There are memorable moments in life that strike each of us in a certain way—some are happy moments and others not so much—that may be perceived in a very different way by others, even our closest friends.
Since the publication of my book, March into My Heart: a Memoir of Mothers, Daughters, and Adoption, in which I recount my journey, including years of infertility, to have a daughter after losing my beloved mother to cancer, I have been startled by the profound reactions my book has provoked from friends and strangers alike. For me, like many other women, dealing with infertility was devastating and isolating. I was silent about what was happening to me until publishing the book years later.
This week alone, I have received lovely posts on Facebook and touching hand-written notes from readers I have never met.
I was also brought to tears by some words from one my dearest friends. At lunch this week, she described how guilty she felt after reading my book. She worried that she had been extremely insensitive, so many years ago, talking to me about her own daughters and how wonderful they were. She never understood the pain I had suffered at not being able to conceive a daughter and apologized. “I didn’t even realize I was hurting you; I was a horrible friend!” she said.
We were having lunch to celebrate her birthday, which ironically was on April 21st, the first day of National Infertility Awareness Week, which is April 21-27 this year. It was ironic because my book reminded her of how she felt before conceiving for the first time when the rest of her friends were all getting pregnant. The silent, isolating pain of infertility was like a deep wound that kept getting hit after the scab had formed. For years, each conversation about pregnancy, or related topics, opened emotional wounds even when she thought she had healed after the last conversation or news of another pregnancy. Until reading my book, she never realized that the emotional turmoil I felt about not being able to conceive a daughter was just as painful as the infertility she had suffered.
My experience with infertility opened my eyes to the pain some women suffer from before having any children. In one chapter of my book, I recalled an interaction with an acquaintance at a party that might have been upsetting to me if the circumstances had been different. That party happened to occur right after I had received the first call from our daughter’s birthmother so I was very upbeat about our situation that evening. So when the woman bragged about her adorable daughter who gave her so much “girlie” joy, knowing I had sons, I was absolutely delighted for her instead of getting upset. In years past, I had found myself dreading such conversations and tried vehemently to stay optimistic about a future relationship with my own daughter.
I certainly didn’t expect or need an apology from my friend at lunch, and I never felt any of her comments were intentionally thoughtless. It is rewarding to know that people reading my book may get a deeper understanding of the pain infertility causes. Like me, they might have several friends going through infertility and like my friend, they may not recognize the situations that make it truly unbearable at times. This is in many ways what National Infertility Awareness Week is about—letting our communities know that we all need to show compassion to others and support each other in every situation.
Patty Lazarus is the author of a new book about adoption titled “March into My Heart: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters, and Adoption.” Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/Y5JNvg