Leaning In to Friendship

on Fertility and Friendship for International Friendship Day

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The author and her two best friends from elementary school.

Photo credit: @jennakutcher

One of my favorite things to tell people is that I still have my two best friends from elementary school. I wear it as a badge of sorts – a badge of friendship, sisterhood, loyalty, and pride. This year we are all turning 50. Our lives have looked different – careers, celebrations, losses, and gains –yet the bond remains.

Out of the three of us, I was the one who got married “late.” I’m the actress, yoga teacher, and wellness coach who remained in New York City and didn’t meet my husband until I was 40. They, on the other hand, each married in their late twenties and started having kids right away. I actually don’t remember ever talking to any of my friends about tracking cycles or having difficulty conceiving – all of my friends that wanted to have children seemed to just start trying and “voila!”

It didn’t surprise me that when my husband and I eventually started IUI and IVF neither of my best friends could really understand what I was going through. While they each “knew” other women that had tried IVF, they didn’t and couldn’t understand the ins-and-outs of why cycles may or may not work and they definitely didn’t really know how hard it was to get pregnant.

I will admit that there were times over the years that I could have easily shut down emotionally and decided against leaning into my friendships (okay, maybe I did for a minute here and there). Somehow, though, I always managed to reach out in the trust that they loved me so much that they would support, listen and care regardless of the fact that they could never really understand what I was going through.

Any woman who has struggled to conceive knows that there’s nothing worse than hearing “just relax” or “stop worrying and it will happen” or “you’ve got plenty of time.” A natural response to that is to just stop talking about it with anyone. We’ve all considered, “if I don’t tell my story then no one can say anything to me that will irritate, agitate or totally annoy me.” I learned very early on that I didn’t want to isolate myself in a protective bubble in order to avoid these clueless comments. I decided that I would have to educate my closest friends and tell them what would be the most supportive way for them to be there. For me, this was to be encouraging and excited when I was getting ready for a transfer and to be bummed with me if things didn’t work out. What I realized I didn’t need was a lot of advice or questioning about my decisions, so I also made sure to explain to them some details and statistics about everything I was doing. This helped them to have a better and realistic sense of my chances for success right along with me. And it worked!

Asking for what we need can be scary and challenging but we have to move forward in the hopes that we will achieve our desired outcome – which in my case was helping my closest and oldest friends continue to be the best friends they could be. We need our friends to go with us through all parts of our life – not just the easy ones! And it makes you a better friend when you are honest, open and real.

July 30th is International Friendship Day – it was started by the United Nations in 2011 as a way of encouraging people to reach out and make friends with people from other countries and to foster a more loving world. In the last few years, it has evolved into more of a day to get together with friends and celebrate meaningful connections. I invite you to celebrate your friendships and make sure that you are not trying to go it alone. It’s much better when you allow the people who love you to be there with you every step of the way. LEAN IN! Even if it takes a little bit of asking for what you need.

Stacey Brass-Russell is a certified Transformational Health & Life Coach and Yoga Teacher who helps women who are trying to conceive naturally or through IVF to feel empowered, educated and healthy by providing individualized holistic support in all areas from nutrition to stress reduction, highly curated information and personal experience. She is known for her warmth, humor, intelligence and ability to listen. Stacey resides in NYC with her psychoanalyst husband and 2 cats, is a passionate home cook, theatre goer, poetry reader and still has her two best friends from elementary school.

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