situation). I did feel that some relationships became....shallower during this time of grief and pain. I am glad that blogging has given you a tribe back, and that it helps you to feel less alone and more supported. I feel the same -- it's lovely to meet people who get what it is like to cross the finish line with empty arms (of small bundles, at least) and don't smother you in platitudes. I hope you find friends who can weather any of the storms to come, those are truly special.

    1. Ug. Platitudes. They are the worst!!

      The future is looking bright. I think there will be more like-minded people where I am moving. I think there will be more adults without children too. I've done some internet searches to see what kinds of activities and events are available there and it all looks very promising. But, as I told my husband, even if we don't meet anyone after we move, I can be just as lonely there as I am here. And there will be a lot cooler place to live!

      The costs of infertility are HIGH. And I know you know I'm not just talking medical costs. I'm talking about all the costs that no one else thinks about: lost friendships, changed relationships with family, missing life milestones, years and years of time with "nothing" to show for it...

      You could not give me a billion dollars to go through all that again!

      The internet may have a lot of downsides (constant negative news cycle, bombardment of baby pics and announcements, disgusting trolls), but one of the upsides is the opportunity for all of us to connect. I love this tribe. <3

  5. I've been thinking about your post, so must apologise for responding late. I think the four reasons you gave were really thoughtful. Yes, we change, and our friends don't always understand this. Especially if, as I did, you hid your grief at your losses and your efforts to conceive. Then suddenly, when we are grieving no children, they don't recognise us.

    I do think though, that your first point is probably a big part of the truth too. When people don't understand what we've been through, whether that's because they never wanted children or never had to worry, they can't relate.

    I think I'd add another reason though. People really suck at dealing with the grief of others.

    I do love a post that gets me thinking. Thanks!