THIS ( ENVIOUS) LIFE PHILIPPA GALVIN
YESTERDAY, I sat at my computer and did something I never imagined I would have to do. I drafted an advertisement. Once I’ve finished it, I’m going to place it in the classifieds section of my local paper.
The ad will appeal to the random population of readers and will ask if any one of them would like to donate their fresh, healthy eggs to me and my husband.
We are one couple among many that has ‘‘ unexplained infertility’’. That is, no one can tell us what the problem is, ergo, no one can fix it. It can be very frustrating. In fact, it goes so far beyond frustrating that at times the only response I have left is to bang my head repeatedly against the nearest hard surface. I no longer recognise this version of myself.
Myriad associated difficulties accompany the problem: the loss of your identity and sexuality; the incalculable stress on your relationship; the financial burden; the inability to function at work; the humiliating medical procedures; the huge pause button on the rest of your life.
One of the worst things for infertile couples is that, at a time when they need friends most, they slowly but surely lose them.
As the babies keep coming, you subconsciously tick those friends off your list and seek out the diminishing number who remain childless. Even now, the last remaining logical portion of my brain is telling me this course of action is at best foolish and at worst constitutes self- harm. It’s like facing a wild beast and covering your eyes to avoid being eaten.
I am fortunate to have a lovely friend, who has done me countless favours in recent years.
Last month, my lovely friend called to let me know, before anyone else did, that she was pregnant. She and her partner had been trying for two months. We have been trying for seven years. I said ‘‘ Wow.’’ I said ‘‘ Wow’’ again. I said ‘‘ Well done, you two, that’s great news.’’
Then I put the phone down and wept. I love this person, and if there was anything I could wish for her it would be exactly this.
But the illogical part of me stepped in and suddenly there are a finite number of babies in the world, and she’d just grabbed one of them.
A couple of weeks later, we found out that our seventh round of IVF had failed. My lovely friend called to check on me, as always. She suggested we meet up, for coffee, dinner, a walk, anything. I managed a few monosyllabic replies. I said I’d call her. I didn’t mean it. I just said whatever it took to get her off the phone.
Two weeks have gone by. I haven’t called her. But I have been thinking a lot about what happened in that short phone call between two good friends who care about each other.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s clearly envy. Pure, unadulterated, debilitating envy. The feeling is so intense that it overwhelms me. It’s so intense that it’s stopped me speaking to a woman who has done nothing but offer me friendship and support during the past 41/ years.
So, this morning, as soon as I’ve put the finishing touches to my weird advertisement, I’m going to email my lovely friend and ask how she’s doing and see if she can fit in a coffee, dinner, a walk, anything.
It’s a start. Who knows, then maybe I can work my way back through our list and reinstate all those lovely new mums and dads that we foolishly crossed off.
thislife@ theaustralian. com. au