Before I had Laura and Joe, I battled infertility. This was an unexpected war with an uncertain outcome. Aside from wrenching pangs of baby lust, the worst aspect to this struggle was the sense of being alone. No one I knew had any real issues with getting pregnant, at least not beyond the, “Gosh! It took Phil and me FOUR MONTHS to get pregnant with our third!” variety.
They say misery makes for strange bedfellows, and this was certainly true for me. My initial source of support was an online community called Fertile Thoughts. I highly recommend this kind of support, by the way, if anyone reading this is experiencing empty arms and a vacant nursery. But I wanted more than virtual pals, and when I realized that some of the women online actually lived nearby, I was ecstatic. My first real-life infertile friend was “Hoochie Mama.”
We made an odd pair. She was in her mid-20s, very religious (go figure considering the name she gave herself) and had one child, so technically she’d won the lottery as far as I was concerned. But her child was school-aged and she’d been trying to conceive again for nearly four years, so I decided I could hang with her. (There is a very definite sort of caste system within the infertile community. I don’t have room to go into it here, but trust me. Those that do intra-uterine insemination are in a different league from those doing in vitro fertilization (IVF) and those who are struggling with secondary infertility have different issues than those with primary infertility.)
Hoochie Mama and I met only three times. The first time was at Ledo Pizza. We were both gearing up for our first IVF cycles and discussed doctors, meds and feelings. She and her husband were keeping their fertility treatments a secret from friends and family. I did not hesitate to share my struggles.
Our second meeting was when my daughter Laura was few weeks old and Hoochie Mama was hugely pregnant with twins. She talked about the plans she and her husband had for their remaining 10 frozen embryos. “We’re going to use them all,” she declared. Whoa! I had six little frozen vials myself, but no desire for more than two children.
We got together one final time after her babies were born, and stayed in dwindling contact via email afterwards. In reality, we had so little in common that it’s no surprise we fell out of touch. But we helped each other over the hump and I wonder, a decade later, does she have a brood of 12 or more kids? Is she doing ok? And I send heartfelt thanks to her, for being my friend when no one else was quite right for the slot.
Mary Becelia lives with her family in southern Stafford County.