Living well with fertility treatments - People's stories
#3. Losing friends
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Introduction - People's stories
All People's stories are written in the 1st person to reinforce their impact.
While anonymity is preserved, all stories are inspired by real facts.
People's stories are examples, to feed you with concrete cases of how the Puzzle has been used. They are not to tell you what to think, or absolute truth: they were created with the intent to illustrate how you can transform your life with the Puzzle.
Each People’s story is presented in the following way:
Part 1. The authentic life experience
Part 2. What that same moment could have been, leveraging the Puzzle
Part 3. Decoding the story through the lens of the Puzzle framework
Part 1 - I am losing friends because of my fertility treatments
When this all started, I was not too open to share that I was in need of fertility treatments. I had to digest the news, and it felt very private. Only my close circle knew about it.
But then, as I thought about it, I decided that there should be no shame in talking about it. Plus I am in favor of gender equality, and making women more free and at ease in society: it felt like doing the right thing to place this feminine topic at the center of conversations.
It ended up not being my best call: as my situation lasted, some friends started avoiding me little by little. I could not understand what I had done for them not to call me back. I would learn that dinners were organized by close friends - but more and more often, my partner and I were not invited.
That made me really sad, as I felt rejected. I was also mad, as it added another issue on top of trying to be pregnant. And I really did not need it!
As well, I wondered: maybe I had said or done something wrong, without noticing?
So I asked a friend, and he ended up sharing that he felt uncomfortable around me, because he did not dare ask any more where I was with my treatments. He did not want to avoid the topic as he knew it was big for me, and yet he did not know what to say. So he started avoiding me, not knowing better.
Another good friend told me that she wanted to protect me. That she did not want to impose on me listening to her kids’ stories, or have kids run around me. So she felt it was better rather not to invite me to dinner, than add to my pain.
A third friend lashed out that she had enough hearing about what I was going through! That it was all about me and my treatments! That she had enough issues at work and in her life, she needed light moments when with friends! I should be happy with all that I already had, and not having a child was neither the end nor the center of the world!
So here I was: not only going through the motions of the treatments, but now more and more friends were avoiding me because they did not know what to say, or did not want to make me uncomfortable! Not to mention they even were themselves uncomfortable around me!
Bottom line: I did not have a child, and I was losing my friends!! It felt like a double penalty! I was becoming more and more transparent. I don’t fit with families, I don’t fit either with those not having a child (as I try to drink less and sleep well, to maximize my chances).
Where do I fit?! I will end up all alone if this continues!!
I felt betrayed, rejected, humiliated and abandoned - all at once!
I also could not help thinking that I was not worth loving: my friends were walking away, and no child wanted me as a Mum… I was more isolated than ever, at a time where I needed support the most!
What had I done to deserve all this!?!!
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Part 2 - My friendship landscape is transforming with my fertility treatment
At first, I was not too open about sharing that I was in need of fertility treatments. But then, I decided that there was no shame in talking about it - in particular to good friends.
It ended up not being my best call, as I realized my friends started avoiding me over time. So I decided to take action. First, I reflected on whether I had intentionally done, or said, something mean to anyone. I could not recall anything. I was still afraid I missed something I did, but I felt good enough to pick up the phone and ask friends what was going on.
One friend shared he did not dare ask anymore where I was with my treatment, and he did not know what else to say or talk about. So he started avoiding me, not knowing better. I took a deep breath and wondered inside myself what I wanted to do. He was a good friend from childhood, and I did not want to lose him. So I told him: I opened up that I was missing our light conversations about anything and everything. That he could help me, just by being here. That he also was always good at distracting me, and that we did not have to talk about my treatments all the time! Having other topics to discuss would be a blessing for me: if only I could forget all this for a few hours!
We left this conversation feeling closer to one another, as we were able to understand one another better. He also shared he felt the same way about not losing me - which really touched me. I thanked my Ego for giving me the courage to speak up!
Another friend told me that she did not want to impose her kids on me, so to protect me she would rather not invite me to dinners than add to my pain. My first reaction was to be very mad at her! Who was she to choose for me?! I am big enough to decide whether I want or not to join a dinner party!
But then I paused, and realized I assumed she thought she knew better. So I asked her why she did not ask me in the first place, rather than impose her decision on me? I shared how belittled I felt for not having been even consulted! And she fell off her chair! She was caring and wanted to protect me so much, that it did not occur to her I could have a different opinion! She was still trying to still see me, but without her kids - and obviously she only had so much time alone! She was missing seeing me more, and if I was open to having kids around, she’d love to have me back at her table. We both ended up crying, apologizing and sharing how much we loved one another!
A third friend lashed out that she had enough hearing about what I was going through, that I had to grow up and move on! Then I could come back partying with her!
I really did not like the tone of this conversation. Maybe at times it is all about me, but here it was all about her! And about drinking and partying, which at this point of my life, I was doing less for obvious reasons. I felt I had to protect myself, that our lives were no longer aligned. I told her I understood and wished her the best - letting her exit my life. We had a good time together, but now was time for each of us to take different paths. And who knows: maybe we will meet again in a few years?!
As I was able to have open conversations with my friends, while ensuring this was right for me, I felt very happy and proud of myself! I had managed to overcome my fears and bound (or not!).
It also was an eye opener to discover that friends can be good to me at a given point of my life - but life evolves, and so does friendship. And I felt ready for it. Even curious and looking forward to meeting future new friends!
Part 3 - The Puzzle decoder
Let's decode this People's story with the lens of the Puzzle pieces.
Sharing about a fertility treatment is a very personal choice - there is no obvious answer to that but what makes me comfortable. It is important to be aware that not everyone can receive such information, or will remain here for me.
When I am ready, share the burden. Accepting to be vulnerable and being supported is important, as the mental pressure I put on myself during a treatment is huge! Empathy and good listeners do help. I am already strong and courageous, because I am going through this process: I have nothing to prove on that front!
My Ego’s first reaction is likely to tell me to keep my treatment secret to protect myself (that way no one can hurt me!). Still, go beyond that instinctive reaction and open up to people I trust when the time is right.
And when I discuss this topic, remain present so I do not misinterpret what my interlocutor is thinking. It is a subject that is very close to my heart, so by definition I will be emotional. Plus the treatments amplify the emotional swings. I am thus likely to interpret and project my thoughts into the situation, imagining what the person thinks and anticipating his or her reactions. Ask questions rather than assume.
Also this is a transition period in my life. I am changing. I will most likely see my group of friends evolve: some will disappear, new ones will enter my life, and the strong ones I will keep for life. Such go all the big transformations anyone goes through. What matters is that there are always some good people left to exchange with!
I can collect useful information, from my body or my emotions, when I live in the present. Be mindful whether I am listening to how I feel (to feed my filter), or I am under the influence of my Ego.
It is normal to be uncomfortable at the start of what is perceived to be a difficult conversation. Still, remember that how I feel also influences my Filter and counterbalances my Ego. If I am very strong about wanting to clarify a situation; then it is worth having the discussion with an open mind, without fearing or judging the other person’s reaction. The initial assumption is that I am in a safe place. There might be distance, but it is still a friend I am talking to.
When I start losing friends, I could beat myself up that it is all my fault. Losing friends is hurtful. Yet, it takes two to be friends, and some may need to go their way for now. While I may be spending less time in bars and parties, there is no reason why other friends should too. Right now, what I enjoy is different - and that is OK. There is nothing wrong with me, and neither is there with them!
To avoid polluting myself, the only way is to talk to them. I am not in their head: I should ask them why they are avoiding me. Do not assume! Plus, in most cases, I will be surprised by the answer, which will be quite different from what I had imagined! Hearing what they think with an open mind, gives me the chance to reconnect, or decide to let go.
Also feel and feed myself with courage from my Ego. There are ups and downs, but overall I am doing these treatments, and am committed. I can be proud of myself, regardless of what anyone says. Acknowledge all what I am doing, and feel good about it.
Everything is not perfect, but there are still good things worth noticing. Look around: do I see all the complicity between groups of friends when they walk by me?! Do I see how they laugh, or seriously talk, or listen to one another? Witness how close one can be to a friend, and bring this intent into my life. I deserve good friends around me, in particular when times are rough. I am worth loving!
Last, listen to myself and decide what is good for me. Spend time with people I enjoy! I am in control of who is in my life: there are actions I can take, and solutions.
Be grateful too for all the love I get from the people I am close to: it does feel good not to be alone!