But in real life, we only know of a few IF couples.
And of all the IF couples we know, only one lives in the same city as us.
A few months ago, while hanging out at that couple's house, they told us of their struggles with IF. I had briefly mentioned one time that we had been trying to get pregnant for a while, so that night, they felt safe opening up with us. They had been trying for over a year with no success. They hadn't sought any medical help yet, but were interested to hear what we had done so far.
We felt bad hearing that they were hurting from the same hurts we felt and knew all too well. But we also felt the news of their struggle draw us closer in friendship. We now had this big, bad thing in common and it made our connection with them feel even more special. They got us, ya know? And we got them. While I'd prefer that neither of us were experiencing the pain of IF, it was good to know that we were less alone in our big city.
Oh, and they're Catholic too. That made our connection even better.
Fast forward two months.
We were out celebrating the wife's birthday a few weeks ago with a big group of friends.
Halfway through the meal, she says, "We have a special announcement to make... We're pregnant!"
The table erupted in happy noises: excited squeals, clapping, loud intakes of air. Tons of joy.
The joy we thought we'd be bringing to a table of friends like that by this point in our lives.
Put on a smile, Stephanie. Be happy for them. This is good news. Smile. Say something!
I had to talk myself into properly congratulating them.
I went through the rest of the night in sort of a daze. While I wanted to be so, so happy for them, it was just so, so hard. Just two months ago we felt very safe with them because of our shared pain. And now, they were getting to experiencing the joy we've been trying, very unsuccessfully, to capture for what has felt like an eternity now. I felt so sad.
And then the husband of the couple, who I'm sure could sense I was a little uneasy from their news, leaned into us and said, "You guys'll be next."
Which was honestly very sweet of him, just to be considerate of our feelings in their moment of joy. In their moment in the spotlight.
But I still couldn't help the sadness I felt inside.
In the IF blogger circle, I've read many reflections about this situation -- feeling sorrow in the shadow of another's joy. Though I felt sad that evening, I know it had nothing to do with our friends and their news. It only had to do with the pain I feel over my own situation. Their joyful news just reminded us of our lack of joy. It wasn't them, it was me.
(Side note - thank you to all the IF bloggers who've written about this before, because I'm not sure I would have made that realization that night had it not been for your past reflections.)
But what made it even worse was that I had never experienced a public pregnancy announcement before, where a couple announces their pregnancy in a large group. And what especially threw me off was that it came from a couple we thought would have issues with IF for at least a while longer.
All other pregnancy announcements from friends or family (especially since we discovered we were infertile) have been private. Through a phone call or individual text message or something along those lines. Where we had an opportunity to process the news privately. And it helped immensely.
But there I was, stuck in a restaurant with a large group of friends and no room to truly process how I felt. It was rough. It took me a week to realize what was really going on inside my heart. Luckily, giving myself time to process helped me put a more positive spin on it all. Here's what I came up with...
We are so happy for our friends.
Seriously, couldn't be happier. They overcame IF. And without the time, money, and energy of fertility treatments.
God is good. And He did a beautiful thing here. Making these two beautiful people parents.
But, unintentionally, in blessing our friends with a baby, God took our IF-buddies away from us. In fulfilling their dreams, He made us lonely again, leaving us without local Catholic IF friends to lean on in the tough times.
It's kind of like a weird version of the Principle of Double Effect.
(And if you know what the Principle of Double Effect is, you're probably thinking I'm being a little dramatic. And I am. But it sorta works here.)
Making this realization helped me feel a little less sad. And for two reasons:
First, because I acknowledged that God did good and only intended good in this situation. Babies are always a blessing.
Second, because I was able to recognize where the sadness was really coming from. I was glad to discover it wasn't because our friends were experiencing something very happy while we weren't. No, the sadness was really coming from: 1.) feeling like we were losing our trusty companions on this stinky IF journey... 'cause we sorta did. And 2.) feeling like we were alone in our big city again... 'cause we kinda are.
So overall, we really are so happy for our friends. Babies are always a blessing. And we realize God didn't mean for us to feel lonely when He blessed our friends. That was just an unintended side effect.
Also, our friends are still so awesome. And that's not going to change. It's not like them getting pregnant is going to stop them from being stellar and supportive friends. Just the other day, the husband of the couple was hanging out with John and asked him how I was handling the news. Now, isn't that a thoughtful friend?
It also helps that we still have this great, big online community of support. Even if we never find another IF couple in Memphis (which would honestly be a good thing!), we'll still feel very loved and certainly prayed for.