A Letter To My Friends Who Are Mothers
By Britney Chapman
I know motherhood is a joy, a gift. I also know that it can be incredibly challenging. They say becoming a mother is an overwhelmingly emotional experience, something difficult to describe or grasp unless you’ve been there. I've heard the early days are filled with love, awe, and gratitude, but also stress, poop, and lack of sleep.
In truth, I wouldn’t know; I haven’t gotten there yet. But you have. And that’s the problem.
See, I’ve been trying to get to where you are for a long time now. I’ve dutifully tracked my cycles and ridden the rollercoaster of hope and despair through the two-week wait. I’ve wept on my closet floor with negative pregnancy tests in hand. I’ve gone through blood tests, procedures, and surgery for endometriosis. I’ve waited for my turn to come while I watched each of you become pregnant and then give birth. It’s beautiful and of course, I’m happy for you, but I’m also bitter and devastated. Watching you move on to this new phase of life without me has been painful, to say the least.
I never wanted us to grow apart, but I feel this is inevitable given our different circumstances right now. Your daily life consists of milk, poop, tears, and cuddles; mine is work, travel, writing, and coffee shops. I’m sure you envy my freedom and ability to go out to dinner unimpeded with my husband, just as I envy the way your baby’s hand curls around your finger and the unimaginable love you feel for this tiny being. You probably miss spending time with your girlfriends and being able to leave the house without a diaper bag; I miss my life before everything was consumed by the goal of trying to conceive. We both have it hard in our own ways.
You can never fully understand infertility unless you’ve been there. Just as I can’t yet fully understand the trials of being a mother. But I wish you could understand. I want you to know that I do still love you (and your baby!), but sometimes being around you or seeing your baby pictures on Instagram is triggering for me. It reminds me of everything I’m trying to forget. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time together or talk on the phone, nor do I want our friendship to change. But it already has, in many ways.
I recently read a blog post by a woman experiencing infertility that really resonated with me. She explained something that is at the heart of our friendship struggles, and I’ll try to share it in my own words here. When I’m alone or surrounded by people without children, I can forget my infertility and appreciate life. I can live in the moment, savor the wine, and talk about geopolitical tensions with China. I can exist as a fully formed adult who is satisfied with her life and doesn’t need a baby to complete her. I can be happy. But when I interact with you (or see pictures of you and your baby), I can’t forget. I am pulled out of the fairyland where I’m content and grateful for my life and reminded blatantly of the very thing I want that I don’t have.
It makes me so sad to admit this. I never want to hurt you and I know you’re not making me feel this way on purpose; the circumstances are completely outside of your control. I acknowledge and own my negative emotions toward you—jealousy, frustration, sadness—because of my personal challenges with infertility. As the famous line goes: It’s not you, it’s me.
And I must clarify that the severity of my heartache depends on where I’m at in my cycle. During ovulation and soon after, I’m positive, determined, and carrying a spark of (cautious) hope that this will be the time. During these weeks, I’m completely fine talking with you and hearing all about your baby. In fact, sometimes I welcome it. I know there is so much I have to learn, and I admire you for pioneering this new motherhood journey. It’s easier to spend time together if I can imagine that your reality may someday soon be mine.
But then, inevitably, I enter a dark place: either my period comes, or the pregnancy test is negative. I am depressed, devastated, and hopeless. I question life and whether I have the energy to suffer this misery again for yet another cycle. All I want is to be alone with a book and my heating pad. When I’m in this dark place, I’m not capable of listening to your baby stories. These are the days I might not respond to your texts or return your calls. The days I might cancel plans with you because I can’t bear to face anything related to pregnancy or babies. And again, it’s not you, it’s me.
I want to underscore that I still love you and want to continue our friendship. It’s just that we’re going through a really strange time now, being on opposite sides of motherhood. I think it’s okay for us to grow apart for a bit while we both weather this storm. Friendships naturally tend to have their ebbs and flows, and for us, this is one of the weird ebb times. I hope I’ll join you someday in motherhood and this will all be behind us.
But for now, I feel like I’m staring at you mothers and your children from behind a pane of glass, held back from joining your club. I’m jealously watching you cuddle, feed, and play while I break out yet another pack of pregnancy tests. I want what you have, but I’m not there yet. So please be patient with me while I wait.
Britney Chapman is an Endometriosis Warrior trying to conceive her first child. When not obsessing about fertility, she spends her time reading, writing, and jamming to 80’s music. Britney lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and fluffy cat, Layla.