Amanda - posted on 10/15/2015 ( no moms have responded yet )
Hello all, I ask for understanding and compassion from you, but I am not one of you. I am, by almost all definitions, childless. I have been pregnant three times which ended each time at 3 months. I say "childless" by ALMOST all definitions, because in a room in my heart I keep the ache of those losses. Just like many of you, I felt those incredible surges of love and responsibility the moment I realized I was pregnant. It isn't the same. It was very brief, but for a minute I had a window where I can at least ground my imaginings of how it must feel to have a child and family. But, these losses, or my own journey on the front of womanhood without children is not what I have come here to inquire about. I know I risk being considered an intruder/imposter, but I ask for a moment here because I deeply and dearly love a mother who is really struggling. I do not know what to do and have come here hoping to gain insight about possible things I might try in order to help her.
I have been in a 20 year friendship with a woman who has shared many many difficult times and endured countless instances of hilarity, anguish, triumph and disappointments in my life and hers. When she started having children I expected things to change. It is natural and normal for people with children to relate differently with those who do not. The typical, expected problems with availability, misunderstanding tempered with chaotic mismatched life styles and schedules, did if fact end up creating distance in the friendship. But I was there the day she first found out she was pregnant, I knew before anyone else. I was the one who ran to the drug store with her in giddy 'OMG could it be true?' to buy the pregnancy test. I was the one who waited with her until her husband came home assuring her that it was absolutely normal to be super excited and terrified at the same time. I was also there the day the spotting started and waited again for her husband to come home to take over grieving with her when the first pregnancy came to an unhappy end. I wasn't there the second time- but I was the second call and I was so happy for her. I got three more of those calls over the years as our lives drifted physically and emotionally apart. I moved, got divorced, had a different life. Even though our friendship did not remain close I do believe that the real affection and nostalgia as witness to eachother's history remains a valuable thing. Much like a grandparents house or childhood home, the friendship remained a place of occasional refuge for comfort when the big storms in life rolled through. It no longer felt like home, but it was still a very important place in our hearts. I am belaboring the point because I really would like for you to understand how much I truly care and how the fact that I am childless is a difficult factor in this story. It turns out I have a genetic issue that prevents carrying a child and by the time I found that out, I was close to 40 and single again.
I didn't want to be. To be fair however, those circumstances made it easier to pursue wildish dreams that turned out to not be far fetched at all. I now have a very unexpected and somewhat stunning career, despite some hurdles, I've have had quite an adventure. I wanted a family and children of my own, so far that hasn't happened. The path I ended up on has given me other things that have been very rewarding. My career offers a lot of prestige and unique experiences that from the outside can look very shiny and exotic. It is draining and demanding and soulless at times but I do feel lucky.
But, here is the problem, my job and life are so radically different from my dear friend who is the stay at home mother of four young children, I feel like she is defensive and resistant to any help or affection I try to offer. I have visited from out of town severa times in past few years and each time I have noticed her becoming more stressed, bitter, and now somewhat angry and depressed. Her personality has changed into something I know she really resolved to never be, and she seemingly hates herself and her life more and more every time I see her. She is angry at her children, lashes out in frustration (verbally) and then hates herself even more. I visited overnight recently and while she tried to put on a good face, it was very clear that the way she was acting was not a situational stress, but the status of her general feeling and deperately trying to hide. Moreover, this incredible person who I have admired and looked up to for over half of my life, had just seemed to be consumed by her feelings of self hatred and overwhelmed despair. She is a beautiful gregarious generous person. She is a person who is generally sought after and universally admired. When I visited this time, she actually looked very unhealthy and wore her unhappiness down in every pore. She's not just tired and overwhelmed, granted that's enough, but she is soul robbingly depressed. Isolated. Sinking.
I want to do something to help. I want to be here for her. I want to comfort my friend. I love her and I don't judge any of this at all. But I also could clearly see that my presence in her world was a bitter shocking mirror for all she hated about her life. We talked about her depression. In the moment she did open up and seem to get to a familiar spot where she could be unguarded. Later though, when discussing things that might help I recognized that she had shut back down. I knew somewhere I had made a thoughtless or painful comment without understanding it would be that way. Or maybe simply realizing how obvious her dispair was to me was enough to sink her back into feeling ashamed. I don't know. I let it lie.
I don't know how to be there for her. I do not know if I even can because our lives are so different and I cannot seem to bridge that gap. I do know that this situation is bigger than normal and that my friend is seriously depressed and not coping. I also know she is isolated and without a lot of support. I also know that any act of kindness, compassion, or attempts at sympathy has left her feeling guilty and ashamed. If she found me in this state, she would not ignore it. She would have found a way to get through to me. She would have found me and at the very least helped me know I wasn't alone. I can't simply walk away and toss it on top of the stack of 'not my problem'. I don't live close. Her husband is not someone I can go to, he is a bit oblivious under his own Incredible stress and disatisfaction. But, I cannot figure out how to make things just a little bit easier for her without somehow making her feel worse. Even saying, 'I love you, I'm here for you' seems to make her feel like less. What can I do?