Six years ago I made a good friend online. We met on an endometriosis message board: same town, same age, similar (but, crucially, not the same) factors in common; both agonising about what to do with the infertility diagnoses we had been given.
About one year of real-life friendship later, she fell pregnant at exactly the same time that I decided to exit the rabbit-hole and get my life back. The meetings fizzled out before she gave birth.
Now, we are arranging to meet, after a gap of four years – during which she has raised a small child, and I have done nothing much, really.
I like this woman. The problem is, at our last meeting we had reached an impasse – I had exhausted treatment options and felt that I was now reluctantly pushing for “just in case” motherhood (excellent phrase stolen from this great article): trying to make a family in order to defer regret. But I was still in the throes of a crisis about it.
She, on the other hand, wanted an actual baby in her arms at all costs. Shed tears over it in front of me.
The thing that still makes me feel belligerent and churlish, though, is that she pitied older couples without offspring. Something she said still clamours around my head, about a childless couple in her neighbourhood that she knew from dog-walking:
They’re so lovely, and they seem happy, but I just don’t want to be them (through tears).
She hammered home to me that I would regret it when I was fifty. She brooked no possibility of my giving up.
Then, the king of awkward moments: she had to tell me she was pregnant, on the evening that I rolled up full of new revelations that it might actually be OK to renounce the madness and just get on with living.
She was distressed when she announced her news: she cried, seemed in agony. Admonished me for giving up, pleaded desperately with me; told me to see her doctor and do the same esoteric treatment that she had done: insisted you can do it too!
It totally rattled my composure and I left early, disorientated. We met just once more, when she was heavily pregnant.
Now, I would see her, but one thing makes me feel truculent, defensive: the fear of concealed pity. When the cocked-head question arrives – “But how ARE you.. now?” – I know I will turn surly.
Because I have become that older couple with the dogs that she talked about (except we don’t have dogs: it’s on my to-do list). Is it possible that an idea which was horrifying enough to make someone sob can simply go away? I know she has been through some tough times since then, so yes, maybe.
Am I a thing that people weep in fear about? Or is it just a transitory panic they have, something that passes when the person (woman) gets what she is looking for?
Surely there are fates worse than mine? (Of course there freakin’ are).
But I do think this aversion lurks in the corners of a lot of people’s minds, and it’s something I’d dearly like to see changed about this world.
I will meet her, anyway.