I feel awful. Just absolutely awful.

One of the girls who co-hosted my baby shower (let’s call her Liz) came over to our house to spend some time with Nina and us a couple of nights ago. We got to talking about how we are the first ones in our group of friends to have a baby and so we’re not really sure how the dynamic of the group and our involvement with our friends will change now that Nina’s in the picture. It’s not that we don’t want to hang out with our friends, it’s just that we don’t want to impose and bring her to events where she’s not welcome.

Liz pointed out that another couple in our extended group of friends is currently pregnant and while Mark and I aren’t very close with them (because they’re newer to our group and we just don’t know them well yet), at least it’s another couple that obviously is open to kids. Then she went on to mention another couple (we’ll call them Joe and Mary) in our group of friends and said something to the effect of “they’d have kids if they could.” I’d heard that this couple had some financial struggles a while back, so I asked for clarification on her statement, asking if she meant that finances were holding them back from having kids. She kind of stopped and looked guilty and said, “Oh, I thought that Mary had told you about it.” I could see the recognition in her face that she wasn’t really going to be able to get out of the situation without telling us what she meant, so she said “They’ve been working with a fertility doctor for the past two years. Mary seemed to give the impression that it’s an issue with Joe.”

At this point I could feel my face flushing. I haven’t told Liz, nor anyone else in this group of friends about our struggle to conceive. I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t already know; our friends are pretty sharp people and it wouldn’t be unthinkable that one of them put two and two together and figured us out, but we haven’t told any of them.

I tried my best not to give anything away, but I’m sure that my increasingly red face probably said more than I did…it’s just a question of whether or not Liz noticed. And at this point, I’m not sure that I really care anymore if people know what we went through. My motivation for not telling people was mostly because I didn’t want to have to deal with people asking questions of us all of the time, asking for updates on treatment and cycles and what the terminology meant. Now that we are past that, I feel much less protective of the entire thing. But regardless of how I feel, it wasn’t the time to come out to Liz, certainly not without discussing it with Mark first. I tried to play it off nonchalantly by saying how awful it was that they were having difficulties and the subject was quickly changed to something else.

But it ate at me. Mary was one of the co-hosts of my baby shower, throwing it at her house. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult that must have been for her. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to have me around the past 6 months in my pregnant state. I count myself extremely lucky in the fact that we were the first ones of our main group of friends to be pregnant, which meant that I didn’t have to deal with any of my friends getting pregnant before me. I can only imagine how difficult that was for her. In fact, we actually told all of our friends about the pregnancy at their house. It was a sports themed movie night and Mark and I put together a little photo slideshow of baseball games that we’d been to with our friends and at the end we had a slide that said “Baby L coming soon to a centerfield near you…anticipated draft date – February 2010.” As soon as that last slide came up, Mary whipped around in her seat with her jaw dropped and just stared at me. I thought her reaction was a bit strange at the time. While I figured that she was just surprised at the news, a small part of me wondered if there was more going on there than just surprise. She didn’t look hurt or upset or anything, so I assumed that I was just reading into things maybe a bit too much.

Over the course of my pregnancy she was always interested in what was going on with me and talked frequently about her cousin who was due around the same time as me. The fact that she seemed perfectly OK with both my and her cousin’s pregnancy had me pretty well convinced that I had completely projected my infertile feelings into her reaction to our pregnancy news. Even though her potential infertility had crossed my mind, it still completely took me by surprise when Liz said they’d been seeing a fertility doctor for two years. My heart broke for them, and specifically her. I wanted nothing more than to drive over to their house and give her a big hug and tell her that I understand. I wanted to take back my fantastic baby shower to spare her the pain of the experience. I wanted to take back all of the pregnancy talk that I did when I was around them. I want for her to know that she’s not alone and I’m there for her if she wants to talk to someone who can relate. I want to be there for her if she needs it.

The shock of finding out that they are dealing with infertility makes me realize just how common infertility is. And it made me realize that just because I always felt like we were the only ones in our group of friends that had to deal with the absolute hell that is infertility, I couldn’t possibly have been further from the truth. And it made me realize that unless people let you in, you may never know the pain that lies beneath.