I’ve been watching many of my international friends struggle
the last few weeks. They are struggling with winter, with the pandemic, with
the lack of hope, even though they know theoretically that there is hope that
this will end. It is piling in on them, winter doesn't help, and it is really tough.
It strikes me once again – as it did last March when we all started going into lockdown – that there is much about the pandemic that is familiar to those of us who have been through infertility.
The lack of control is very familiar. The uncertainty and fear. Living in a state of limbo. Even the unhelpful and unscientific stereotypes that abound.
The exhaustion also seems prevalent, after 10 or more long months of this. I remember a former blogger, Beef Princess, commenting that she was Childless by Exhaustion. I suspect some people have caught or spread COVID-19 by Exhaustion too.
I shared the fears and uncertainty of you all in March and April when I was in lockdown. I used lessons I’d learned from infertility to help me through it, in the same way IP is using her hard-won wisdom here. But that has not been so necessary since then. I know I am lucky, through no effort of my own (other than following the rules). And so by now, I am well and truly on the other side of this pandemic. Not immune. Not cured. Simply not really affected day-to-day. I’m not truly experiencing this pandemic, in the way that some people never experience infertility, or think about it only as a future but unlikely possibility.
So I am having to learn something new – how to sit with you, to listen to your frustrations and fears without dismissing them. I say things like, “I can only imagine …” rather than “I can’t imagine,” and then I actively try to imagine what it is like, to understand what you are all going through, and to try to help in whatever small way I can. But I don’t really know how to do that.
I have one friend who tells me she wants to see photos and stories of life “as usual” in New Zealand, because it gives her hope and reminds her that life can be good. But that reminds me of hearing all those "success stories" and really not wanting to hear any more! So I fear others think that I am being unkind, or smug. So I try to stay alert to that. It’s a good reminder to me that those people who said insensitive things to me during infertility might have been trying to help, but – like me now – didn’t know how. I know they needed me to help them help me, even though at the time I was too exhausted and couldn't face or even resented the need to educate them.
I'm trying to understand. I want to be able to help. I know nothing I can do though will change things. So I'm here, with you. Listening. Ready to talk if you want to talk. You're not alone. You'll get through this. You are resilient, even if you don't feel resilient, and don't want to have to be resilient because it sucks and it is hard work! You are strong, even if you don't feel strong right now, or because you are tired of being strong. Letting yourself feel vulnerable and rolling with your emotions is in itself resilience, and a how of strength. I hope you know that. And remember, too. You are loved.