Honesty! Integrity! Good luck wishes for sperm?
What should a friend with a new baby say to a friend who is trying to get pregnant?
This is an actual email exchange between me and a friend who I’ve known since high school. My friend is a midwife, and her son was born in September. I never sent her a baby present or a congratulatory note, and I felt super guilty… but also, I felt somewhat unable to engage with her new joy. And then I felt more guilty. So I wrote her an email.
Her response was so beautiful and understanding that it brought me to tears.
I want to write you an apology. I haven’t been a very good friend to you lately, and I’m so sorry. I love you so much, and I’m so happy to see that your little one and your family are doing well right now.
I’ve been really caught up with things at work, but more importantly, there’s been some fertility stuff going on for us. I feel like I owe you an explanation.
We started trying to get pregnant last year…
We’ve had a good attitude about the whole thing, but it’s been super super stressful in general. I found out all sorts of things about fertility and queerness that I wish weren’t true. Apparently, sperm costs $600 a month. Also, if you have a friend try to donate to a sperm bank in your name, they quarantine the sperm for six months to make sure it has no diseases. Also, they don’t accept any body fluids from gay men, even if the men are disease free. So, it’s been pretty hard.
Also, I learned that ovulation can be affected by a change in the seasons. Apparently women’s cycles are on average a little bit shorter in the summer than in the winter. It appears that my cycles are very affected by the seasons, which makes sense because I have seasonal depression in winter. (I’m not depressed yet though! I’m getting exercise and taking vitamins. Also coffee helps.) So, it’s been challenging to gauge my cycles, because they vary by about two days, depending on whether it’s summer or winter.
While we were being patient and just getting through the craziness of the fall, I couldn’t handle seeing anything pregnancy or baby related. I know it’s super selfish, but it just made me so jealous and sad. I’m used to tiny pangs of jealousy whenever I see someone pregnant on facebook or walking down the street, and I generally know how to figure my emotions out so I can interact with other people like a human being, but that involves a lot of filtering and fake smiles. I really like you–I’m never actually fake with you, so I kind of didn’t know how to be both happy for your healthy new baby but also jealous at the same time, so instead I just didn’t say anything, because I figured you were probably super busy anyway, and I could spend some time sorting out my emotions and then be a good friend again.
Anyway, I guess this is me sorting out my emotions and trying to be a good friend to you now. I’m really, truly sorry that I haven’t been more in touch, and I’m so sorry that we haven’t sent you a baby present yet, and I want to be a better friend to you. I love you E, and I know that you and Mr E are the best new parents in the whole world. I’m so deeply happy for you three. I hope your home is full of a huge and simple kind of love, uncomplicated by confusing feelings, something strong and tangible that helps people grow healthy and happy every single day.
I hope you can forgive my lapse in whole hearted friendship… please let me know if you can.
Oh Jojo! It makes my heart hurt that you feel like you need to apologize to me. Oh my dear, you are one of the most lovely, sensitive, wonderful people I know. You have done NOTHING worthy of an apology. Truly. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know that you were avoiding communicating with me…I just figured you were super busy. I know that you love me and you know that I love you and we have been friends for quite some time (even though we don’t really see much of each other), and I trust in that.
I know that you have been dealing with the reality of trying to get pregnant, especially with the difficulties that come with being in a queer relationship, and that it has been hard on you. You are not the only one of my friends who is trying to have a baby right now and who is having difficulty being around others that ARE pregnant/do have babies. I totally understand what it is like to not be able to meet someone in their joy because of your own personal difficulty, and I would NEVER hold that against you. I am doing my best to try to be sensitive to that … There is no shame in being honest about where your own personal emotional boundaries are. We are all human, trying to navigate this crazy beautiful life with some sort of grace, and it wouldn’t be fair to assume that each person is 100% capable of being 100% present 100% of the time. I know I certainly am not (:
I have been so curious to know how things are going for you both, but it really isn’t my place to ask (and I didn’t want to rub salt in a stinging wound with my own news), so I haven’t. I have been sending you good energy by the boatload, though, as I think of you and Suzie pretty much every day (always, always with a smile on my face and warm feelings in my heart).
I’m not sure I ever told you how inspiring it was to me to see you and Suzie taking your fertility into your own hands. I have a deep mistrust of the medical system (at least when it comes to non-emergency situations), and it really isn’t fair how they don’t make it easy for you. I haven’t had a lot of exposure to pregnancy within a queer relationship, so it is a learning curve for me, but I was so impressed at how you are just DOING it. (I don’t know if that sounds really weird or insensitive or naive or whatever; my comment is not meant to be any of those things). I KNOW that you are going to get pregnant…it WILL happen. I know one year seems like a long time to wait, but it is a totally normal amount of time (in ANY circumstance), and it is totally reasonable to think that it might take a bit longer given your less-than-ideal donor situation. But, it will happen. As Ina May Gaskin likes to say, “Your body is not a lemon.”
I have really noticed that our culture tends to pathologize so many aspects of the perinatal experience, especially with regard to time/numbers. Women stress about how long it takes to get pregnant, when their labor is going to start, how long the labor lasts, what centimeter they are dilated, etc., and feel disheartened when their number doesn’t match what the predominant medical paradigm tells them it should. Well, guess what? No BODY is the same, and there is such a huge range of what can be considered normal. I don’t want to sound flippant about your frustration about not being pregnant yet (dude, I totally cried every month when my period came around as I was trying to conceive), but more just want to reassure you that your process is totally normal. Hopefully there is some comfort in that (: And, I’m cheering for you!
Jojo, please know that I trust in our friendship, and that if you need time to check out from being present for a while, I totally understand. We will be waiting here with open arms (and buttery croissants and champagne) whenever you feel ready to come hang again. And, please let me know if there is anything I can do.
Have a wonderful weekend, my dear.
Love, love, love, E
E, you are amazing.
I am perpetually inspired by how grounded and grounding you are. You’re right–there’s no law that says I have to be excited about every single new baby all the time. I guess I’ve been feeling some sort of obligation to be EXTRA excited about babies and pregnancy since we’ve been trying to get pregnant… but that’s absurd!
I read your response aloud to Suzie, and I got all teary while reading. You understand! You understand so well!
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